Today we were down in St John's Town of Dalry to do a 12km stretch of the SUW that we’ve been leaving because it doesn’t offer the chance for a nice circuit, and is too short for the bother of arranging two cars. And sadly public transport isn’t an option either: I think the bus goes on Tuesday and comes back on Thursday… So we’d have to either retrace our steps or bash some tarmac.
Our route starts in Dalry outside the pub and heads up the main street. It’s a pretty place that seems to be the weekend retreat for Edinburghers. A nice track heads north-east and soon onto moorland before passing Ardoch. There is a nice stretch of woodland here and a Nuthatch was calling away beside the farm. Just beyond we came across the biggest and largest Hawthorn tree 1 I can remember, choked with lichen but still thriving.
Unfortunately here we enter sheep country and so Jazz is back on the lead. I think she actually preferred that because the flock were Wiltshire Horns 2 with a very impressive collection of spiral horns. They were also very friendly and wanted to see who their visitors were, which Jazz wasn’t too happy about, and so stuck like glue to me to keep me safe.
After a couple of weeks of dry weather you’d expect the path to be nice and dry, but you’re forgetting that the SUW loves a squelch and so managed to take us through the only boggy parts of D&G. This section is pretty stony and broken up by hooves: it would a muddy mess in wet weather. The path joins a quiet byway until just beyond Butterhole Bridge – don’t let an interesting name fool you: it’s a boring lump of concrete. Now it’s a final hill section before dropping down into Stroanfreggan and the end of today’s stretch of the SUW. The view of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, Benniner, and the Rhinns of Kells was lovely. We had lunch beside the Stroanfreggan Burn while our first Sand Martin of the year flew about.
Unfortunately, from here we are bashing tarmac. The road is very quiet and so we could enjoy a nice Spring day with Red Squirrels hopping about the conifers and bird-life getting pleasantly noisy. The road heads south over the High Bridge of Ken where the great name matches a pretty impressive waterfall. Although the road isn’t kind to the feet, we had great views over the Ken valley to the Rhinns of Kells. The fields were full of sunbathing lambs, including a lot of Merinos (clearly exotic species are the thing around here). We also had great views of Red Kites scanning the lambing fields. Probably because they are encouraged with public feeding sites, the Kites are very tolerant of humans and get pretty nosey. We had one fly 5m over our heads: superb birds and good to see them doing so well.
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