Castle Kennedy to the Middle of Nowhere

Geese, Castle KennedyI have a map of southern Scotland on my office wall that I have annotated with the walks Jazz and I have done. The brown bits and islands have the expected spider’s web but there was a big gap that was teasing me: the last section of the western half of the Southern Upland Way we still had to do.  It’s been blank for a few years as it requires serious planning (i.e. more than our usual “while having breakfast”) and spousal cooperation for drop-off/pick-up duty.  A recent brain-wave gave me the idea of a holiday in the area and bribing the Missus to do this if I did the cycling support team bit while she tried to join up the coffee-pushers on the nearby cycle network.  She fell for it, and so on a lovely early-Autumn morning Jazz and I were dumped at Castle Kennedy to start this last western bit.

Castle Kennedy drive

Castle Kennedy drive

White Loch, Castle Kennedy

White Loch, Castle Kennedy

The SUW does a brief wander around the south of the Castle Kennedy estate and this was enough to convince us to return to give it a proper look-over. It was a lovely morning with geese flying over heading for the loch with the trees just starting to get their autumnal finery.  We were enjoying a lovely spell of settled, warm weather that seems to crop up quite often in Scotland in September.  In fact this became a problem as the road to New Luce was parched and I had to share my water with a dessicated Spaniel.  The first section is along a very quiet byway to New Luce.  The “official” SUW takes a detour that avoids the village for some reason but we wanted to see the place (and recharge the water bottle) so we were hitting tarmac for the first couple of hours,

Road sign, New Luce

Road sign, New Luce

SUW sign?

SUW sign?

New Luce is a very quiet, pretty little place with roughly half the village up for sale.  I had the notion of a pleasant pub lunch in the village but it didn’t open until 5pm: a little tip that isn’t mentioned in the SUW guide. Fortunately the village hall was open and so we filled up on water there.  The road leaves the village and after a while peters out to a hill track that we would be following for most of the day.  After passing a herd of coos we were on the moor that had the odd juxtaposition of bronze-age burial mounds and 21st century wind farm.  The SUW gets a bit lost in the juncus grass here so it was essential to spot the sign-posts above the grass.

Purgatory Burn

Laggangarn standing stones

Laggangarn standing stones

Beehive bothy

Beehive bothy

The path then enters the forest and we are in classic Galloway Forest Park country.  It’s easy going today as the path is bone-dry and devoid of the SUW-squelch.  We pass over one little stream that I’m delighted to see is named Purgatory Burn – how cool is that name?  A little further on we reach the first bothy on the SUW in the shape of a wooden beehive.  Obviously we have a poke around: it is in good condition and a nice place to have lunch.  Nearby is the pair of standing stones of Laggangarn that have been markers on this moor since 2000BCE.   Interestingly around the 10th century some pilgrims on their way to St Ninian’s cave thought it a good idea to carve some crosses into them.  When does graffiti become a religious artefact?

Looking towards Galloway hillsLoch DerryView east from Craig Airie FellI’m afraid that after this the interest level drops considerably. We are on forest track and although the views are extensive across the moor we have a milky haze today and the Galloway hills are obscured.  So it is just a matter of wandering on enjoying the serenity and Indian summer weather.  Eventually the track rejoins the public road and after going through a lot of unattractive harvested forest we reach the point where the Missus will pick us up.  So not a walk we’ll be repeating but very satisfying to have completed it so I can fill in that section on my wall-map: we’ve now got a continuous chain from Portpatrick to Moffat.

Previous section of SUW: Portpatrick to Castle Kennedy
Next section of SUW: Juncus Dance
Distance:31
Effort:
Scenery:
Do It Again:
Duration:7½ hours