It was a rather quick turn-around after our return from Ireland, as the very next day we were bound for Scotland on LUHC’s bank holiday trip to Galloway. The trip has become a regular item in the diary for the past couple of years, but until now I haven’t been able to attend, and so I was determined to make it this year!
The motivation behind choosing Galloway for the bank holiday weekend is to avoid the crowds that swarm the Lakes and Scotland’s more popular areas. The plan worked, as apart from a couple of people ascending Merrick on the Saturday, we saw no other walkers all weekend long! Why it isn’t more popular is a bit of a mystery to me, as it’s a beautiful area with lots of interesting and unique hills. The going is tough – mainly due to the lack of popularity meaning trodden paths are few and far between – but that just adds to the “wilderness” factor, which is always good in my book.
We camped at Glentrool Holiday Park, a small caravan and camping site just down the road from the House ‘o’ Hill pub. The site is rather pricey and the facilities aren’t great – the “showers” are more of a small dribble than an actual shower – but it’s in a nice location and only a short drive away from Loch Trool, the start of most walks in the area. The pub is great, and they stayed open for us especially on two of the evenings!
As I’ve already hinted at, our Saturday walk comprised firstly of the ascent of Merrick, followed by a loop of Loch Enoch that became known as the “Full Wharch”, comprising of Kirriereoch Hill, Mullwharchar and Craignaw. It was quite a strenuous loop, being around 20km in length and with 1800m of ascent. The going was tough on the pathless terrain, especially over Craignaw and down the western ridge of Snibe Hill, and the walk felt every bit of its 20km. There were plenty of rocky features to scramble about on going over this section, and we had some great fun. The day started sunny, but it soon clouded over, and a chill wind made it feel very cold.
The following day, all feeling a bit knackered from the Full Wharch, we decided to head to the coast and visit the pretty town of Port Patrick. Dunskey Castle, a short walk along the coast, was visited first. The castle stands on the site of one built in the 14th century by the Adairs of Kinhilt, which was subsequently demolished around 1500 by the McCullochs of Myrton and Cardoness, soon to be rebuilt in the mid-16th century by the Adairs again – a family that also owned the Castle of St John in Stranraer. By 1700 it lay derelict, and nowadays visitors are free to wander around the entire building.
After a bit of scrambling about on the rocks to the northern end of Port Patrick, we went for a walk up the coast to Black Head and Killantringan Bay, where Jim, Daniel and Richard built one of the world’s most impressive feats of rock pool engineering, comprising three separate damn to stem the flow of water down the beach and raise water levels behind the damns by a staggering amount!
Whilst the rest of the country seemed to be enjoying beautiful sunshine on our final day in Galloway, we were experiencing drizzle and low cloud. Determined not to be deterred, Jim, Richard and myself stuck to our original plan and went for a walk up Craiglee and down the Rig of the Jarkness. The cloud added to the atmosphere of the walk, and it felt brilliant to be wandering between little lochans and granite outcrops shrouded in the mist – it made the place feel rather special.