The last time I planned a trip along the coast of Dumfries & Galloway, car trouble meant we had to turn back. This time I was determined to get further than Mull of Galloway, Scotland's most southerly point, although this is without doubt the most dramatic part of the coast.
After dropping my husband off at the train station in Girvan, Willow and I hurtled south towards Stranraer. I took a notion to stop at Castle Kennedy Gardens as it offered pretty walks, ideal for Willow and I to stretch our legs. Unfortunately, we were not long through the entrance when the heavens opened and we were both completely soaked. Willow was not impressed that I persevered with our walk despite the rain getting heavier and eventually I resigned to returning back to the car dripping wet, although we had wandered long enough to get a taste of how pretty the gardens would look on a drier day!
I had planned to return to one of my favourite campsites at Castle Bay near Portpatrick with a view towards the atmospheric Dunskey Castle and Ireland across the water, so made this our next stop (it cost me £11 per night). With grim weather forecast for the rest of the day I quickly set up the tent during a calm and dry period between the heavy showers and enjoyed a cup of tea with a pretty decent view.
As predicted the heavens opened once again and I sat cuddled up to Willow, cosy in our tent until the wind picked up and the back started sagging! I was convinced I must have put the tent poles in the wrong way and spent the next wee while taking down the tent and re-building it, battling the wind and rain just to find out that the tent poles were fine all along! At that point my camping neighbour returned and saw my pathetic predicament and quickly helped me figure out that I had forgotten to peg down 2 loops on the inside and I felt duly stupid and eternally grateful. By the time I finally settled in for the night I was wet through, miserable and feeling more than a bit sorry for myself. I slept on and off, listening through the night as the rain eventually softened and the wind was reduced to a gentle breeze. A lesson learned the hard way and hopefully the last of my camping mishaps!
The following morning the sun reappeared and my spirits were lifted. I had planned to move to another camping spot but decided to stay on and let everything dry out properly. I spent the day pottering around Portpatrick and relaxing.
Over the next couple of days I followed the coast from Portpatrick along to Dumfries. My first stop was a return to Mull of Galloway as the last time I visited the lighthouse was closed for the season and I wanted to make the climb to the top. It was a lovely day when I arrived and I finally got to climb the 115 steps and enjoy the view.
i made the most of the sunny weather and followed the walk along the cliff top path which was breathtakingly dramatic.
As my journey around the coast progresses, I notice a pattern in the things I'm drawn to visit; castles, abandoned places and sculptures are definitely becoming a theme. I particularly loved this sculpture in Port William by local artist Andrew Brown, firstly because it is so life like and secondly because it definitely achieves its aim of encouraging quiet reflection. I found myself leaning on the rail bedside him, gazing out and contemplating how the coast shapes the people and places that line the sometimes hostile border between the land and sea.
No time for a dram on this occasion but it would have been rude not to stop for a photo at Bladnoch, Scotland's most southerly working whisky distillery.
I made my way to Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town and although the bookshops and quaint buildings are the main attraction, I particularly enjoyed a walk around Wigtown Harbour. This scenic area is part of Wigtown Bay Local Nature Reserve, the biggest LNR in Britain and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This was one of my favourite discoveries in the area and a place I would love to spend more time exploring as it was so tranquil and pretty.
I've been asked quite a lot about what route I'm following but I really only have a rough plan as I want to allow for some flexibility and spontaneity. Sometimes having the opportunity to follow random road signs works out, sometimes it doesn't. On my last day in Dumfries and Galloway I was most definitely rewarded for taking the minor road marked for 'Cairn Holy', which turned out to be the site of two Neolithic chambered tombs in a peaceful spot overlooking Wigtown Bay. They were every bit as atmospheric as some of the archaeological sites I visited on Orkney recently although unlike Orkney I had the place all to myself.
I have been meaning to visit Kirkcudbright for a long time and was delighted to finally get to this cheery fishing town which is also a hub of creatives and artists. The sun came out for my visit and I enjoyed some local ice-cream as I got ready to say farewell to this underrated corner of Scotland.
My journey was about to take me from the west to the east coast via an overnight stop in Glasgow, a wrong turn saw me pass the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum and although it was closed I could still nosy at some of the interesting planes sitting outside. Another discovery to add to my list for the future!
The following day I was on my way to the Scottish Borders, stay tuned for my next update...
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