Big Bays, Small Towns
As the alarm sprang into life I groaned when I heard yet more rain hammering on the Victory Van roof. This has been a week of weather extremes: cold, very wet and sometimes sunny. Harsh frosts brought out our thermal vests as well as our thermal window screens, and we woke to chilly white mornings. Leftovers of Hurricane Oscar also blew in over a two-day period, when we experienced incredibly strong winds and torrential rain. Despite all this, the Victory Walker has continued to push closer towards England’s border.
Having got to Scotland’s most southerly point last week, it was a case of joining the Mull of Galloway Trail to head north again! It seemed a long way back up the other side of this peninsula to begin circling Luce Bay, passing through Drummore, Ardwell, Sandend, Glenluce, and Stairhaven settlements. Luce Bay is vast with much of it still marked as a MOD Bomb Range Danger Area. Although no red flags were flying, a cock pheasant was; as with last week’s pheasant, I was again the chosen target! On the Bay’s far side I was routed down another headland known as the Machars, taking me out to the Isle of Whithorn.
Hugging the Machars coastline, I paused at Port William to lean on a rail with Andrew Brown’s sculpture of a leaning man. Beside me was a distance signpost that showed it was only 352 miles as the crow flies to Land’s End. If only that were true for me! Further on at Monreith, home of author Gavin Maxwell who wrote Ring of Bright Water, an otter monument has been erected in his memory. Maxwell’s Otter has wonderful views overlooking his beloved Monreith Bay, with wider views across to the Mull of Galloway.
Moving on towards the pretty Isle of Whithorn village, my path took me through rolling green countryside where fields are bordered by beautifully constructed long stone walls. Many of the dairy farms in Wigtownshire proudly display a ‘Quality Assured’ sign as they supply their milk to the Caledonian ‘Seriously Strong’ Cheese factory in Stranraer. I made the acquaintance of what seemed to be an entire farming family on quad bikes, whizzing along to move stock down the road. I was just in time to get out of their way!
Reaching the Isle of Whithorn village, I walked along its main street consisting of pretty pink, red and blue cottages. I later realised these cottages were built along a short causeway linking ‘the Island’ and its small harbour to the mainland. I could have sat happily by the harbour sipping coffee all afternoon but knew I’d another 8 miles to cover before ending my walking day at Garlieston. I’m glad I did make a move as the driver of a passing car stopped, wound down the window and donated £5.00 to the Victory Walk.
This kind gesture has been one of many we’ve experienced this week. Not only have we received numerous similar donations, we’ve also been helped in other practical ways. People have invited us to park on their driveways supplying mains power to the Van, offered the use of private showers and toilets, and we were even treated to a delicious 3-course meal. Finding fresh water to top up our tanks has become more difficult because many campsites have closed for winter. Luckily, it seems that kind people always pop up just at the right time to offer whatever help we need. This is what makes the Victory Walk so special for us.
From Garlieston I circled Wigtown Bay before heading into Newton Stewart, a market town lying south of Galloway Forest. Initially following an arrow-straight road out of Garlieston, with numerous blind summits and blackthorns constantly threatening to rip my waterproofs, I arrived in Wigtown. This town is designated ‘Scotland’s Book Town’.
That afternoon, my minor road walk bordered miles of flat salt marsh plains, home to a wealth of wildlife. Fed by the River Cree that flows south from Newton Stewart, it took until the following day for me to appreciate the size of those plains. By now, walking on Cycle Route 7, an old railway line above sea level, I was able to look back over the sheer scale of Wigtown Bay and its Nature Reserve.
Keen to reach Kirkcudbright (pronounced ‘Kirkoobree’) before taking a rest day, I pushed on around Fleet Bay with its small ‘Islands of Fleet’ that nestle along the coastline. Later, while sheltering from a storm in the area, we were surprised to encounter a 1950s Gloster Metoeor jet fighter serving as a campsite gate guardian. Frank, a former private pilot, was entranced and my supper was late!
My walking week concluded in an extremely wet and windy ‘Kirkoobree’, and I was mightily relieved to get there. My walking kit is now being dried out, ready for another watery week…..
See Photo Album No 53 – Big Bays, Small Towns