Saturday, 26 November 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 26 November Bargaly Glen

Wigtownshire Ramblers 26 November Bargaly Glen

Although there had been quite a horrific weather report for the day, twenty ramblers (Thomas, Cath - leading, Frances – backup (of a sort), Rachel, Richard, Andrea, Jack, John, Peter, Duncan, Irene, Florence, Leslie, Charlotte, Ken, Mary, Christine Makepiece (Port William), Christine from Kirkcowan, and Carl) turned out for a walk through Kirroughtree woods and the Bargaly glen. After parking at Glenamour car park the forest road was followed to a beautiful loch of the same name. Set in a defile amongst tall trees this man made stretch of water is a quiet and hidden gem of the woods.
The open hill was the next objective where the views were shortened by the overcast skies, but the farm of Barncaughla could be seen clearly, where the prophet Peden stayed at one time. Underfoot the boggy ground meant stepping from tussock to tussock until the trees were entered once more; a forest track alongside the Palnure Burn eventually being reached via footpath and country road.
Stopping by the side of some rapids for a photo shoot, a plaque was found, inscribed with a poem portraying the delights of the Palnure burn, with an accompanying sculpture reminiscent of a ladybird.  Although the weather was really dull and mizzly the water was still amazingly photogenic and I got a lot more photos there with and without the group of walkers before we headed off again.

The river was followed to Dallash and crossed by a dry ford at Corwar. The farm is unfortunately no longer inhabited, a sad reminder of the demise of small farms in the hills. We turned off into the field opposite it which once was the home of many horses which had been reared there in the past. The old road was just about visible leading back alongside the Palnure, but was very wet in places and another ford had to be crossed, this time by walking through the water.
Jim found an alternative route and Ken spent ages back tracking trying to find one too, through the boggy, rushes strewn area around the burn. He eventually rejoined us – with wet feet!
Lunch time back at the rapids, on the east side of the river, the rain began to fall. It did not dampen the enthusiasm of the walkers, who examined the memorial stone to a forestry worker, and then the shaft and adit of a lead mine close by.
Belties and Shorthorns alongside the farm track leading to Bargaly farm added interest to the now wet walk, but the Visitor centre at Daltamie was soon reached.

I was really wet as my trousers were not as waterproof as I had expected them to be as we passed Bargaly, went over Craignine Bridge, following the road for a short while before turning off to go through a field where once the road had continued, then turned off into Kirroughtrie Forest. Andrea, Richard
and I went into the centre for drinks and cakes.  I had a huge Walnut and Cherry scone and tea, just the thing to start the process of warming me up – or so I thought.  I actually got colder sitting in the centre while we waited for the others to join us and when they did I got myself another pot of tea, just to help the warming process!
This was not the end of the walk, for now the Lade Walk, constructed with the assistance of Sulwath Connections, brought the industrial past of Kirroughtree forest to life.
When the military road was being constructed in 1763 lead was discovered in the excavations. There began a period of mining here which lasted until the beginning of the twentieth century. Some of the shafts reached a depth of 900 feet.
The lade walk follows the route of the water collected in Bruntis loch and travelling down to the washing floors where ores were crushed and cleaned. Information boards along the way point out water holding pits, bridges for farm carts to cross, the stone and clay construction of the lade itself and eventually the sluice gates where the water was released from the dam at Bruntis Loch.
Both photos taken on the previous Tuesday when the sun shone ALL day!

The loch is the jewel of the forest. This description is reflected by the 1.75 tons of a polished, pink quartz sculpture of a diamond, one of the Seven Stanes of the Galloway bike trail. It was designed by Gordon Young and is reached across a wonderful circular bridge over the Bruntis Burn.
The walkers now followed this burn past a tumbling waterfall back to the Visitor centre and well-earned refreshments. It had been an interesting and well suited walk for the short and damp days of November.
Thomas had left us earlier on and walked all the way back to the start of the walk to retrieve his car so was a bit late in joining us in the Centre.  He, Richard and Jim took everyone back to the start of the walk, Richard doing the ‘run’ twice – thank you all!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 19 November 2011 Grey Hill

Wigtownshire Ramblers 19 November 2011 Grey Hill

  Mist beginning to lift at last.

Another barbed wire fence safely climbed with the aid of Cath’s pipe insulator and people’s help!

Jim’s photo

Cath, Frances, Allan, Leslie, Jack, Audrey, Charlotte, Rachel, Mary Sloan, Peter, Pam (Willie Wallace’s niece), Irene, Richard, Jim, Ken, Paul, Carl, Peter, Gordon, Douglas and Christine. Woodlands hotel provided the ramblers with a convenient start for this Saturday’s walk. The new gardens and pond were admired before the steep slog began, up a twisting path to the monument in a gap along the Girvan ridge. The going was slow, muddy and very warm.
Although the monument stands proud of the hillside from below, it is in a sorry state. The iron railings that once surrounded it have mostly been removed and the stone facings and inscriptions are dilapidated and in danger of total collapse. It commemorated the once owner of Ardmillan castle below, who was part of the army detachment which took the Cape of Good Hope in 1795. Major Crawfuird also served in India.
The next objective was Cairn Hill (248m), reached by walking through the boggy pass and climbing gently beside a tumbled wall. The views from here towards Girvan showed Byne hill and its pillar which had been given a miss today, the reservoir by Pinminnoch, and the surrounding fields, but mist was rolling in across the further hills and sea. There was now a quad bike track to follow to the next summit, Fell Hill (266m), where there were no longer any views at all. The great expanse of moor and bog to the east of the ridge, which is Greyhills nature reserve, managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, was hidden by the mist which became thicker as the party descended a small defile and then ascended quickly to the highest point of the day, Grey Hill (297).
This area is famous for a special geological outcrop of the metamorphic serpentinite rock, formed by the extrusion of magma combined with minerals to form a lustrous, soft, dark green rock which is easily carved, thus giving it the alternative name of soapstone.
The wind had become bitingly cold so lunch was delayed until the shelter of a west facing hollow was found, when the mist lifted slightly and a good view was obtained of Ailsa Craig, rising majestically from the still hazy sea.   The last ascent, up Pinbain Hill, had good views of the near surroundings – the Lendalfoot hills and glen - and the sun at last came through as the old coach road below was reached. There were still a few waxcaps to be seen on the hill, small, bright red and orange fungi which grow on poor, unfertilised, and well cropped land. They are a special attraction of these hills in autumn.
The path now took the route of the Ayrshire Coast path, above Kennedy’s pass, as far as Ardwell farm. This old coach road was built about 1780 and on this stretch is still well surfaced. An old shepherd’s cottage at Kilranny, now used as a gathering pen for sheep and cattle, and two radio repeater masts were passed, as this delightful high level track was walked, in relative warmth as the sun shone and the wind abated. A tall waterfall was dutifully photographed by the enthusiasts before the party descended to lower, rougher ground and the company of two bulls and a crowd of cows and calves.
The ground became very muddy as the farm road was followed, churned up by the accompanying cattle which were at last left behind at a gate, giving entrance to a boggy field above Ardmillan caravan site. There was no sign of the demolished castle, the home of Major Crawfuird, whose monument had been the landmark at the start of the walk. After wetly negotiating a route behind Crow wood, and passing down a quarry road, it was a very relieved twenty one ramblers who at last escaped the mud and arrived back at Woodlands for welcome refreshments. I enjoyed ALL of my HUGE scone despite promising myself I would save half of it to take home, while some others were far more conservative in their cake consumption!  Cath, Charlotte, Audrey, Rachel, Irene, Mary, Richard, Jim, Ken, Paul, Pam, Carl and Peter and I enjoyed one another’s company as well as the cakes! (OK, I know you didn’t have any, Peter and Paul who sat at my table!) 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 12 November 2011 Torrs Warren – Sandhead.

Wigtownshire Ramblers 12 November 2011 Torrs Warren – Sandhead

On a sunny November morning, 16 ramblers gathered at the Bareagle Car Park, Torrs Warren for the walk.  The first part of the walk took them east through the plantation. Pleasantries were exchanged with an elderly dog walker and a horse rider enjoying the bridle path through here. Frances, Isobel, Mike, Mary Sloan, Jack, Mary Mitchell, Irene, Audrey, Andrea, Peter 3rd (NS), Jim, Ken, Carl, Debi, Leslie and Christine Sloan managed to find space in the crowded car park – this is a popular dog walking area!  Loud music – Mozart, maybe – was playing: apparently this is an attraction to the birds which come flocking in to be fed at one of the dozen or more feeding cages. 
After a couple of kilometres a right turn led to the edge of the forest and grassy dunes. A left turn along an undulating sandy path led to Ringdoo Point. The plantation helps to stabilise the dune system at the back of Luce Bay - the dunes themselves are part of the military range.

Upon reaching Ringdoo Point a few moments were taken to absorb the scenery. Luce Bay was bathed in magnificent sunshine, landmarks over on the Machars were identified and pointed out.  Now began a long beach walk along Luce Sands.

Luce Sands is one of the largest beach complexes in Scotland and easily the largest in Galloway. The beach stretches for approximately 11km from the mouth of the Water of Luce in the east, to the village of Sandhead in the west. The ramblers will walk 9 of those 11 kilometres.

Passing the dunes area known as the Devil's Meal Chest, the target of Sandhead to the South West looked small in the distance. To the south, the Mull of Galloway could be seen. Remnants of military manoeuvres could be seen amongst the dunes, while out in the bay target bases for bombing practice stood prominent.

During the walk a variety of sea and shore birds were spotted. Amongst those identified were Oyster Catchers, Curlews, Golden Plovers and rarely seen in Scotland a Little Egret. A number of very large jellyfish were beached. A sad sight, a small grey seal lay dead, it's head damaged either by having been hit with a boat's outboard engine or from birds pecking.  Amongst the tidal refuse, numerous balls, plastic ducks, glittery shoes, balloons promoting Tin Tin and crab apples were seen.
Nearing the halfway point of the walk a lunch break was taken close to Clayshant Control tower.  After lunch the high tide started the fun part of the walk.  Walkers had to decide whether to walk with boots and socks off, or try to avoid the areas where the water swirled in. Those who decided to divest themselves of their footwear probably came out best. We reached a huge section of beach which had to be negotiated, jumping from clumps of vegetation to another and even wading through sections of the sea!  Some walkers took off their boots and socks and rolled up their trousers but I managed to keep my feet dry in my boots and gaiters – amazing!
Back on dry land the walk leader provided towels for those in need, and boots and socks were again donned.  Unfortunately for some this was a little premature as another burn needed crossing.  We were having a brilliant time, the weather was good and we were laughing such a lot! 

Soon however they were approaching Sandhead and found solid ground by walking through Carisbrooke Caravan Park.  Arriving in Sandhead the sun was disappearing behind gathering clouds, however tea coffee and cakes at the Woodlea tearoom ensured the brightness remained. Frances, Isobel, Mary Sloan, Mary Mitchell, Irene, Audrey, Andrea, Peter 3rd, Jim, Ken, Carl, Debi and Christine Sloan enjoyed one another’s company and refreshments. It was a fitting end to a wonderful day's walking.  

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 5th November, Kilsture to Wigtown

Wigtownshire Ramblers, Saturday 5th November, Kilsture to Wigtown

Elaine, Frances, Thomas, Cath, Isobel, Rachel, Andrea, both Marys, Jim, Ken, Audrey, Duncan, Irene, Paul, Carl, Richard, a new member from the Machars, Anne (Swiss, married a Glaswegian, lived here over 20 years), Jack, John, Leslie, John Arthington, Hilary and Susan met at Kilsture Forest where the autumnal colours were gorgeous!.
On Saturday, twenty four cheerful ramblers set out from Kilsture forest for the eight mile walk to Wigtown remarking on the difference in weather from the previous week when it had rained for the duration of the walk. They set off down the track past South Balfern and were greeted joyfully by a posse of horses in the adjacent field. They were very interested in the walkers and put on an enthusiastic display for their benefit. The cows in the next field were bemused by all the fuss. The walkers followed the track down to the caravan park at Drumroamin, and crossing a field, made their way over a fence to the salt marshes.  They walked along the flood bank and arrived at the designated place for lunch much too early and so decided to walk a further mile. At that point two shots rang out from across the fields startling the Ramblers who then walked on past a willow plantation eventually finding a suitable place to sit with a wonderful view across the estuary to the Galloway Hills. Those with binoculars soon spotted flocks of wading birds on the shoreline, also enjoying a lunch break.
After lunch the walkers retraced their steps and then took the Shell Road, across a lopsided bridge and on towards the airfield at Baldoon. A short detour was taken to look at the old control tower where it was possible to climb up inside and take in a panoramic view of the area. The taxiway to the old runway, now overgrown, was followed past some fusty bales of straw where our keen photographers insisted on a photo shoot.
The route now led on to Baldoon castle which was regarded with some interest and tales told of the Bride of Lammermoor who, as the tradition goes, was forced to marry against her will and on her wedding night stabbed the bridegroom, was declared insane  and died herself within the month. A figure in white is said to haunt the old castle. The gates to the castle still stood proudly to the entrance of the new house which had been built using stone from the original castle. After a good look around the walkers moved on along the road towards Bladnoch and under the old railway bridge, which was looking a bit the worse for wear.  They passed the old creamery, now converted to workshops and crossing the river at Bladnoch they could hear an enthusiastic crowd cheering the rugby players on at the stadium. They then took to the fields and climbed the railway embankment which they followed back towards Wigtown. The route then joined the path to the martyrs’ stake and on the flooded marshes a heron was observed, still and silent, poised to catch a fish which never arrived. Some swans were gliding majestically over the water in the late Autumn sunshine.  A short, steep climb up the road into Wigtown was followed by the usual tea, scones and chat before everyone went home to wash their extremely muddy clothes. Elaine had to go back to Kilsture to collect her car and by the time she got back to Wigtown’s Old Bank House to join us all the scones had gone and she made do with just a pot of tea – sorry Elaine, I should have saved half of my scone for you!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 15 October Castle Kennedy Circular

Wigtownshire Ramblers 15 October Castle Kennedy Circular

 The ramblers met on Saturday, barely fitting into the marine car park, which was congested with vehicles and caravans from the autumn shows. Nineteen members walked to the ferry terminal, crossing to North West Castle hotel to view the neglected Panels representing the connections between Northern Ireland and Galloway, with people migrating both ways, with names mixing and origins blurring. Sibyll von Halem created ‘Watermark’ in 1995 as a contribution to the 400 year celebrations commemorating the Burgh of Barony status of Stranraer.
The Garden of Friendship, into which the route now led, also has a story to tell. First laid out in the 1920s as a quiet attractive entrance to the town, it has always been a community involved garden, from first donations of plants, to the 2001 refurbishment by ‘Friends of the Garden’, guided by the ‘Beechgrove Garden’ celebrities artwork attached to the wall here.
Quickly moving through the town the walkers passed the first of the many Stair Estate buildings to be met with this day – the former Offices on London Road, an iron lampholder still arching over its gateway.
Two more members joined the company on Westwood Avenue, bringing the numbers up to 21 (Cath, Frances, Thomas, Allan, Richard, Sue, Mary Sloan, Peter Bedford, Paul, Ken, Jim, Christine Sloan, Irene, Duncan, Carl, Peter (Portpatrick), Mike, Kathryn, Jack and Audrey  cut through the Avenue, went through the trees to cross Commerce Road).
The town was left behind suddenly as the beautiful beech avenue of the ‘Approach’ was followed; the path was strewn with gold, red and russet leaves, the trees showing their glorious autumn colours to perfection.  After crossing Commerce road the woods continued to the old Stair house of Culhorn, where the family lived when the old castle at Inch was burnt down in the early 1700s. All is now demolished except for a couple of red brick walls and a great archway.
The Southern Upland Way footpath was soon joined. Culhorn Loch could be glimpsed shining through the trees and the sight of three roe deer cheered the walkers on what was proving to be a dull day, weather wise. The path became muddier. A hedged track between fields led to a lodge house on the old Military road. The railway now determined a slight detour from the original direct avenue of trees that leads to Castle Kennedy, but once under the railway bridge it was rejoined, and the first wartime remnants were seen - overgrown bases of huts and blast shelters that the grounds of the estate abound in.
The A75 was crossed and the beautifully kept main drive to Castle Kennedy Gardens was followed, alongside the White Loch. Loch Inch Castle, the nineteenth century Scottish baronial house, was viewed over the water. It replaced the old seventeenth century ruin which could also be seen directly ahead amongst the trees, on the peninsula between the White and Black Lochs.
Although the weather remained dreary, the rain just held off whilst the Ramblers had lunch by the canal which joins the two lochs.
The walk now left the Southern Upland Way and contoured around the Black Loch, along a track bordered by exotic trees and rhododendrons, some of which were flowering, deceived by the mild wet weather. After crossing a bridge spanning a narrow part of the loch, another drive was followed giving a good view of the west side of Loch Inch Castle.
The outfall of the loch continues on to enter Loch Ryan near Innermessan but the walkers left the burn and track to climb a grassy hill which gave good views over the surrounding countryside. Another track led to the A751, joining up with a farm road through High Balyett, and crossing the line of the old Cairnryan railway, picked out now only by small embankments and hedge lines. By the gate a lone remnant was found – a single iron rail.
The shores of Loch Ryan were soon reached and whilst some walkers were transported back to Stranraer in waiting cars, others opted to walk along the cockle shore, just arriving back before the rain began and rejoining the company for welcome refreshments at ‘Stir It’ tea rooms. Cath and I opted to walk, along with others, including Sue, so we got to Stir It sometime after most of the walkers!  Beth had saved my scone – bless her – and I told Cath I would pay for her coffee.  However, I had to borrow the money off Thomas to do so as I didn’t have enough in my purse!  Clever eh?! 16 of us were having drinks and cakes – Allan, Audrey and Jack didn’t join us.
It had been a varied and most enjoyable walk, a pleasant way to spend a day of dismal weather. Wales was playing France in the Rugby World Cup semi-final in NZ this morning and I wore my Welsh rugby shirt and pinned a Welsh map on my rucksack.  Despite this Wales lost!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 8 October 2011 Garlieston

Wigtowshire Ramblers 8 October 2011 Garlieston

Sixteen ramblers including two potential new members, Peter and Marie, who moved from Wiltshire to Newton Stewart, met at the village hall in Garlieston on Saturday for an eight-mile linear walk to Innerwell Port and back.  This walk is part of the core paths network that local councils have compiled and copies can be accessed via the Ewart Library.  Cath, Thomas, Frances, Marilyn, Rachel, Peter and Marie, both Marys, Jim, Paul, Ken, Audrey, Jack, Duncan and Irene met near the village hall in Garlieston.
Beside the hall on our way to the beach a commemorate slab of granite stands denoting the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II 1945-95 where the building and trials of sections of the ’Mulberry Harbour 1941-44’ at Garlieston took place thus making the invasion of Europe possible and an allied victory a reality.

As we headed north via tracks and fields from the little port of Garlieston in the quiet calm of the morning, it was inconceivable to think in addition to the activities pertaining to the war effort that Garlieston was also once a busy stop on the Galloway to Glasgow to Liverpool shipping route.
Veering east towards Eggerness Point the path circumnavigates a field towards a gate into the woods where views across Wigtown were hazy but, looking down to the craggy coastline past Browns Hole to Port Wapple, we could see what is marked on the map as war remains.  A detour was made to the shoreline where three concrete floating pontoons ‘code named’ Beetles were identified as part of the floating harbours, which had other peculiar names such as Hippos and Whales.
Returning to the path through the woods the mild weather had enticed ‘the midge’ to make a late appearance but as we drew nearer to the coast again they disappeared.  It was fairly boring, following one another in single file along a very muddy track and conversation was difficult.  The remains of a promontory fort were observed on the headland just before Port McGean and several trees had been blown over the path by the recent strong winds.
On passing Jutlock Point the path descends towards Innerwell Port where lunch was taken on the beach.  Our chatter coming through the woods had attracted the lady of the beautiful stone house at Innerwell, who came out to greet us and was very informative about the ice house and its connection to the Fishery that used to be there. We stopped for lunch on the beach where we were bothered a bit by flies but they weren't too bad.
A seal also gave us a curious glance from the bay and our return journey through the woods was interrupted only by two men and their dogs.  A fine drizzle had started by the time we reached Garlieston but what a perfect day for a coastal and woodland walk.
There was nowhere in Garlieston for all of us to go for drinks so our car load – Cath, Thomas, Rachel, Marilyn and I - travelled to Glenluce where we had tea/coffee and cakes in the golf club.  I ate a WHOLE piece of almond slice which was wonderful.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 24 September 2011 Ballantrae – Glenapp

Wigtownshire Ramblers 24 September 2011 Ballantrae – Glenapp

A lovely sunny morning saw eighteen walkers gather at Ballantrae Cemetery Car Park for the walk. Isobel, Frances, Duncan, Forbes, Audrey, Carl, John, Florence, Linda, Leslie, Paul, Jim, Ken, Peter Duncan, Irene, Douglas, Mary and Christine Sloan met for another Ramblers walk.  This was to be on the section of the Ayrshire coastal path from Ballantrae to Glenapp. The walk began by heading back towards Ballantrae before turning south by the standing stone at Garleffin.

Along this first tarmac section, ornate griffins topped the gateposts of Kinniegar farm, white cockerels strutted at Downan farm and sheep grazed lazily at Langdale. A gradual rise saw the end of the tarmac.  Looking back, Ailsa Craig, Knockdolian, Bennane Head and Ballantrae created a wonderful watercolour backdrop.

A kissing gate now gained access to the slopes of Downanhill.  A sign on the gate read poetically:
Be ye Man - or Bairn – or Wumman,
Be ye gaun – or be ye comin,
For Scotland’s Pride – no Scotland’s shame,
Gether yer litter – and tak it Hame!

Distant views were affected by solar haze, but the outline of Ireland could still be made out.
After rounding Downanhill the path now crossed Wilson’s Glen. A few late wild flowers still added a little colour.   Cattle grazed unconcerned by the trespassers. Here and there were patches of various fungi.

Out in the busy North Channel ferries were in constant view.  Two ramblers spotted a marine mammal breaking the surface.   The possibility of it being a whale was discussed, but no further sightings were made. 
A long stretch of undulating slopes now saw the group reach the rocky hill known as Donald Bowie. The path now went inland for two hundred yards to reach the track hewn out of the rock that leads down to Currarie Port.  This is where the Moyle Interconnector, an undersea cable links the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Auchencrosh converter station is close by.  Back in the 18th century, tea and brandy were amongst the goods smuggled ashore here. In this tranquil setting amongst the rocks a leisurely lunch was taken.

After lunch the path now led inland along the flow of the Shallochwreck Burn.
Looking back to the hill Donald Bowie, an intriguing maze like pattern had been cut out of a large patch of gorse. A number of theories failed to resolve the reason for this ‘Artwork’. 

A ruined cottage below Craigmore Hill led to Craigans where a farm track was followed. The track now circled Penderry Hill crossing in turn the burns of Black Glen, Nickalogie and March.  Views over to the North Rhins opened up where Milleur Point and Corsewall lighthouse could be easily identified.  Fast ferries made sweeping wakes entering and leaving Loch Ryan. 

After passing between the hilltops of Blarbuie and Sandloch a long downhill section followed.  Steadily turning north east and following the Water of App, the Bridge of Mark heralded the end of the walk.

 A perfect walking day was topped with tea and cakes at the Ballantrae Garden Centre cafĂ©.  Isobel, Duncan, Forbes, Audrey, Carl, Paul, Jim, Ken, Peter Duncan, Irene, Douglas (?), Mary, Christine Sloan and I sat outside in the sunshine (disappointingly, there was no almond slice so I had a scone instead!).

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 17 September 2011 Buchan Ridge & Merrick

Wigtownshire Ramblers 17 September 2011 Buchan Ridge & Merrick

The forecast for the day threatened showers so the 17 walkers who had assembled at Bruce’s Stone car park were keen to get started on what was to be, for some, a long and satisfying day’s walk.  Isobel, Frances, Joanne, Andrea, Carl, Florence, Leslie, Brian (leading), Gordon and Debbie arrived at Bruce’s Stone car park looking forward to a good long walk!  There were loads of other people I did not know except for one person who had been on a Portpatrick walk with us ages ago, plus Catherine from Port William who had walked with the Ramblers a couple of months ago. The group turned off to walk upwards beside Buchan Burn making good progress towards the Buchan Ridge.  It was soon afterwards that they split into two parties, one reaching and enjoying the scenery at the top of Buchan Hill and the other pushing on upwards.
I knew that Brian planned to include the Buchan Ridge in our walk and that he was not keen to be going from one loch to another as the route would be water logged!  He announced that he intended going up Buchan Hill, having lunch by one of the loch’s (have not worked out how he would have done this yet) before heading up the Merrick.  We set off at a fast pace, some of the walkers I did not know (I think some of them may have come with Gordon, from Ayrshire) helping to push the group on leaving Brian with the slower walkers.  Catherine soon lagged behind and Carl stayed back with me as I tried to encourage her.  Brian waited with Florence and Isobel until we had caught up and I told him that I would go to the top of Buchan Ridge with Carl and Catherine and then we would make our way back down.  We eventually reached the summit but dropped down below it to have our lunch where it was more sheltered, about 12.15pm (much earlier than the rest of the group would be having theirs!) and we had brilliant views of the lochs below us.
There was the occasional very light shower on the ridge but an early, leisurely lunch was enjoyed by those opting for time for photography and appreciating the views opening up below them of many lochs – Neldricken, Valley, Narroch, and Long and Round Lochs of Glenhead, and across to the Rig of Jarkness and beyond.  So far the walk had been fairly easy but the scramble down from the hill towards Gairland Burn redressed the balance – to say nothing of losing their balance occasionally, necessitating their descent on backsides occasionally, amid much hilarity and exclamations! We started to get cold so decided that we would head down from there to pick up the Five Lochs track and had a really horrendous descent – steep, tussocks, rocks, deep holes with water in them, heather, bracken, all conspired to make our downward journey a difficult one.  However, we laughed as we fell, Catherine spent more time on her backside than in standing.  The path they eventually reached looked at times much like miniature waterfalls and a lot of care was taken in negotiating it back down to the forest road before heading uphill to Bruce’s Stone, the sun shining and the rain having completely disappeared. It was a tremendous relief when we got down to the track even though we now had a long way to go along a rocky, boggy path.  Catherine was shaking with the exertion – NOT with fear she told us!  She was great fun to be with and she certainly needed her sense of humour today! 
Meanwhile the other group moved on steadily, working their way along Buchan Ridge and up beside a gully, pausing to look upon the rocky outline of the face of the ‘Grey Man of the Merrick’.  It was a hard slog up this section to get to the summit of the Merrick, stopping just below it for lunch, giving them enough energy to continue! On reaching the cairn and trig point (843m) at the top, what little mist there had been earlier had evaporated.  The clouds floated by as the views opened up and all of the Five Loch’s, plus many more lay below them and the Galloway Hills and beyond were seen in amazing detail. 
It was an easy stroll for a while after leaving the summit but a short climb back up brought the walkers to Ben Yellary from where Ailsa Craig and the Ayrshire coastline became more prominent.  Following the descent from there, they ignored the pathway down towards Loch Trool and started to negotiate the boggy area, worsened by recent rain, to reach the rocky slopes of Benane with its scattering of lochans. After their descent from there and reaching the forest road the group split into two, one of them opting to walk a short while along the road, turn off to follow the ‘Merrick’ track, past the bothy at Culsharg and to follow Buchan Burn down to Bruce’s Stone.
The other group had an exhilarating scramble down the Fell of Esconcan which they all agreed added an exciting end to a wonderful walking day as from here the views of Loch Trool and its surrounding hills were ‘tremendous’!