Saturday, 20 August 2011

Scoops Reports 2011 - 20 August Stinchar Bridge Circular

Wigtownshire Ramblers 20 August Stinchar Bridge Circular

 Jim’s photo Cow Craig

A hired minibus brought the majority of today's walkers to the walk start at Stinchar Bridge. Guest walkers from Ayrshire and one from Stirling made the numbers up to twenty three. Duncan valiantly drove the minibus which initially carried Elaine, Frances, Isobel, Irene, Allan, Peter, John, Audrey, Jacqui, Susan and Pam (who lives the other side of Glasgow but who comes to Stranraer every third weekend).  When we set off I was sitting next to the window but found that I was sitting over the wheel and was feeling every bump.  I moved to sit next to Pam.  I found out that she was renovating (with her husband) the house left to her in Loch Ryan Street by her uncle who had died a couple of years ago, aged 99.  She said he had cycled until he was 93 and I asked if his name was Willy Wallace.  It was!  I told her that I had done Scottish country dancing with him for years, that he was a great dancer and that he had also danced with Elaine and Isobel!

We stopped to pick up Ken at his road end before going into Newton Stewart.  Mary was the only one who joined us there, leaving Jim, Paul and Catherine (father’s house in Kirkcowan) follow on in Jim’s car.  When we eventually got to Stinchar Bridge after a long and bumpy ride we met Carl, Gordon, Christine and three Ayrshire walkers two of whom had walked with us before – both David’s plus Marlene.  We were a total of 23 walkers, much to our surprise. 
The walk began along the tarmac road eastwards which eventually becomes the forest drive through to Loch Doon. After one kilometre the bridge over the River Girvan was crossed. The source of the Girvan and the Stinchar are close by on the slopes of Ayrshire's highest hill, Shalloch on Minnoch.  After crossing the bridge a stony uphill path was accessed. Now heading south-east they reached the end of the path and took to the heather. Here there is a feature marked on the map as Peden's Hut. Alexander Peden was one of the leading forces in the Covenanter movement and preached extensively in the area. He'd often find rocky outcrops with small hidden dales or glens to hold his 'Conventicles',naway from the prying eyes of Claverhouses troops.     

  As height was gained, so the views opened up. The day was a mixture of sun, cloud and breezy and Lochs Braddan and Skelloch were the first stretches of water to make an appearance.  An undulating climb and sometimes boggy ground brought them up to Cow Craig, the first of a number of rocky peaks reached today. With no discernible path the walkers now made their way over wispy tussocky grass, ling and bell heather to reach Rowantree Craig. Here a time out was taken to appreciate the magnificent views to the east. Winding between Lochs Riecawr, Brecbowie and Goosie was the forest drive where the vehicles looked like toy cars and the distant peaks of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and the Rhins of Kells were crowned with mist and cloud.

 After a distribution of sweets it was onward and upwards. Sticking as much as possible to the high ground of a crescent shaped ridge, Shiel Hill (508mtrs), the highest point of today's walk was reached.  From the triangulation pillar the Ayrshire coastline and Lochs                         
Macaterick and Slochy added to previously mentioned  views. Far distant views were obscured by mist.                        
After another 500 metres of heather and tussocks a rocky outcrop above the Nick of the Strand was designated as today's lunch stop. Sheltered from the wind and high above Loch Riecawr the sun emerged and welcome refreshments were taken.

After lunch and with Craigmashinee before them they descended into the Nick of the Strand. Here a trapped 'Happy Birthday' balloon was released and was last seen heading eastwards high above Shiel Hill.

 Now began the trickiest section of the walk. A flat tussocky and swampy section of around 700 metres lay between where the group had descended and Cornish Loch. In the middle looking like an oasis in the desert was a raised section, which would be the first target.
Quite a number of oh's and ah's were heard as steady progress was made. One walker fell up to her waist but was none the worse for the mishap. Light hearted banter spread throughout the group. We had to go through some fairly tussocky, boggy ground, with hidden water holes which Susan found twice!  She was very chirpy about both incidents and she certainly gave us a lot of entertainment!
After a regroup on the 'oasis', the outlet of the River Girvan on Cornish Loch was finally reached. Here a makeshift bridge was repositioned to make the crossing a little easier for some of the walkers. We crossed over the burn using a couple of lengths of wood repositioned by Jim who helped the straggling walkers to negotiate it. 

Once on terra firma, a zigzag path was followed to the summit of Cornish Hill from where Ailsa Craig was now visible.  A bright open descent down the well worn path brought them past the Crawberry Rock and to the ruins of Craiglour Lodge on the banks of the Stinchar. A plaque states that "Catherine Lawson was born here 11th November 1940". The sun was now shining brightly and a number of walkers seemed reluctant to leave this idyllic lovely spot.
The last section through the forest, the picnic spot and the tumbling waters above Stinchar Bridge brought to an end a unanimously agreed lovely walk. 
 I stopped to take photos of the waterfalls near the picnic tables before rushing to catch up with the others.
We settled back to face the long and tiring drive back to Stranraer with no stop for tea and cakes at Glenluce as had been hoped – we were too late as Duncan had to  take the bus back -  getting to the car park by 5pm.  Duncan had had a real struggle with driving the bus which had many quirks and we gave him a cheer when we arrived and all agreed that we would NOT be using it again! MANY, many thanks Duncan!

















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