Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walk 292 -- Newton Stewart to Cardoness Castle

Ages:  Colin was 69 years and 346 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 123 days.
Weather:  Mostly sunny, but still a cold wind.  A short hail shower right at the end of the Walk.
Location:  Newton Stewart to Cardoness Castle.
Distance:  17 miles.
Total distance:  2931 miles.
Terrain:  All roads or tarmacked cycle-paths.  Some were quiet, others were ‘lorry-dodging’ territory.
Tide:  Coming in.
Rivers:  No.350, River Cree.  No.351, Palnure Burn.  No.352, Moneypool Burn.  No.353, Kirkbride Burn.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  No.36, Carsluith Castle.  No.37, Cairnholy.  No.38, Cardoness Castle.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan on a site in Garlieston.  This morning we drove to Cardoness Castle where we parked in a layby.  Opposite we caught a bus to Newton Stewart where we walked down to the roundabout.
At the end we were at the car.  We drove straight back to Garlieston for tea, biscuits and a lie-down.
The next day we packed up our stuff and drove home to Malvern.

We started today’s Walk at the roundabout to the south of Newton Stewart.  We followed the main A75 road eastwards for about a mile on what I would call a “lorry-dodging” road.  Since this is the main route to and from the port of Stranraer, this wasn’t much fun.  The reason we were so far inland and on this road is that it is the first bridging point on the River Cree.  From the bridge we could see how the cycle route we had been following at the end of the last walk snaked it’s way into Newton Stewart without going anywhere near the roundabout on the A75.
We came across a granite stone which had been made into a seat, and on which was written the following poem:
Stravaiger’s Rest
Oor forefaithers fished here,
doon in the Cree.
Fairmers sheared sheep,
cropped gress, fed kye.
Nae different fae folk noo.
Here by the roadside,
new noises are heard.
Nae cairts or horses gan thir slow gait,
heavy soons,
fae west’s green isle,
tae Europe’s route east.
Some even trevel new highways o space.
Rest fir a while,
afore ganging oan,
intae the slipstream
gull flight, salmon swim, mayfly dart
yer ain element, ain rhythm, wished well in all ye dae.
We understood about half of it!  Nearby was a notice trying to discourage us from fly-tipping — calling such people “dumb-dumpers” — and a memorial cross (we call them “death” crosses) where there had obviously been a fatal accident.
After about a mile there was a much quieter road off to our left which was also marked “Cycle Route 7”.  This was further inland but it ran more or less parallel to the main road, so we put into practice Additional Rule No.10 which says we can take a more inland route to avoid walking along a busy and dangerous road such as this.  The lane took us up a steep hill and past a pine forest.  It was very quiet — the only traffic we encountered was a single cyclist!
We came downhill past the entrance to an Outdoor Education and Forest Visitor Centre.  Notices tried to entice us in with promises of a shop and a café, but they would charge us £3 to park our car in there!  That would put me off for a start — why not park out here in the road and walk in?  It’s only a couple of hundred yards away.  This is the UK’s first Dark Sky Park, where you can look at the stars on a cloudless night uninhibited by light pollution.
What amused us was that the crossroads had been recently tarmacked, and then the white lines painted in but not following the chalk pattern which had been previously laid down.  This was the same both sides of the crossroads.  We sat on a wall near there to eat our first snack.
We went downhill to cross the burn, turned right and continued along until we met a disused railway line up on an embankment.  There were two broken bridges, and the arches between them had been closed off into sheds.  The cycleway went up on to the embankment, and led off down the old railway line for about two miles.  From up there we had good views across the Cree estuary.
We came out on to the road into Creetown which was less busy than the A75, but what traffic there was came hurtling by at great speed.
We were passed by our bus driver of this morning who was on his way back.  He tooted us!  When talking to him this morning, we got the impression he didn’t really believe we would walk all the way back to Cardoness Castle because it was too far.  (In fact he was nearly right!)  We came across a bench with a view that we thought would be an ideal spot to stop and have our sandwiches.  But as we approached it we realised that half the seat was missing making it impossible to sit on.  So we went on.
We found a comfy seat in the square in the middle of Creetown, so we used that instead.  There was a stone “world” in the square, we couldn’t work out the significance of that.  There was also the usual War Memorial, and a pretty drinking well with the words “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow” emblazoned around the top.  Cycle Route 7 turned inland from there, so it was no good to us anymore.  We had to return to the dreaded A75 again.
We were relieved to find there was a cycleway alongside it from that point, so we didn’t have to resume “lorry-dodging”!  We had already put our bright yellow waistcoats back on, and Colin had tied two jackets round his waist under his along with his camera.  It made him look as if he was pregnant!!
It was very noisy.  Apart from the constant heavy traffic, jets and helicopters kept flying over.  (It was quite like home, when the RAF practise their low-flying techniques over the Malvern Hills.)  There appeared to be some kind of military exercise going on over the estuary, some of the helicopters were picking up vehicles and dumping them down elsewhere.
After a couple of miles we were able to turn into another parallel lane through Carsluith.  This one kept very close the main road, in fact we realised it must have been the original road.  Whatever, it was quiet, and took us another couple of miles on our way.
We emerged on to the A75 again, and here there was no cycleway.  We had about half a mile of “lorry-dodging” until we reached Carsluith Castle.  It is not a real castle, but a tower-house built in the 16th century when this style of residence was all the rage.  It was lived in until the mid-18th century, then left to decay.  We viewed it the other day when we had more time.  Although it is now an empty shell with no roof, we were able to climb a staircase inside to get good views across the estuary.
We were feeling quite tired by now, especially me.  We sat on the grass behind the castle to eat our first chocolate, then we were tempted by the “Smokery” café on the premises to go inside and buy a cup of tea.  Nice tea, but a bit on the expensive side.  We got chatting to a woman and her daughter in there — we told them about our Trek and gave them a blog card.  They said they lived in a cottage next to Dundrennan Abbey, and when we reached there we would be welcome to knock on the door if we need to use the loo in passing!
After that there was more “lorry-dodging” for a mile or so before we were able to turn off on another lane, Cairnholy Road.  Half a mile up the lane is a motley collection of standing stones and a couple of small chambered cairns which we visited the other day.  It supposedly dates from the Neolithic period, between 6000 and 4000 years ago, but it all seemed to be a bit of a mess.  I think the stones have fallen down and been stood up so many times nobody really knows what the original layout was.  It is thought to be a kind of mass grave, but the notice there didn’t say whether any skeletons were found.
Today we didn’t go up there, but turned off that lane soon after leaving the main road.  We had a pretty stiff climb, but then we had a blissful couple of miles walking along a quiet lane parallel to the manic A75 but with views.
I say quiet, it was until a man with an angle-grinder started up!  What a noisy world we live in, even in the back of beyond.
We saw sheep with very tiny lambs, and passed through a wood with a stream and loads of wild garlic — such a pretty flower.  We passed another tower-type castle building, but this one was being restored.  Perhaps it will be lived in again — I wouldn’t like it, must be all stairs!
We passed lots of farms and lots of s**t including slurry being pumped into a tank — ugh!  (The countryside is all about poo, it’s everywhere!)
We passed a jumble of stones on a knoll which looked as if it could have once been an ancient cairn of some kind.  Who knows?  They are everywhere in this area.  We also passed a brand new drystone wall which reminded us of the “rubble” walls we have seen in Malta.  We sat on a wall near there to eat our apples.
Eventually we had brilliant views across the next estuary, that of the River Fleet.  There were islands in the middle, looking good in the sunshine.  The wind got up and it was not so warm.  Since we were up high we got the full force of this freshening breeze.
Eventually we had to descend to the main road again just at the point where two schoolgirls were dropped off their bus and immediately picked by car to be taken to their remote homes.
So it was on with the bright yellow waistcoats again because the final three miles of the Walk was “lorry-dodging” along the A75, except where there was the occasional layby.  It wasn’t much fun, the slipstream from some of the big vehicles was bad.  It required intense concentration, and we only made slow progress because we kept having to stop and squeeze ourselves into the bushes as the traffic sped by.
We stopped in one layby to eat a second bar of chocolate each.  Later we came to a layby with a transport-type café called “The Teapot”.  I was beginning to feel unwell, so we stopped for another cup of tea.  This was just as nice as the tea at “The Smokery” café by Carsluith Castle, but about half the price!  We made use of their toilet, but I was still feeling unwell.  I wondered whether I would make it to the end of the Walk, but I was determined not to give in, so we carried on.
I tried to take in the beauties of nature, such as the wild flowers, especially ladysmock which was everywhere.  And occasionally through the trees we caught views across the Fleet estuary basking in the evening sunshine.
But my stomach cramps were getting more and more intense, and I felt absolutely lousy!  As we approached Cardoness Castle, I climbed over a gate and found a big bush behind which I had the privacy to be really ill!
Cardoness  Castle

We visited the castle on a different day when we had more time.  Like Carsluith, it is a 15th century tower house, but in a better state of preservation.  It is six stories high, and despite its ruinous state it is still possible to climb to the top and look out over Water of Fleet — a glorious view!

That ended Walk no.292, we shall pick up Walk no.293 next time outside Cardoness Castle, near Gatehouse of Fleet.  It was quarter-past six, so the Walk had taken us nine hours and fifty-five minutes.  I still had stomach ache and I felt all sore inside.  I think it was sheer exhaustion which had caused this — my body was telling me I had overdone it.  We drove straight back to Garlieston for tea, biscuits and a lie-down.
We were delighted that all the Walks this session had gone to plan.  Over the past two and a half weeks we had covered 151 miles!!  When I planned it I never thought we would actually do it all, but we did!  I was upset that my delight in this achievement was spoiled by me feeling so unwell.  I couldn’t eat much, Colin had to make his own supper.  I felt better after a good night’s sleep hugging my hot water bottle, but I was still a bit fragile in the morning.  We packed up the caravan and drove home to Malvern where I fully recovered.

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