Hurricane Connor did not deter 11 walkers from meeting at Leswalt. However, we donned water proofs, boots and gaiters as our walk leader outlined the route to us.
We set off in a westerly direction out of the village and Aldouran Wetland Garden was our first point of interest. The garden, which consists of a series of raised beds linked by all ability paths, has been extended although now seems to be in need of some attention, with grass growing through the planting. We were delighted to see the fairy inspired sculptures and the arrival of the Gruffalo – which must appeal to many children and their parents! Many of us now plan to visit the garden with our grandchildren.
We took a short break at the bird hide to read the information boards detailing the local wildlife in the area and, having recorded our sightings, we took an exit into one of only a handful of ancient semi natural woods left on the Rhins peninsula, sponsored through the Woodland Trust. The narrow slippery, muddy path winds its way up through the wood in parallel with the burn. At the top of the glen we paused to catch our breath, look at the inscription on the new bench and sample the selection of sweets on offer.
A short road walk brought us to High Mark and the entrance to the Lochnaw estate. Belted Galloway cattle and their calves were admired before we reached and followed the edge of the loch until the castle came into view. After admiring the Kinsale Hounds, a magnificent pair of stone great Danes we approached the vastly renovated castle. Lochnaw Castle was built in the 15th century by the Agnew family. The original four storey tower house was extended three times over the following centuries but these have all since been demolished, the last one coming down in 1950 and a rose garden planted in its place. We have been following the restoration of this garden over the years and are delighted to see how well established the beautiful formal garden has become.
We followed a muddy estate track to the south which led us to Lochnaw Home Farm before a short walk along the western edge of Lochnaw Loch brought us to the walled garden containing one of the finest collections of fruit trees in the UK. The gardens weren’t accessed but viewed through the gates. After a short detour, during which we found a wood carving of the snake from the Jungle Book, we regained the edge of the loch to reach an embankment overlooking it and the castle. With this wonderful view our lunch was enjoyed before we began the return leg of our walk.
The outward route was now retraced to the top of Aldouran glen where a track led through to Glenhead. With views over Loch Ryan and occasional sunshine the road now led back towards Leswalt. Still accompanied by a biting wind, we climbed the hill and, with great relief, reached the track to the Agnew Monument. Built in 1850 this solid tower was erected by public subscription on this conspicuous site as a token of esteem for Sir Andrew Agnew who represented the County of Wigtownshire in four successive Parliaments.
After reading information about the Iron Age hill fort which crowned this hilltop 2500 years ago, we made our way up to the monument, trying hard to stay upright as we left the shelter of the wind bushes and being rewarded for our efforts with the views around us. Whilst Loch Ryan and Stranraer were clearly seen, the Irish Sea and Ailsa Craig were hidden to us by the hedge near the monument. Our downward walk was an easy one as we returned to the village, passing Leswalt Old Parish Kirk Graveyard, and making our way back to our cars.
North West Castle was the venue for our refreshments which we all enjoyed sitting by the fireside and discussing plans for next Saturday’s walk. This is still to be decided upon but will be a moderate one of 5-6 miles either from near Glenluce or Sandhead. Information can be gained by phoning the walk leader on 01776 840636. Details will be forwarded to the Ramblers shortly.