Circular walk across the Rhins for Ramblers

The Ramblers look onto Knockdolian and the Stinchar Valley.
The Ramblers look onto Knockdolian and the Stinchar Valley.

The Wigtownshire Ramblers walk on Saturday, 15th April, is a circular walk across the Rhins from Port Logan. Meet at The Riverside Car Park in Newton Stewart at 9:15am or the Breastworks Car Park in Stranraer at 9:30am to share transport.

The walk will start at 10:00-from the South Car Park in Port Logan (NX 094 404). New walkers are welcome but please contact the walk leader on 01776 860315 for full details.

Another beautiful Saturday morning saw 31 ramblers assemble at the bus stop in Ballantrae to take the bus to the Varyrag Memorial at Lendalfoot.

A somewhat surprised Stagecoach driver welcomed the horde and kindly decanted us at the entrance to the layby just South of Lendalfoot. We had been told that this was a good spot to see seals and, sure enough, a pair of seals were lolling lazily on the rocks just off shore.

We paused to examine the large bronze memorial to the Russian Cruiser Varyag. The ship had a very varied history.

Built for the Russian Navy in America in 1899 she was blockaded by the Japanese Navy in a neutral Korean port during the Russo-Japanese war in 1904. She was badly damaged when trying to escape and returned to port where she was scuttled by her crew.

The ship was salvaged by the Japanese who used her in their own navy for several years but during the first world war she was sold back to the Russians.

The Russians then sent her to Camell Laird in Birkenhead for refitting but while there the Russian Revolution overtook her and she was commandeered by British soldiers and transferred to the Royal Navy. She then ran aground off Ireland and was taken to the Clyde where she was used as a hulk. In 1920 she was sold to a German firm for scrap.

While being towed south she ran aground on the rocks off Lendalfoot. She was finally scrapped on site over two years from 1923.

The memorial was erected in 2006 in memory of the sailors who fought bravely in this ship.

On leaving the lay by we passed the Carleton Fishery, once a fish processing factory but now converted for domestic use, and descended to the beach to get away from the traffic on the busy main road. The firm sand below the tide line made easy going and we were accompanied by the gentle lapping of waves on the shore and gannets diving for fish further out.

At Lendalfoot village we took to the fields south of the Water of Lendal and climbed up to a small memorial to Charles Berry, a local ornithologist, botanist and geologist. There is a suggestion that this may also have been erected on the site of a motte but other sources think it is on a natural knowe. Returning to the road we climbed the road to Carleton Castle where there are both the remains of a Norman motte and a 15th century tower house. There is little to see of the motte but the ruins of the tower stand tall across the small burn which tumbles down in a gorge below the road. The tower was the property of the Cathcart family, having received the title as a gift from Robert the Bruce. Legend declares that one laird, a Sir John Cathcart, financed his lifestyle by marrying and murdering several wives. However, his last wife, a Kennedy from Culzean foiled his plot by pushing him over a cliff. His ghost is said to wail around the tower. None of this was evident as we passed in the sunshine.

At Knockormal we split into small groups at the farmer’s request and followed the track as quietly as possible to avoid disturbing the lambing ewes. The sheep seemed to take little interest in us and we were soon past them. We descended round Lochton Hill into a shallow valley above the Pinbraid fishery. There was no sign of the path marked on the O.S. map but a handy quad bike track took us down into the valley and over the burn. We crossed a short boggy section and then clambered over a handy stile to take us to the top of Balhammie Hill where we paused in the sunshine for lunch with fine views down the Stinchar valley and Knockdolian fell.

After lunch we descended past the Deaf Stone, a large erratic boulder which was once used as a site to bargain over stock, and down into Colmonell village. From the village we crossed the Stinchar and followed the old carriage road below the ruins of Criagneil Castle which also has associations with Robert the Bruce. We also noticed an old lime kiln associated with a quarry hidden in the vegetation at the roadside.

We followed the road down the valley enjoying the views across the river and the variety of young lambs cavorting in the adjacent fields. Violets and primroses were putting in an early appearance on the sheltered banks below the white blackthorn blossom. At Polcardoch we turned off the road and passed the remains of St Cuthbert’s Church, sitting forlornly in a field, and then crossed the Water of Tig on a patched wooden bridge. The path lead on through woodlands where the scent of the wild garlic added to the atmosphere when crushed by our boots. A little further on we had to make a diversion when we found our way blocked. A quick scramble up a steep, stony bank got us into the Laggan caravan park and onto the lovely Laggan Drive through the woods above the river. At Laggan Holm we made our way down to the river bank and completed our walk back to the village and our cars. Tea and cakes were enjoyed in the continuing sunshine at Craigiemains Garden Centre.