Wiggtownshire Ramblers will be hoping for a repeat of the glorious spring weather from last week when they set out this weekend.
Setting out tomorrow (Saturday, April 16) from Port William (see details below), the group is tackling a fairly leisurely 10.5-mile circular walk taking in Monreith and Barlullion Fell.
Last week nearly a dozen ramblers set off from Kippford on a circular walk to Portling in dry sunny weather, walking first along the riverfront at Kippford to the viewpoint over the estuary towards Rough Island.
From here they backtracked a few yards to take the footpath through the National Trust for Scotland woodland, leading under the Mote of Mark and its hill fort, soon arriving at picturesque Rockcliffe from which we took the coastal path leading from the bay out to towards Castlehill Point.
Along this path they passed the grave of Joseph Nelson, a crew member of The Ann, a vessel lost with all hands on January 2, 1791. His body was only washed ashore some months later and was buried close by. It is likely that The Ann was involved in the smuggling so prevalent around these shores at the time, encouraged by the tax-free status of the Isle of Man.
The well-used path was muddy in places as a result of the recent wet winter, but led on to open ground above on the approach to Castlehill Point, where the group stopped to appreciate the views across the Solway Firth to the still snow-bearing tops of the Lake District mountains.
From here the walkers had their first outlook along the spectacular coastal scenery that helps to make this area so deserving of National Scenic Area status.
Like most coastal walks, the route covered a series of ups and downs, climbing Barcloy Hill and then down to the bay at Gutcher’s Isle. The western end of the bay is marked by the steep ravine, which provides shelter for the spring flowers that were more advanced here than elsewhere. Celandine thrived along the cliff tops, with primroses down below, and a broad band of white flowers between the two. This was the common scurvy grass, so called because of its high Vitamin C content.
Generally, however, there was little in flower except of course the gorse, which was in flower everywhere, with its cheerful yellow blooms and coconut perfume.
At the other end of this bay is Bells Isle, with a small memorial a short distance below the main paths. Less accessible and out of sight on the face of the cliffs below can be found the entrance to the Colvend copper mine.
The route took a short, sharp ascent of Thornkip Hill before heading up the highest hill of the day, White Hill. Lunch was taken in the sun with a splendid prospect across the RSPB reserve at Mersehead to Southerness lighthouse, above which towers the bulk of Criffel and its nearby heights.
The path descended through dense gorse to reach the small settlements around Port O’Warren and Portling, from where they took the Newbarns track into the eastern extremity of Dalbeattie Forest.
Trails through sunlit glades of the forest and forest roads took the ramblers past Barean Loch, soon after which they followed a path through rolling farmland, crossing the main road once more at Rock Cottage and entering the forest above Kippford, taking tracks around Mark Hill that descended back to the seafront at Kippford.
Tomorrow’s walk is a 10.5 mile Category C+ walk (fairly leisurely), a circular from Port William taking in Monreith and Barhullion Fell, starting at 10am at the Port William statue (NX 338 436). Meet for car sharing at the Breastworks, Stranraer, at 9.15am or at the Riverside, Newton Stewart, at 9.30am. If going directly to the start of the walk please inform the walk leader. New walkers and visitors are always welcome after phoning the walk leader on 01988 700553 for further information.