Rambling round the standing stones

Twenty-four walkers gathered at the Torhouse Standing Stones for the walk start. A plaque in the enclosure gave an account of the history of the stones. Local tradition maintains that it is the site of King Galdus’s Tomb.

After the leader outlined the route we began the walk in single file along the B733 towards Wigtown where after half a mile we turned north east onto the road to Torhousemuir. It’s lambing season and in the sunshine the feeling was that spring had arrived. We passed the time of day with the local farmer before continuing up the lane to Torhousemuir House.

Here the leader read out some of the house’s history. Previous illustrious owners included Sir Archibald Woollaston White, Lt.-Cdr. Charles David Orr Ewing, Lord John Percy Samuel FitzRoy, and General James McHaffie who began dividing the land into what became the only crofting community in the South of Scotland.

We were pleasantly surprised when a lady resident of the present owners came out and talked to us. We thank them for allowing us to view their beautiful house and estate.

Resuming the walk we now made a circuit of the estate around some of the original crofts. Not all are in ruins and the likes of Knockskeog, Meadowbank and Balmeg are now farms in their own right.

Our walk leader had with him for reference Joe Whiteford’s book ‘Memories of a Wigtownshire Crofter’ and among the ruins we looked at was Mossend where he was raised. Descendants of a number of the crofters still farm and live locally.

On reaching Balmeg, we now carefully crossed a dyke to enter Clauchrie forest. Though tree felling has been considerable it was good to see that many new trees have been planted. We carefully crossed the edge of the felled area to reach the forest farm track back down to the Wigtown/Kircowan road.

A short distance away we reached the Torhouse Mill road and were soon on the banks of the beautiful Bladnoch enjoying lunch.

A yellow wagtail flittered back and forth.

After lunch we looked around where some of the original mill stood. We could still make out the wheelpit and the lade. The lade is now in use for the Torhouse Trout farm, more of which we were about to learn.

We were soon greeted by the owner proprietor Mr Mark Davies who had generously agreed to give us a tour of the trout farm. Back in 1792 a ‘Waulkmill’ on this site employed 40 workers making “plaiding and flannel” for export to England.

We began the tour in the hatchery learning of the Rainbow trout’s feeding and growth before continuing out to the larger rearing tanks, ponds and raceways. We saw and learned of their progress from egg to Asda. We learned about grading and of their sister trout farm at Taynuilt.

It was fascinating to see the fish in their respective sizes of development. A vote of thanks and three cheers went to Mr Davies for the insight into how amazingly fresh our fish is in the supermarket.

We now continued the walk following the river to reach Newmilns, the site of another one time Farina mill. The wheelpit of this mill is also quite intact.

Duckboards now aided our progress back onto the path along the riverside before we entered a grass field.

Two more gates and fields led us to the edge of the Cotland Plantation.

A small assault course of an electric fence, a barbed wire fence and a short steep drop, strewn with broken branches, brought us back onto the riverside path.

The 18th-century historian of the county Samuel Robinson noted that this was the finest scenery of the whole fifteen miles of the Bladnoch and we were inclined to agree. Though we were too big a group today to see any, otters and kingfishers are known to be in numbers along this stretch of water. We at the front were delighted to see a majestic heron taking off by the weir, the beginning of the distillery lade. Across the river is the Kirwaugh plantation and is a favourite spot for salmon fishing, the Linghoor Pool being known as one of Scotland’s finest.

A number of fallen trees were safely negotiated to bring us to the distillery at Bladnoch where otter tracks were spotted.

Here was the end of the walk and drivers were ferried back to their vehicles. A number of walkers continued to walk the remaining 1.3 miles to the Wigtown Bayview Bistro who as always excelled in providing delicious after walk refreshments and drinks. A fitting end to a good day and a well done to those walkers who completed the extra distance.

Next week walk is a B- twelve mile ‘Woods and Moorland’ circular walk from Gatehouse of Fleet to Loch Whinyeon and Glengap. Meet at the Breastworks car park in Stranraer at 8.45 am or the Riverside car park in Newton Stewart at 9.15 am for car sharing. The walk start is at Cally Woods Car Park (NX 605 561) at 10am. If going straight to the walk start or considering joining us, please phone the walk leader on 01776 840226 first.