This year’s Newton Stewart walking festival will give people the opportunity to enjoy the Galloway Hills even if they are not able to climb through this rugged landscape themselves.
On Saturday evening 9th May there is an invitation to come on a virtual visit to The Dungeon Hills, including The Wolf’s Slock and Loch Enoch, in the company of the Galloway author SR Crockett. The guide will be Cally Phillips, an expert on this once very popular but now little-known writer, who has succeeded in getting the Galloway works of Crockett republished. Cally is now preparing a series of three books ‘Discovering Crockett’s Galloway,’ linking the setting of the novels to the landscape. The first book which features ‘armchair adventures’ in the Galloway Hills will be launched at the festival and will be followed by two further volumes featuring the Solway coast and the towns and villages.
Nowadays SR Crockett is best known for his novel “The Raiders” - his stirring tale of smugglers and gypsies which ranges from Heston Island on the Auchencairn coast to the fastnesses of the Galloway Hills, the Silver Flowe and Loch Neldricken. However Crockett wrote many adventure and romantic tales featuring the history, characters and folklore of Galloway , including sequel and prequel to “The Raiders” – “The Dark o’ the Moon” and “Silver Sand;’ and “Men of the Moss Hags” about the Covenanters and the Killing Times. All of these novels feature lovely, evocative descriptions of the countryside, sometimes using real place names but on other occasions tantalisingly masking the real places with fictional names. Cally has done the work to untangle this and will lead the audience into the world of Crockett’s Galloway from the 17th to 19th century with the aid of extracts from the novels and visual images.
Joan Mitchell. Chair of the festival committee said: “Some novelists have the ability to make the landscape setting an integral part of their story, conjuring up vibrant images of the countryside so that some areas of the country are for ever associated with these writers. Thomas Hardy’s Wessex and the Yorkshire Moors of the Bronte sisters are good examples. SR Crockett, writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, did the same for Galloway but unfortunately his work, which was hugely popular in his time, has fallen out of favour, at least until now when thanks to Cally’s work it is beginning to enjoy a revival.
Every year the walking festival explores parts of Crockett country and a knowledge of these stories and the past which they evoke adds to the enjoyment of the walk. This year Walk 3-1 The Smugglers Coves, Walk 3-2 Back Buss, Walk 3.6 Solway View and Walk 5.2 Curleywee – Galloway Grandeur are particularly relevant. For those who cannot come along on a walk all they need is imagination and a willingness to allow Crockett’s prose to take them there.”
Since 2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, the other two evening events in this year’s festival programme will feature Scottish food and drink. The menu for the evening meal at the Belted Galloway on Friday 8th May will have a distinctively Scottish flavour while on Tuesday 12th May local whisky expert and enthusiast, Gordon Andrews, will entertain with a talk about Scotland’s national drink complete with tastings.