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Three days on Southern Upland Way

Three days on Southern Upland Way

Postby eschus » Sat Sep 24, 2022 9:57 pm

Route description: Southern Upland Way

Date walked: 10/08/2022

Time taken: 3 days

Distance: 85 km

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This is my story about three days on the Southern Upland Way in the southwest of Scotland. A story without action, yet too much happened…
I am from the Czech Republic. However, I travel to Scotland every year to visit my (almost) family based in a village close to Edinburgh. This year, we were spending the most amazing week in recent years, in Glenwhan Gardens in the Scottish southwest, Dumfries and Glloway. A holiday within holiday. I planned this trip long in advance. Thanks to my dear scottish friends, Veronika and Mark Appleford (LivingHealth), I didn`t have to transport outdoor stuff by plane, they got me almost everything - tent, sleeping bag, mattress and cooking stuff. The Trail starts on the magical Mull of Galloway, but I let my family take me to New Luce; the most convenient start in terms of route planning. At the point where the trail crosses the road, I waved to the car, threw on my backpack with gear borrowed, and headed for the horizon, which was rendered by endless moorland with occasional hills. I imagine that in normal Scottish weather, orientation wouldn't be easy, indeed a physical map and a compass is recommended, but I opted for a week of hellish heat and absolutely clear skies (and I'm pulling goretex, overtrousers and all that). The trail is marked out by wooden stakes that are usually within sight of each other, but that's not always the case and the trail got lost in the undergrowth at times, the orientation was still easy on the trail. The first half day's stage from New Luce to Polbae Farm alternated between pasture and swampy woods. A landscape decimated by bark beetle and wind farms. The freely accessible Beehive bothy, as a refuge for trekkers, looked rather strange in this environment. Too early for me to spend the night, but I imagined how beautiful it would be if there were a forest around and no windmills. The plan was to stay overnight at Loch Derry, but this proved unsuitable due to the cow pen and steep banks with thick grass. After another 5 km, a farmer at Polbae Farm offered me three bottles of water and a place to sleep. "What a traffic this week!", he uttered as I told him how I had met one couple with a backpack all day. In his plaid shirt, thick beard and good-natured eyes, he seemed like the prototype of a Scotsman. He saved me. I didn't encounter any water all day, only scrapes at the few houses I did meet, otherwise peaty forest streams hidden in the thick undergrowth, and the incredible heat... Not that he expected it, but I left him some change for a beer and a scrawled note with my thanks. 25 km.
Day 2. I left the windswept countryside in the morning and soon it was replaced by more romantic valleys with rivers and lochs indicating the approach of a vast upland with more frequent woodland, Galloway Forest Park. The long endless transitions of marshy pastures remained and I enjoyed it all. That solitude when you know that every decision you make will be yours, when your head is clear, when your senses are sharpened, when you think coolly. And all those who think of you as indecisive, they would stare because nothing limits you. In the area around the Glentrool visitor center I more often encountered day-hikers around Loch Trool, but as I began to climb the hills of the nature park, the hikers dwindled. You climb up to the saddle and paradise opens up and in the middle of paradise is Loch Dee. And you're alone in this paradise, I don't understand... I am going to check the White Laggan Bothy which was a back-up option, but the weather doesn't suggest that bad weather is coming. I am meeting a third person on the trail there, a guy in his sixties, lying around with grass in his mouth, in pumps and a baseball cap, saying he can't remember weather like this in Scotland. He's done most of the Southern Upland Way, missing the section to St. John's Town of Dalry, where I'm doing as well. For today, though, I end up at Loch Dee, say goodbye to the guy and try the spots by the loch. I didn't find a spot, but I did find a beach. A sandy one. No one there. I spend the early evening, forgivingly, naked in paradise. Not much for sleeping, though, the landscape is open, the sun burning, the trees felled and the undergrowth inhospitable. I don't like it and roll the kilometer back to the bothy under the forest, where there is shade, trees and water. The guy's already in his tent and I've pitched mine too, and in the end I'm glad for the safety of the hut. That midges, bitches. Ten seconds and you're dead. You don't cook, you don't eat. You don't sit down with your coffee in your tent with your feet out and you don`t tare at the landscape. You just open the tent, crawl in and pull it up and they're still waiting in droves outside for you to come out. At least in the hut you could cook and eat in peace. Still, the early evening and morning were magical. 35 km.
Day 3. I start early and give the guy a Drip-it coffee. I'm in a race against time, as my family picks me up at 1pm in St. John's Town of Dalry, with 22 km of trail ahead of me. The road is now on gravel and tarmac paths along the lakes, I take photos of the overnight spots, just for my records. An early morning swim in Clatteringshaws Loch and then I'm stealing miles on tarmac. This has been replaced by more pasture and the typical open countryside I love so much about Scotland. I arrive in St. John's Town of Dalry after nearly 90km in a day and two half days, sunburnt, with blisters on my legs from perpetually wet boots, but happy. I meet three people in three days. I marvel every moment at the landscape. I enjoy three days of solitude, but even as you enjoy your loved ones, something in you longs for more. More mountains, more time, more everything. A beer in the pub immediately, aptly named Easy Trail, and I didn`t stop at just one. Then the family arrives and I am greeted with genuine joy.
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Joined: Aug 1, 2022

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