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Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, final day

Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, final day

Postby wjshaw2 » Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:11 pm

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Kirkland Hill

Date walked: 12/09/2013

Distance: 27.2 km

Ascent: 805m

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Day 5, Sanquhar to Kirkconnel, 27.2km, 805m climb

Okay, so it's not actually that far from Sanquhar to Kirkconnel, but there were at least two features I'd identified that I wanted to take in. One was the Sub2000 top of Kirkland Hill and the second, the kirk whose land was commemorated in that hill's name, St Connel's Chapel just outside Kirkconnel. This is St Connel's country, by story at least. But before I got to him, there was Sanquhar itself to explore.

The Church of Go.jpg
The Church of Go... A handily placed lamppost to remind us that the church is not a location.

As I read one of the many informative blue plaques around Sanquhar, I began to make a few connections that I hadn't made before.

A realisation starts to dawn.jpg
A realisation starts to dawn

Sanquhar Castle, a wonderfully displayed visitor attraction.jpg
Sanquhar Castle, a wonderfully displayed visitor attraction

But with impressive earthworks.jpg
But with impressive earthworks

Sanquhar declaration memorial.jpg
Sanquhar Declaration memorial

Sanquhar Castle, a rather disastrously uncared-for ruin on the southeast corner of the town, was home to Lord Douglas. Was it not just the two days ago when I came across an equally uncared for Covenanter grave with his name on it as the commander of the dragoons who shot six men in a farmyard? And here, on Lord Douglas's very doorstep, Richard Cameron, defended by 20 armed men in 1680, chooses to read out his Declaration "disavowing allegiance to Charles II and the government of Scotland, in the name of "true Protestant and Presbyterian interest"" (quote from Wikipedia page on Sanquhar Declaration). The old Lord Douglas stayed at the castle until his death, but his son moved to the newly built Drumlanrig Castle off towards Thornhill. The Sanquhar Declaration was essentially a declaration of war, so it was perhaps not entirely surprising that Cameron and his immediate followers were hunted down and attacked at Airds Moss later that year, several miles off to the north from here.

James Renwick, whose memorial I visited in Moniaive the day before yesterday, also accompanied by an armed party posted a further Declaration here in Sanquhar in 1685. The declarations don't so much set forth a roadmap for religious freedom in Scotland as the Sanquhar Wikipedia page suggests, but why everyone else is wrong. Renwick was captured, and was the last Covenanter to be executed, in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh.

Only a few years later, William and Mary had arrived, Presbyterianism became the acceptable brand of Christianity in Scotland, and the persecutions began the other way. Suddenly the persecutors became the rebels. Graham of Claverhouse goes from being a bloody murderer of Covenanters to being the Bonnie Dundee of Sir Walter Scott, the rebel Jacobite hero of Killiecrankie. The scar that can be seen in Sanquhar today is that since these times, since the church population walked out at Charles II's imposition of the prayer book, there has been no Episcopal Church in the town. 330 years of hurt and counting.

Sanquhar also saw the flight of Mary Queen of Scots from the battle of Langside, staying at the Douglas' townhouse. Regent Moray, on whose side, rather confusingly, was the Laird of Drumlanrig, another Douglas, was swift in punishing her protectors.

It's, on the whole, a funny place. People are obviously proud of their local history and celebrate it, but it's not well looked after in other ways.

A model of how to treat lovely old school buildings.jpg
A model of how to treat lovely old school buildings

Optimistic sign.jpg

But it also contains treats, such as the garage that is surrounded by Austins and bits of Austins, including this wonderful Austin 3 Litre. We had one of these for, oh, about 3 weeks before it disappeared into a garage never to be seen again. I remember it because it was the only car we had which felt comfortable with us three kids in the back. I hadn't seen one since the 1980s... A good pilgrimage moment.

Austin 3 litre.jpg
Austin 3 Litre

On the way out of Sanquhar I took a moment more to investigate one last 'Meml' on the map. It turns out to be to James Hyslop, a shepherd from the local area who was a writer and wrote the poem which enshrined the romantic notion of Cameron's 'martyr's death' on Airds Moss, the Cameronian Dream (see http://www.covenanter.org/Poems/cameroniandream.htm). The Cameronians went on to fight on the government side in the Jacobite rebellions of the 1700s and in the British Army right on to 1968 when the regiment was disbanded. There is still a small denomination very loyal to his vision of Presbyterianism: the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Covenanted).

James Hyslop memorial.jpg
James Hyslop memorial

I took the mast road out of Sanquhar and got on with the walk, quite a bit later than intended, but a great deal more informed.

Finally on the road out of Sanquhar, looking back at yesterday's hills.jpg
Finally on the road out of Sanquhar, looking back at yesterday's hills

The area is spotted with bings from mining days and some bings are still being created. Some enterprising person has decided to form them into pointy mounds and top them with stone circles. I wonder if they got planning permission for it and what exactly they plan on doing with them. Anyway, I suppose that's better than just having them as ugly lumps which they usually are.

Stone circles on modern day bings.jpg
New stone circles on modern day bings

Poor sheepies.jpg
Poor wee sheepies, newly dipped. Did they get a say in which colour they wanted?

Kirkconnel and Black Hill disappearing into mist.jpg
Kirkconnel with Blackcraig Hill, the biggest hill in the area, disappearing into the mist

I got up to Todholes and had my lunch. The weather took this opportunity to start closing in, so I had my last clear views of the surrounding hills.

Todholes Hill mast.jpg
Todholes Hill mast

Kirkland Hill from Todholes.jpg
Kirkland Hill from Todholes

A perfect example of the landscape of the NW Lowther Hills.jpg
A perfect example of the landscape of the NW Lowther Hills

I didn't want to just grab Kirkland Hill in a hillbagging fashion, but get the most I could out of the local hills so I dumped the rucksack down the road and did a loop over the second highest tops locally, Cocker Hill and Glenguffock Hill. This was a bit of a tramp in the mist and a km long compass bearing over peat hags, but did eventually give me a view over the wee cottages at the head of the road. A route continues from here over to Muirkirk and would make a great day's walk from Sanquhar.

Navigation practice between Cocker Hill and Glenguffock Hill.jpg
Navigation practice between Cocker Hill and Glenguffock Hill

The remote cottages of Fingland and Blackgannoch.jpg
The remote cottages of Fingland and Blackgannoch

Having retrieved the rucksack I then headed off towards Kirkland Hill, via High Knypes. This latter hill was covered in the sort of tracks that go all the way up Glenguffock Hill - the ones on Glenguffock are marked on the map, the ones on High Knypes, at least as obvious, are not. They're not used today and I've not really got any idea why they are so numerous. Shooting access perhaps? I did hear what sounded like a grouse shoot off to the north in the mist when ascending the Knypes.

The tracks on Glenguffock Hill.jpg
The tracks on Glenguffock Hill

I soon attained the top of Kirkland Hill across the low gradient from the northeast and gave thanks to God for a lovely walk, while getting soaked and cold behind the trig point which is the only shelter available.

The wet top of Kirkland Hill.jpg
The wet top of Kirkland Hill

I descended past the Glenaylmer Burn along a well kept path with a cairn detailing the local geology (the path goes from Kirkconnel to Wanlockhead) to the point which was the ultimate destination of the pilgrimage, St Connel's Chapel.

Glenaylmer Burn.jpg
Glenaylmer Burn

St Connel's Chapel, pilgrimage end.jpg
St Connel's Chapel, pilgrimage end

9th or 10th Century cross fragment with socket.jpg
9th or 10th Century cross fragment with socket

St Connel's Chapel is a site worth visiting. It is a truly old Christian site for Scotland, with cross fragments as old as the 9th century. It could date from before that time, back to the very roots of Scottish Christianity (and to well before we'd all fallen out with each other and confused government and church. Mind you, there were tensions between the Northumbrian Church and the Iona controlled northern churches...). I didn't spend as long here as I expected, however. I think I was starting to feel a bit cold and wanted to ensure I got on a train in nearby Kirkconnel before too long. I did do the thing I came to do, have a good pray in the sanctuary. I also emptied the water I'd carried from St Connel's Well for a few days onto this site. I'm not sure why I carried it, I'm not sure why I emptied it there - it all feels a little bit superstitious to me, but it did feel entirely right and a fitting end to the walk.

All that was left was the stroll into Kirkconnel itself. Did I have time for a bag of chips before the train arrived? Unfortunately, no. Also unfortunately, I started to discover that my skin and my baselayer don't get on very well when they've been damp for quite a while...

The cost of of a damp pilgrimage.jpg
The cost of a damp pilgrimage

And home to Edinburgh. An exhausting pilgrimage very happily completed. I wouldn't do it again, but only because I don't like repeating things. I would do a pilgrimage again, definitely, somewhere else or in the same area of Scotland but across completely different hilltops and other sites. I've learnt about me, about God, about local and national history, and completed a physical challenge that I hadn't previously attempted. And found out that my waterproofs didn't work.
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Re: Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, final day

Postby Caberfeidh » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:27 am

An interesting aspect to walking - have you tried a visit to the old priory at Inchmahome?
http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowUserR ... tland.html
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Re: Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, final day

Postby wjshaw2 » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:31 am

I haven't been there yet, no. But it does look like a good spot to visit, thank you.

An interesting thing in the Trip Advisor write-up - Inchmaholme being built by Walter Comyn and later visited by Robert the Bruce. Robert the Bruce later murdered Walter's descendant in Dumfries and went to war against his family... I hope he visited this place in peace.
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Re: Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, final day

Postby jaffa61 » Thu Mar 09, 2017 12:22 am

There is a website for the Way of St Andrews which is a route from various points in Scotland and England to St Andrews. I have just about completed the Motherwell to St Andrews route, part of which I researched.Give this pilgrimage a try, I think there is a route from Roslyn Chapel.
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Re: Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, final day

Postby desmondo1 » Sat Mar 11, 2017 7:23 pm

A very interesting, different and informative walk report, walking and finding out about our history is one of the pleasures of getting out there, well done.
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Re: Pilgrimage in Dumfriesshire, final day

Postby Graeme D » Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:33 am

Enjoyed that. Always good to see reports from the old ancestral stomping grounds. 8)
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