The Dungeon of Buchan is not a deep dark prison. It is an Daingean, the stronghold of Buchan. In the photograph above I am beneath its ramparts. But don’t be fooled. Those sheer granite cliffs are not its main defence. The real challenge lies in reaching them at all. Between us and them are the quakkin’ quaa and green morasses of the Silver Flowe.
Phew! It was too hot for hill walking, but escaping sunstroke would mean braving meanbh-chuileag and their buzzing buddies. Midge bites won over sunstroke. Sphagnum, purple moor grass and soft rush are the midges favoured breeding grounds. We passed plenty of each and when we strayed away from such places, other flies circled us, dogs included, like the orbiting insects seen around cartoon characters. But we came partially equipped, me with my midge net, Audrey with her midge repellent spray.
8.84 miles 6h 40m ascent 865m Mossdale to Merrick (part 6)
This, part 7 of our Raiders walks, was the sixth and final of the Mossdale to Merrick trail. As with each of the other Raiders’ sections we walked the same way out and back.
This walk has three sections: Bruce’s Stone to Culsharg, a gentle climb beside the Buchan Burn to get you warmed up; Culsharg to Benyellary, is a little steeper but carries you onto the mountain; then the Neive of the Spit, a short descent followed by gentle climb to The Merrick.
Mossdale to Merrick (part 5) 7.89 miles 4h 24m ascent 322m
Loch Trool to Loch Dee
The sixth of our Raiders walks took us from the “treeless waste around the lonely mountain lake”, Loch Dee, to the “sylvan woods and bright verdure” of Loch Trool. We parked below the Fell of Eschoncan near Bruce’s Stone and our route was a simple one, along the track past Glenhead and then the Southern Upland Way as far as the Rosnes Benches above the loch, returning the same way. I had considered starting at Caldons and including a full round of Loch Trool itself but was pleased I didn’t when we found the footpath on the southern side of the loch closed (for felling).
8.88 miles 4h 28m ascent 217m Mossdale to Merrick (part 4)
Craigencallie to the Axe Head Stane
Part 5 of our Raiders outings took us from Craigencallie to the Axe Head Stane (and back). Had car sharing been allowed this section might have taken us to Loch Trool. But there is something about retracing ones steps. Things do not look quite the same and I noticed things returning along the same route that I had missed on the way out, such a the big gate only noticed when walking back. So unexpected was the gate that I checked it hadn’t been installed while we were walking.
midges, milkwort, scent of pine, the ford, red pine, forestry in all stages, deep sphagnum, bluebells in the open, trees standing, felled, fallen, fallen and cut, eared? willow aplenty, rain but warm, sound of the otter pool, goat bought rig, no sight of orchars, wondering what pullaugh means, the dam, galloway bamboo, the search for seats.
The Raiders Road runs beside the Black Water of Dee, but across the valley on the opposite side of the river there is another route, a forestry track. Like the Raiders Road it begins close to the bridge on the Queens Way and rejoins the Raiders Road at the Gairloch Ford.
11.4 miles 5h 9m ascent 221m Mossdale to Merrick (part 1)
Mossdale to the Otterpool by the old railway to Stroan loch then the Raiders Road
In Samuel Crockett’s book The Raiders his hero tracks a band of reivers and cattle rustlers who have made off not only with stolen cattle but also one of the local girls. His adventure takes him from Rathan Island (Heston Island) into the lawless Galloway Hills, where “never an exciseman put his nose, except with a force of red soldiers at his tail, which did not happen once in twenty years.” Smuggling was common in the 18th and early 19th centuries with brandy, silks and lace landed on the Galloway coast and carried inland by bands as large as 200 men. The raiders in the book took the highway north through Laurieston, crossed the Dee at the Brig of Black Water, and took a drover’s road to Clatteringshaws. This drove route is now the Raiders Road Forest Drive.
Last week we had walked the northern ‘half’ of the Raiders Road. This week’s outing was the southern half. Lockdown had relaxed, from level 3 to level 2, but “You should not share a vehicle with anyone from another household, unless you absolutely have to.” Dangling prepositions aside, that meant circular walks for us.