The romantic glen of Trool has long been a favourite resort of the lovers of picturesque scenery ; and it is deservedly acknowledged by all who have visited it to be the finest Highland scene in the south of Scotland, and not inaptly termed the Southern Trossachs. Not many years ago the distinguished orator and statesman, Mr. Bright, visited this district, and, it is said, was so enchanted with the scene that he gave vent to his feelings in the lines : —
‘Land of the mountain, strath, and stream, Is it reality or but a dream ? ”
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.
We started at the Raiders Road car park, crossed the Dee and headed onto the forestry track. The gate has been closed but was open today, indeed it looks broken, perhaps clipped by a logging lorry. The track shows all stages of forestry, fallow after harvesting long ago, recent felling looking like a WW1 battlefield (and stacked logs), new plantations, and trees of all ages some little taller than me, others towering high. There are a great number of self seeded spruce and pines and willows (eared willow I think), some shrub like, others taking on trees.
I was surprised how many stands of bluebells we saw and wondered if these had survived from the days when deciduous trees had grown here. Forestry always looks a little devoid of diversity but it it there when you look. The track looks to have been resurfaced in the last few years and the drainage ditches beside it have been dug afresh. But flowers have already taken hold in the disturbed ground. Like the Raiders road there are are long stretches of coltsfoot beside the track, though most of the flowers have now gone.
The route crosses several named burns: Pullaugh Burn (the largest, which drains Loch Grannoch), Green Burn, White Burn, Nick Burn). I was pretty sure that the pullaugh Burn was a LOT fuller when we walked back then when we were setting out, but I didn’t take any photos so I couldn’t be sure. It had only rained heavily for a few minutes during the day so it seems strange to have made such a difference.
My wildflower identification skills still need honing. We spotted some bright blue flowers that i didn’t immediately recognise. “Milkwort is what springs to mind” I said, “but these are too big.” Well it was milkwort though Audrey and I couldn’t agree whether they were the common or heath variety. When one of us changed their mind, so did the other. At the last discussion I was for heath, and she for common, and this despite us using the same books.
This route seems higher than the Raiders Road so gives different views of the surrounding hills. We looked out for things marked on the map, but the ruins (if they still exist) at Orchars couldn’t be seen from the track and the terrain between us and it didn’t look very inviting with fallen trees, deep sphagnum mounds and standing water. The old maps show a footpath running from Orchars to Laggan Pool, but there was no sign of it we could see. The Otter Pool was audible and we could just see the roof of the ‘conveniences’ building there.
I had wondered if the ford would allow us to cross, and return along the Raiders Road, but the river bed was invisible beneath the black water so we decided to return the way we had come.
In the footsteps of Crockett’s Raiders, from the Raiders Road to Craigencallie, Spring’s sunshine practising for Summer, the heather and bracken a little tardy, and the dogs keen for an outing.
A cuckoo Carpets of wood anemone Half way stone Unmarked road Kerplunk in pool Darnaw monument Craigencallie No seats. scent of mint. why a dam?
As we walked along the Queen’s Way, and crossed the Dee, a distant rumble grew to a roar as a motorcycle gang club passed by. But one bike slowed then waited for us to catch up. The rider pointed at Mabel and said he hadn’t seen a miniature dachshund since leaving England. It seemed a strange encounter until a mini-dach popped his head up.
Our walk was to follow the route that Crockett’s Raiders as they made their way from the old bridge, past Craignell and along to Craigencallie. Patrick Heron had taken the moors over Darnaw, whereas we climbed up to the the forestry track on its flank. It’s an old forestry track but has been resurfaced. The quarry on Low Craignell, and that below Darrou were active, the noise of machinery heard from the former and moving equipment at the latter. Presumably they are providing rock for the road on Cairnsmore of Dee we had seen a fortnight earlier.
We had to stand aside a few times as lorries rolled past. One driver shouted from his window but the vehicle’s engine was loud and I didn’t catch what he said, only the metre. Audrey hadn’t heard either and I just had time to say “I couldn’t make out what he said” when my brain suddenly delivered the goods and i realised it had been “there’s another one coming”.
A weird phenomenon. Presumably at an early stage in processing the auditory input I recognised it as not immediately decodable, reacted on that assumption by saying I didn’t understand and a moment later ‘understood’ as I became aware of the decoded message. Something to do with auditory processing and Echoic Memory?
So we stayed off the road until the second lorry passed.
I thought I could see the monument on Darnaw, but couldn’t be sure. You never know it might have just been a lone tree. I remembered the monument as towering above me, at least twice my height, but looking back at old photos I find it was about my height. The track certainly looked different back then.
We crossed Darnaw Burn, Christy nipping down for a quick dunking, and watched the southern hills of the Rinns of Kells coming into view. We had good views of Meikle Millyea from the track. I’m tempted to walk those again if we get a chance.
Our plan was to walk to Craigencallie, then head back along the wee road beside the loch. Approaching Craigencallie we caught a glimpse of Loch Dee, with Merrick just visible behind the Dungeon Hills. There had been a lot of felling since I was last here.
Close to Craigencallie we could hear a cuckoo calling and eagle eyed Audrey spotted it atop a fir tree. That’s the first cuckoo I’ve actually seen.
There were plenty of wildflowers about. Even the odd stand of bluebells despite the trees being felled. My eyes were caught though by carpets of white flowers that I took to be grass of Parnassus (I was wrong). I had only ever seen very small stands of its white flowers and was impressed by how extensive these were. But these were wood anemones. Audrey corrected me and I initially dismissed the identification with the comment “No, wood anemones are nodding flowers.” Well this is the first time I have seen them in such abundance, fully opened and facing towards the sky.
As is often the way on our walks, once the time came for lunch we found ourselves in the wild with no tree trunks, stumps, fallen logs or boulders for seats. We don’t even dream of finding a picnic bench, except after we have had our lunch among damp grasses. So we walked on a little longer than we might have liked until an erratic amid the bog myrtle offered us a place to sit.
After lunch we walked on, noticing a new road between us and the river. Its initial section is on the map but it looks to have been extended towards Craigencallie. We hadn’t seen an entry to it near Craigencallie so presumably it is a dead-end.
We were looking out for the Half Way Stone marked on the OS map. The road is closest to it when passing under the electricity wires. There is new forest about there so had it been a small erratic we would have missed it. The ground thereabouts didn’t really invite exploration except by those with a masochistic streak. But there it was, a rock the size of a small house, visible above the trees.
But half way between where and where? Googling failed to provide an answer so I got out the map and a pair of dividers. The stone is marked on the 1852 OS map and at that time is stood beside the footpath. That path is long gone now and not even visible on aerial photos. My best guess is that it is about halfway between the farms of Craignell and Craigencallie, close enough anyway to warrant the name.
The road brought us by Craignell Farm, and down to the dam itself, passing one of the national cycle route Millennium Mileposts.
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.
There isn’t much parking space at the southern entrance to the forest drive, so we used the public car park at Mossdale, birthplace of S. R. Crockett, and followed the disused railway line from there to Stroan Loch where we joined the Raiders’ Road proper.
There is access from the car park directly onto the old railway but we didn’t notice it so we went over, rather than under, the road and along a farm track. Both ways are much the same distance but the farm track took us by some cows. Half were standing, half lying down. 50% chance of rain? Those lying down had the forecast right.
The railway here had run along a high embankment such that we were looking out across the tops of the trees growing beside us. A red kite wheeled beneath us in a small clearing and had the heavens not chosen that moment to deliver a full-blooded downpour I might have stood there to watch. Instead we trudged on, Christy unconcerned, Mabel walking with the canine equivalent of hunched shoulders.
Audrey and I had walked this wee section of the railway before and knew there to be a gate, just before the viaduct, that would allow us down to the loch. But neither of us had noticed the path going off into the trees before that. We decided to investigate, it would offer some shelter at least, from the rain. Though not on the OS 1:50k the path is in fact marked on the OS 1:25k map. It wound through the trees and brought us to the Forest Drive a couple of hundred metres short of the Stroan Loch.
The car park at Stroan Loch was empty as we expected, but it would appear the drive has opened to cars since several passed us as we walked along. Given my previous experiences getting locked in I don’t think I would have driven past an open gate unless there was a big sign clearly stating the Raiders Road was now open to cars. As it was there were not many cars and the road surface gave good warning of their approach.
The rain cleared and I grew warm in my waterproof jacket. Within five minutes of putting the jacket in my rucksack, the rain was back. Audrey basked in the glory of having left her jacket slung over her rucksack for easy access. But the second shower passed soon enough and for the rest of the day we had sunshine.
As part of the new ‘take breaks before we need them’ policy we stopped for a sip of water near the track to Barney Water. I had brought along my copy of “The Raiders” and read the chapter that has the hero crossing this area.
The hero, Patrick Heron, had made his way like us “along the highway – such as it was – till I came to the side of the long narrow loch that is called Grenoch, which is yet not the same as the larger Loch Grannoch that lies among the granite hills at the head end of Girton parish.” Loch Grenoch is not on the my OS maps but Woodhall Loch is named “Loch Grennoch or Woodhall Loch” on the 1843-1888 OS map. The ‘highway’ mentioned is now the A762 and crosses the river near to the “old Brig of the Black Water”, a little way south of Mossdale. From there he found himself “between Mossdale and the Stroan Loch pitched out upon the heather…”.
The hero picked up a local guide in Mossdale but they stayed high above the drove road for fear of being seen by the raiders. Instead they climbed to the brim of Cairn Elhart (Cairn Edward) and the across to the Black Craig of Dee. This had them “on the slope of a Galloway Hill, up to the knees in heather and shin twisting holes…” I can confirm the terrain is as described, having climbed both hills. Black Craig long held my award for most unpleasant walking terrain.
We took the drover’s route used by the raiders. Though now the track has a metalled surface so we had it easy.
We had a look at the ruins near Upper Gairloch. There are sturdy walls incorporating large boulders that are probably erratics that have lain where they are since the last ice age. I thought it looked more like a sheep sheiling than a house, particularly since it had large boulders in the middle of it. The old map has several “Sheep Rees” marked around here but it looks as though it was actually part of a larger farmstead.
There is no loch to explain the names Upper or Nether Gairloch, but older sources show the names as Over Garlarg, Over Gairlarr and Nethirgarlary so ‘loch’ is likely not the original meaning. Gar means near, and I wonder the name refers to the nearby ford, the farms being above (over/upper) and below (nether) the ford. That said, learg usually refers to a hillside.
The Otter Pool was only a little further along the road and much as we had found it the week earlier. Though two other people did come while we were there. Mabel went into full semi-autonomous guard unit mode to alert us to their presence and had to be taken for a paddle to get her mind on something else.
I have seen the otter statue I don’t know how many times and taken many a photo. But it was only this time that I noticed the otter has a fish in its paws. I’ve asked my fish expert for an i.d. on the fish.
After a leisurely lunch we set off back the way we had come. The sunshine stayed for most of the walk and this time we stayed on the railway all the way back from Stroan Loch to Mossdale. I could see the cows though and they were all standing up.
Spring. A cuckoo’s call in the calm air and cuckoo flowers in the verge. Sunshine that didn’t call for hats or sunscreen, and warmed but didn’t overwhelm. Coltsfoot and wood sorrel readying to yield to the bluebells and stitchwort. The red flowers of summer yet to bloom.
Lockdown. Car sharing is still banned. The Raider’s Road is closed to cars which seemed an opportunity to walk the route (or part of it) without the hassle of dodging cars.
The weather was better than forecast, with sunshine for all but the last five minutes. We parked at the northern end of the Raider’s Road in an almost empty car park and set off to explore the footpath before hitting the road itself. This took us past a shelter in the forest (without any obvious purpose) and down to the river but not back up to the road. Some self seeding here had created a mini-forest of saplings. Mabel looked like a giant.
We retraced our steps until we could see the road then set off through the full size trees. It would probably have been easier to walk back to the car park, but where is the fun in that. Instead we could pick our way through tanged undergrowth, fallen branches, boggy sphagnum and eventually the stand of brambles lining the road itself. Mabel needed lifting over some of the more difficult ground and the brambles. Christy and Audrey just took it in the stride.
Once on the road we ambled along enjoying the views. There has been quite a bit of harvesting so the views have changed since last I walked here. Benniguinea and Black Craig of Dee (which once held the award for most unpleasant terrain I had walked) to our left, Fell of Fleet and Shaw Hill across the river.
There is a large spiral earthwork marked on the OS map as ‘Labyrinth” and connected to the Raider’s Road by a little used path. The path is overgrown close the the labyrinth and leads into boggy ground. The Labyrinth itself is a spiral earthwork with a cairn at its centre. We wondered if and the low ground flooded in wet weather? There is a burn above it, too small to appear on the map. I remembered it as being less wild and overgrown in the past (I walked along the earthwork in 2009 but didn’t taken any photos.) I’m pretty sure it stood in a clearing among trees back then.
The labyrinth is an ‘Art in the Forest’ installation officially called “The Path”. It is by land artist Jim Buchanan who says “Walking a labyrinth can have a positive influence on how we feel. There is a connection between the labyrinth form, the cadence of movement with our physical and emotional state.” This labyrinth isn’t on his website but there is one in Chesterfield that looks so similar I thought it was this one until I read its caption.
Back on the Forest Drive we walked along admiring the wildflowers, a distant cuckoo the only sound beside the wind in the tree tops. A distant rumbling warned us that a lorry was approaching and we had to step aside a few times on the walk. Further on a road much sturdier than those the forestry need is being constructed. I suspect we will be seeing turbines on these hills sooner rather than later. And I don’t know whether to feel bad about that or not.
We crossed the Laggan Burn and then had a two mile walk downhill to the Otter Pool. I didn’t notice that we were walking downhill on the way down but it was certainly obvious on the back.
It is only after reflecting on the day that I realised we had been alone at the Otter Pool. It can be quite a busy spot. I think it was because it was quiet, save for the murmur of water on the rocks that I so much enjoyed my stay there. We sat on the Rosnes Benches by the river, then ate our sandwiches at an actual picnic bench and watched the dogs play in the water. I took off Christy’s harness so he wouldn’t be wearing a sodden harness on the way back, but he jumped in the water again when I put it back on!
We returned the way we had come, strolling along in the sunshine putting the world to rights. Christy had a knot of wood about the size of tennis ball that kept him entertained and Mabel just trotted along beside us. The sky darkened as we approached the car park and the first drops of rain were falling as I was taking off my boots. Timing.
It’s been a while since I stood by a trig pillar. Coronavirus lockdown limitations and a return to work have each played their part. But rules have begun to relax and James offered to walk with me. A wee hill was needed, for me if not him, and I chose one unlikely to tax my wasted muscles or attract too many other walkers. I turned to lists of Marilyns and started at the bottom.
Longridge Fell. Not much dispute about the etymology there but with the added bonus of being England’s southernmost ‘fell’. South of here the fjall are become hyll, despite the Danelaw having extended much further south.
There’s not much to say about the walk. There were several options and we chose the shortest route, which starts at Jeffrey Hill. A well worn track took us over heath to a a low cairn. The OS marks this as a cairn circle but we couldn’t see the circle. I believe the circle is of small cairns which are hidden in the heather. Or perhaps the circle has been gathered together into the one cairn.
The track becomes less obvious at the cairn. An alternative track forked off a couple of hundred metres earlier but I spied it a little further on and we headed straight for it.
The going was wet. I was wearing non-waterproof walking shoes and soon had wet feet. No reason to avoid the boggy bits after that. Until the boggy bits got deeper. We found that the ‘track’ I had seen was one of those very wet areas where even the heather can’t grow, made of spongy wet sphagnum moss into which one’s feet can sink to mid calf. Which they did.
Plan B. We turned towards the wall to our SE. This was over heather (see picture above) but proved to be just as boggy. Then James spotted some walkers, presumably on the actual path which we headed for. A wee brook/ditch in the bog added a little interest for us.
Once on the track we followed it up to the trig point on Spire Hill. The track follows a wall and there seemed to be a path each side. Which to choose. We went up with the wall on our left, and came down with it on our left. Neither was particularly superior.
From the top we could see distant hills which I took to be the lake district but checking the map I think they were the Yorkshire dales. In the valley beneath us sat the village of Chipping (see Chipping – still a fond memory) with Parlick Pike and Wolf Fell rising behind it.
We tramped back down on the path we might have used had we not gone via the cairn circle.
An easy walk with pleasant views. My first new Marilyn in a good while.
Hadrian’s Coastal trail, which we had walked in 2019, follows the old Cumbria Coastal Way from Ravenglass to Bowness where it meets the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. The Cumbria Coastal is no longer on OS maps, but used to continue up the Eden, to end at Metal Bridge.