From Dunreggan car park, we set off full of energy, carrying our supplies across the bridge to Moniaive, in the morning sunshine. Then through the town we walk past a choclatier, several public houses, restaurants, the market cross, bistros and the church-like schoolmaster’s house. Finally we take the last turning in Moniaive, where Paterson’s famous painting is set.
Then there is a gentle climb along the Benbuie road with Dalwhat water on our right until we cross the Dalwhat bridge still bright eyed and bushy tailed with 20 miles yet to go. It is then a gentle climb up the Dalwhat Glen, into the Cairnhead Community Forest, with sheep (with sticky up ears), an old small quarry and a couple of unusual carved seats on the way.
Our first refreshment stop was at the Byre arch, sitting on the carved stone slabs. The Bail Hill arch could be seen from here. Next, up the glen to Black Hill and join the SUW. From Black hill the views were extensive. We could see the distant Galloway and Lowther Hills and the closer Wether hill wind turbines. The remaining 14 miles were, happily, all downhill.
The SUW was slightly boggy here, as it was to be in may other areas; enough to slow us a little, but I certainly came through it with dry feet. Strangely the downhill section up to the top of Benbrack made me feel as if I was walking uphill. I can only presume this was some kind of optical illusion. It did seem to affect the entire group so it wasn’t just in my mind. I’ll check out the internet to see if I can find an explanation.
Sandwiches were taken around the Benbrack arch, with the Colt hill arch visible on the horizon. The temperature here dropped to hats and glove level, though that may have had more to do with us being stationary rather than a change in the weather. Rather strangely the men and women sat in separate groups for their refreshments.
Our first steep descent, unpleasant for knees and toes, took us down to Craigencarse with a couple of stagnant ponds for Oscar to jump into. Then more “downhill” to the top on Manquill Hill and on to Stroanfeggan, with the legendary black hut, and a brief respite from soft paths.
Somewhere around Culmark Hill we stopped for a breather by an SUW post. There a strange change came over the group. That post must have been cursed. From there the ground became boggier, toes and knees hurt more, there were bulls in fields, and numerous minor hilltops grew between us and Dalry. Otherwise it would have been all downhill. We all entered the “we-must-be-there-by-now” frame of mind. I even took a picture of the first house we came across in Dalry only to find we were still half an hour away. Luckily the loss of J, D and O was circumvented by mobile phone communications, and a lone rescue sortie by David.
I had thought we would be able to see Dalry from a couple of miles away, whereas the first we saw of it was as we walked into the town. This made it seem as though there were still miles yet to go. Throughout the walk though we had good weather, and when the rain did come we were already in Dalry and the Cavalry (Mags and co.) arrived before we could get wet.
The apres-walk cola was, as I said at the time, wonderful and the meal even better. I hang my head in shame however at being a foodie lightweight, unable to manage crumble and custard after my soup and steak pie. More training required in that area.
23.1 miles 681m ascent 8h 10min