I wake up in my hotel in Dumfries to the sound of raindrops. Actually, that’s not what woke me up, as Dumfries hosts the annual seagull shouting competition, which kicks off every morning at 4:30 am. I get up, close the window, and go back to bed. Maybe the rain will have stopped later on.
I like cooked breakfasts, but the problem is I’m never hungry before 10 am, so I end up having cereal and toast. I do feel like I’m missing out. There’s no hurry this morning, as it’s Sunday and there are no buses from Bankend to Powfoot today, so I drive to Bankend and get my electric bike out of the boot. The rain has stopped, thankfully. The battery lasts the entire journey so I hardly pedal at all – my kind of cycling! By the time I get to Powfoot though, I’m hungry… a cooked breakfast would be lovely now.
Powfoot is looking nice in the sunshine…
Yesterday the walk over the pebbles of the beach here was very tiring. This morning the tide is out to reveal acres of hard sand. That would have been nice.
The route heads south, towards a heavy-looking sky, past nice flower boxes, and smart bungalows with pristine lawns, until turning a right-hand corner to follow the coast westwards.
At the corner I spot a cafe, fantastic! A menu board outside lists the delicacies… scones, lemon drizzle cake, Scottish tablet, marmalade and jam, orange drizzle….. bugger! That was just cruel.
Looking south over the sea I can see the Skinburness peninsular in Cumbria, narrowing to Grune point. It was a long time ago I was there – nearly a year. There’s something offshore, beyond the Robin Rigg wind farm, and I zoom in with my camera. There appears to be a huge plume of smoke rising from something out at sea. I’ve no idea what it is, but it doesn’t look good. [There are no reports later in the local press, so who knows what it was.]
Much nearer the shore is the Powfoot Tidal Pool, or what’s left of it. This outdoor swimming pool was built in 1899 and held seawater to a depth of around 4ft. It doesn’t look very appealing today. Given that the Scottish weather has only got warmer in the last 120 years, I can’t imagine it was very appealing when it was built either.
A row of white cottages lines the road, which then passes the Powfoot Hotel. Beyond the hotel the lane finishes at a caravan park. Lawns surround the static caravans, with flower beds dotted throughout the park. It all looks very nice, but it’s really not my thing.
At the far end of the caravan park, a couple are parking their mobile caravan up in its spot. The guy has a light blue top on, and only when I get closer do I see it’s a Manchester City FC jacket. It’s quite rare to see a fellow City fan outside of Manchester (they’re generally of the red persuasion away from the city) and we chat for a while about how rubbish we were the night before when Aston Villa, near the bottom of the league, got a draw against us.
The route I had planned heads inland here, but I follow a concrete path that leads down to the shore to see if I can get along that way. There’s a path but it quickly disperses into marshes and watery potholes, and I give up and head inland instead.
The lane seems nice enough, but after half an hour or so becomes a bit boring.
After a couple of miles, the lane comes to a sharp right turn. Maybe it’ll be more exciting around the corner…
Although this lane is as near to the coast as you can get on any official path, it’s not on the coast. It’s about 500 metres from the coast, and the coast isn’t even visible from the lane. It looks possible to walk along the coastal edge of the farmers’ fields from aerial views, and I think if I had to do this walk again that’s exactly what I’d do, because this lane is boring me rigid!
Ah! What’s this… 300? 300 what? Maybe I’m 300 metres away from something exciting!
A little further on, the tension builds…
Just to keep me on edge, there’s no “100” marker, but then…
I count down the paces, until I finally reach zero, and……
Wow! A caterpillar. A very big caterpillar too, but not worth a countdown.
Eventually, after three of the dullest miles I can remember, I reach the village of Ruthwell, pronounced “Rothel”.
Ruthwell isn’t a very exciting place, mostly bungalows either side of a single road, but it does have the Savings Bank Museum. A museum about the history of banking would normally sounds rather dull, but after the road I’ve just walked along it’s positively exciting. Well, it might have been, had it been open.
In 1810, the Rev. Henry Duncan created the Ruthwell Savings Bank, the first bank of its type. His model of a savings bank was quite quickly replaced by more conventional ones by today’s standards, and his bank was never really commercially successful, but it was the first one ever. It was taken over by the Annan Savings Bank in 1875, which got subsumed into the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1985, which from 2020 is now NatWest. The museum is in the building that once housed the bank.
Walking out the other side of Ruthwell (which doesn’t take long), a footpath leads off towards the coast, a very welcome break from road walking.
The path is lined by Himalayan Balsam, a relative of the Busy Lizzie, but growing up to 2.5 metres high… a truly Monstrous Lizzie. It’s a highly invasive species, but it is very pretty. The ripe seed pods explode in your hand if you gently roll them between your fingers, which feels a bit creepy, like an insect trying to escape your grasp.
The lane opens out onto wide grassland, but with no obvious path. There are frequent watery potholes hidden by long grass, and I have to be careful how I proceed. I spot a faint sign of shorter grass that is perhaps a path, but I think it might just be made by sheep. It fades in and out and I’m pretty sure it is a sheep’s path now, but I follow it anyway, I might as well.
Just as I’m losing hope, I come across this…
…and I’m blown away by the talents of the sheep in Scotland.
The next bridge changes my opinion. I guess it is human after all.
This section is much more interesting than the roads, and I’m enjoying myself. I finally get a good view of the sea, well the Lochar Water estuary, which is essentially just part of the Solway Firth, but it’s a lot more like the sea than the lane was.
That mountain in the distance is Criffel. I don’t like mountains very much. By that I mean I don’t like walking up them, but I do like looking at them from the bottom. This one will be in sight for quite some time, but luckily I’ll not have to climb up it ever, so it’s fine by me.
A style is placed in the middle of nowhere, and I feel the urge to climb over it, just so it doesn’t get lonely. There’s a strange sign in the shape of a bird, what is it for? Is it art? Who knows!
The path gradually turns in a great arc, and joins the B724 at Brow Well.
The waters in this chalybeate well are rich in iron and other salts and were believed to have many properties beneficial to health, and could supposedly cure a multitude of ills. That’s what they believed. In fact, the waters are rich in iron and other salts, along with plentiful dangerous species of bacteria and all sorts of intestinal worms, as Robert Burns discovered after visiting the well and taking its waters. He dropped dead four days later.
Beyond the well, a stone bridge crosses a small stream. The bridge has mostly collapsed, and a metal structure has been placed on top of it to allow cars to cross.
A drawing of this bridge from many years ago may show how things have changed…
…but more likely shows artistic licence.
From here it’s a long dull walk all the way to Bankend. This road is busier than the lane I was previously on, and it’s a bit longer, but to make it even worse, it starts to rain.
I get my umbrella out. It keeps me dry, but I’m not happy. In a field next to me, I scare a flock of pigeons that were laughing at a crap scarecrow, and they take to the sky.
I’m overtaken by a group of cyclists – the Prostate Buddies out on a cycling ride to raise funds. I cheer them on, and they cheer me on back. God, I need it!
At Cockpool, Alpacas are being chased around a field by a guy with a sprayer. They don’t seem to like being sprayed very much. It’s fun to watch!
The next three miles are even worse than the three along the lane earlier. There is nothing worth photographing, noting worth commenting on. The drizzle continues to drizzle, and the hypnotic slap slap slap of my boots on the wet road starts to drive me mad. Eventually, I round a corner and there’s my car. Thank god that’s over!
This walk was completed on 4th September 2022 and was 10.1 miles long.
Here’s a real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around: