36. Drumburn to Caulkerbush

I had planned to get to Sandyhills on this section, but having not done much walking since last September I decide to cut all the walks on this five day visit a little bit shorter. Some replanning of the walks and public transport links last night in the Star Hotel in Twynholm had to be hurried, as the Champions League final was on in the bar, and my team – Manchester City – were involved for only the second time ever (we lost the first one). This time we won, and the subsequent celebrations mean I’m thankful for a slightly shorter walk today. Hangover hiking is not a sport I’d recommend, although I do it often enough.

I’m not sure now why I chose Twynholm for a place to stay, as it’s a bit west of where I’m walking and makes the drives longer, but I recommend the newly re-opened Star Hotel there, as it was a bargain, does good food, and was nice and comfortable. So, today I drive the 30 or so miles to the endpoint of this walk at Caulkerbush.

…or is it Southwick? If they can’t decide then I certainly don’t know. I park in a little layby opposite Southwick church and walk down to the main road.

Southwick church

The bus stop is on the old stone bridge over Southwick Water (Caulkerbush Water?), and the number 372 takes me back to the viewpoint at Drumburn where I ended yesterday. The other passengers look at me quizzically, questioning why I’d want to get off in the middle of nowhere. I ask myself the same question.

This section should be quite enjoyable, but it starts as yesterday’s ended, slogging down the A710. There’s a cut grass verge, the sun is shining, and the views left and right are very nice, so it’s really quite pleasant.

Straight ahead… the A710
Left… Carsethorn in the distance
Right… Criffel

A sticker on the back of a road sign attracts my attention, and I spend the next half hour with the slogan bouncing around in my head, trying to get the words out. It becomes quite annoying after a while. I really can’t get my tongue around that. It comes a bit easier if you say it with a Manchester accent, pronouncing the middle G…

I come to a section where they’re resurfacing the road, but so far all they’ve managed is to spread loads of gravel, so the cars skid around and kick stones up at passing pedestrians. Like me.

I look for some way to get off the road and spot a track which seems to go down to the shore, but looking at the map there’s a muddy river between me and where my planned route reaches the sea, and I don’t fancy walking all the way down there only to need a dunking to get across, so I stick to the road.

It looks easy enough to get down there…

Eventually, I turn off the A710 at Kirkbean and head towards the sea. Kirkbean is a nice little village, with a stream passing through. Big houses next to the stream even have footbridges to access their gardens. That’s very posh.

At the end of a lane is a church – Kirkbean Auld Kirk. A famous Royal Navy vice admiral, John Cambell (I’d never heard of him either) was born in Kirkbean, and his father was the minister of the kirk.

Kirkbean church

The church hosts the grave of the father of another famous mariner, John Paul Jones, who is often given the title “Father of the US Navy”. A controversial character, he is celebrated (by me at least) for his disastrous attempt to invade England at Whitehaven, which I described in my blog entry when I walked through there. According to Wikipedia he is “highly regarded as one of the greatest naval commanders in the history of the United States“. Tell that to the people of Whitehaven, for a laugh.

It’s a pretty lane that heads to the coast from here. Wild flowers, and some cultivated ones – and even a chicken or two – brighten the way.

A field of flowering grasses makes for a good photo…

OK, it’s just an “alright” photo, but I like it.

The lane ends at Carsethorn, next to the sea. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Carsethorn was a busy port with regular sailings to Liverpool, The Isle of Man and Ireland, but now it consists of a few holiday cottages and a pub. I really fancy a cold beer, but unfortunately it’s only just past 11am and the pub’s not open yet.

It would look even nicer if it was open

A path leads down to the beach, where I encounter the biggest dead jellyfish I’ve ever seen, shown next to my foot for scale (no, I don’t have tiny feet).

For some reason I have no memories of jellyfish on the beach from when I was young, growing up in Cornwall. Were there dead jellyfish on the beach back then? I guess there must have been, as they have been around for at least 500 million years now, and I’m not that old yet. There’s something quite unpleasant about them, strewn across the beaches, rotting in the sunshine under clouds of flies. I can only remember big balls of tar on the beach from the Torrey Canyon that we used to play with, which of course is much more pleasant.

A little further along the beach is a perfect coastal scene. Broadleaf trees stand at the top border, with seaweed-covered rocks stretching in lines below them, and smooth golden sand running down to the sea. And no rotting jellyfish.

A mile or so further on, a beach hut sits at the shoreline…

It’s called the “House On The Shore”. I guess I could probably cope with something like that for a holiday home, as long as there was something more roomy to come home to afterwards. It’s a B&B now so you can stay there. The blurb from the B&B site tells us…

The House on the Shore was built by the current laird’s great grandmother as a dower house in 1936 in the image of a Cotswold manor house. She demolished part of the village of Carsethorn to cart the stone and built the house on the foundations of an old gardener’s cottage named Gardenfoot. She also laid out wonderful gardens and the house is surrounded by unusual shrubs that thrive in Galloway’s mild climate.

Its distinctive arts and crafts style, mellow stone and unusual butterfly shaped design make The House on The Shore one of the most architecturally important houses to be built in Scotland in the 20th Century.

I guess the residents of Carsethorn didn’t have too much of a say in the matter.

There are some interesting rock formations along here, and round the headland from the House On The Shore is the Thirl Stane, where the sea has worn a passage right through the rock. The beach continues on the other side of the passage. I walk through, because… well… you just have to don’t you.

Far in the distance I can see the tower of Southerness lighthouse, and I zoom right in to get a photo. From here it looks like a nice lighthouse, but it’s still quite a distance away, another mile and a half as the crow flies. It could be a mile and a half as the guy walks too, but even though it’s low tide the sand between is a bit silty and muddy, so I loop around the beach instead.

Southerness lighthouse from afar

At the top of the beach, some concrete debris has become a shrine, with messages to passed loved ones. Quite touching.

A huge static caravan site stretches around the bay, strangely along the part of this coast with the worst beach, and eventually I reach Southerness Lighthouse. It turns out not to be a nice lighthouse at all. It’s the ugliest lighthouse I’ve ever seen. Built in 1749 and improved in 1805 by the famous lighthouse builder Robert Stevenson, it must be the earliest example of brutalist architecture. Still, it’s the first lighthouse I’ve passed in a very long time (since Fleetwood in Lancashire), and it goes in my collection.

Southerness is like a mini Blackpool, and is teeming with holidaymakers. They can’t believe their luck – who would book a beach holiday in Scotland and expect 29°C and full sunshine? I make the most of the busy central square and buy a few drinks and an ice cream, and congratulate a kid wearing a Manchester City shirt. Just 10 years ago you’d never see anyone outside Manchester with a City shirt, only loads of those terrible red ones from our neighbours. This year I’ve seen one in Seville and one in Egypt already. For the loser now will be later to win, for the times they are a-changin’ as Mr Dylan once sang.

I’ve had a pain in my toe since the start of the walk, and I’ve been walking with my big toe tucked over the top of the one next to it most of the way, quite a stupid thing to do, but it hurt if I didn’t. I sit down to take a look and discover it’s a blister. That really should’ve been obvious, but surprisingly I’ve never had a blister yet on this adventure, in 35 walks, until now. How lucky is that? I’ve got all the necessary bits with me, and cut a blister plaster to shape and stick it on. It does a grand job and the pain is gone.

The crowds quickly disperse, as always, within a few dozen yards of the track down to the beach, and I’m soon accompanied only by a duck. I still find it strange seeing ducks on the beach.

A Common Shelduck maybe?

A patch of white appears a little further down the beach and I wander down to investigate. It turns out to be a large field of shells. A little further on a thicker patch appears, crunching underfoot. Were they washed up here, or did they all swim here to die, like a sea-shell lemming event?

As I continue onwards, the top of the beach gradually becomes greener, as more and more reeds grow in shallow pools. Small mud-islands host bunches of thrift, and sprigs of samphire poke out of the sand.

I realise after a while that I’m now cut off from the shore, but my route will shortly head inland. The reeds are thick and growing in a few inches of water. I’ll have to get wet feet, or hope they thin out again before I have to leave the beach.

I take a look on Google Maps aerial view, and it looks like the reeds thin out soon. Sure enough, by the time I get to the path that exits the beach through the dunes, the reeds have gone and the beach is all sand again.

Beyond the dunes a well-maintained path meanders through the RSPB Mersehead Nature Reserve, then joins a track up to the visitor centre.

RSPB Mersehead Vistor Centre

From there, a lane leads northwards to the endpoint at Caulkerbush… or is it Southwick?

This walk was completed on 11th June 2023 and was 12.8 miles long.

Here’s my annotated map:

And here’s a real-time recorded map of my actual route, which you can pan and zoom around:

13 thoughts on “36. Drumburn to Caulkerbush

    1. Yes Conrad, we went through many many years of pain & embarrassment… monday mornings coming into work to meet those of a red persuasion were the worst, after a drubbing at York City or Lincoln or somewhere.

      The old songs are still sung though… “We never win at home and we never win away, we lost last week and we lost today…” being a particularly ironic one now. The previously deliberately-ironic “Best team in the land and all the world” is ironically now true! It still feels quite weird to be honest, hence our old song “We’re not really here” has taken on a brand new meaning.

      1. Caulkerbush or Southwick?
        Were there dead jellyfish on the beach back then?
        How did those shells get there?
        and most important which is the best team?
        Only asking.

  1. Great scenery and lots of interest on this walk Paul. I like the house with the bridge over the stream and Kirkbean church. Yuck to the jellyfish, it looks revolting – it gives me the creeps if I come across one on a beach. I agree with you about the lighthouse, it must be the ugliest thing ever and if that’s an ‘improvement’ I would hate to see the original.

    1. Thanks Eunice. As to the jellyfish, yeah, give me a ball of tar to play with anyday!

      It is quite a strange looking church. Those Scottish Presbyterians certainly had their own style. It’s a B&B now though.

  2. That’s a lovely beach walk round from Carsethorn to Southerness. A beautiful remote house with the beach to itself and of course we all have to walk through that cave, twice! I had to camp in that huge caravan park. I don’t recommend it. I was on a tiny green island surrounded by noisy caravans and next to the bar.

    1. That camping sounds rough. Yeah, apart from the drinks and ice cream I had no great desire to spend a second longer than needed in Southerness – definitely not a whole night!!!

      It is a great beach walk from Carsethorne yes. The odd thing is the beaches leading up to Southerness are so much nicer than the one where the caravan park is, and the bit around the lighthouse is horrible.

  3. The weather always helps a seaside walk. It’s never fun in rain. I redid my wirral coast recently as last time it was full of mist and torrential downpours. The difference was staggering. I’d guess the shells were deposited by birds after eating the contents. I have come across a few beaches like that. We leave McDonald’s wrapping birds dump empty shells

    1. Yeah, the last time I was up in Dumfries & Galloway I did three days walking, but then the final two days it was forecasted for thunderstorms and torrential downpours so I gave up and went home! It wouldn’t have been at all enjoyable, so what’s the point? The whole point is to enjoy it, isn’t it.

  4. Southerness Lighthouse is definitely a triumph of the practical over the pretty. Since none of the other Stevenson lighthouses look anything like it, I can only assume that they looked upon it, when finished, and thought ‘Nope, never making that mistake again…’

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