The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Southern Upland Way (SUW) Day 1: Stranraer to by Craig Fell

Tues 14 April
Distance: 10.75 miles
Weather: overcast with just a few spots of rain

An eight-hour journey deposited us in Stranraer* today and, thanks to an early start, it was only 2pm when we arrived giving us plenty of day remaining to stretch our legs over the course of a few miles.

Opting not to follow the SUW out of Stranraer, we walked along the sea-front for a while before turning inland. The thinking was that we would be road walking whichever way we went, so we may as well shortcut to the more interesting bits. Merrily we went along (well, as merrily as one can when carrying a full pack for the first time in 10.5 months!) until, when Mick stopped to nip behind a hedge, I killed time by perusing the map. It was then that I realised that we were supposed to have made a turn a kilometre earlier. Ooops.

Backtracking would have been the shorter option, but instead we took to a pleasant woodland track, which took us onto the Way. From there, being a national trail, waymarkers were plentiful.

White Loch, in the grounds of Castle Kennedy, was picturesque indeed, and there we nearly met another couple of backpackers, except that she was busy on the phone and he had wandered off a distance. I wonder if they're heading our way?

A couple of miles later, on a short section of road, a large armoured vehicle rumbled to a stop next to us. The mightily-thick drivers door swung open and the driver confessed to being a bit lost. Directions were given whilst wondering why the army doesn't equip its vehicles with SatNav (or an able navigator, complete with map).

We had thought we would stop for the day about a mile after that encounter, but the terrain didn't include any flat, level, tent-sized patches, so on we went. A couple of off-path forays saw us twice nearly settle for "it'll do" spots (only ticks stopped us the second time), but both times the decision was to hold out for something better.

A bit of extra interest was thrown into our continuation when a Waymerk cache was found. Waymerks are special SUW coins which are placed at various points along the Way. I didn't look up any information about their locations before we set out (and Mick had never heard of them; he wondered what on earth I was wittering about when I realised what I had spotted just off the path) so if we find any more it will be purely through chance.

Just as we met the railway line along which we travelled just a few hours ago, some grassy areas presented themselves in amongst the old woodland. "That'll do nicely" we said, and that is where we are now ensconced - although with no phone signal here we'll be long gone before anyone reads this.

(*Stranraer isn't strictly the start of the SUW, but as it has a railway station and is on the coast it was the start point we selected.)

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  1. Oo, you've started and I've not missed it, excellent! Going to have to do some googling now though...

  2. Looking forward to this, I set off in two weeks, so will be good to know what the underfoot conditions are like :)

  3. Looking forward to this, I set off in two weeks, so will be good to know what the underfoot conditions are like :)

    1. Thanks to the remarkably good weather we experienced, the underfoot conditions were far drier than I expected them to be (and having gone back to re-read some of your 2013 posts, certainly drier than you experienced last time). I do hope they remain that way for you.