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]

Sunday, 19 April 2015

SUW Day 5 - Dalry to Chalk Memorial Bothy

Saturday 18 April
Distance: 17.5 miles
Weather: wall-to-wall sunshine, but cool breeze

The surroundings, path, sunshine and air clarity combined today to make our walk a joy.

We did occasionally wander very slightly off course during the first six miles of the day. Having had, for the last 4 days, a path so well waymarked that it would have been a feat to lose it, we haven't felt the need to navigate. That meant that when a number of markers were lacking today (mainly that the posts across open ground had rotted and fallen over - usually you can clearly see at least one ahead) we just followed a line on the ground. We were always within 100 yards of the correct route - it's just that regaining it when we realised we had strayed required the crossing of a bog each time!

Reaching Stroanpatrick, 7.5 miles in, we knew we were reaching the main event of the day - heading over the ridge containing Manquhill Hill and the arch-sculpture-topped Benbrack.

From up high the views were excellent thanks to the air clarity and from Benbrack (whose arch we had first spotted some distance back), we could see the sister arch on Colt Hill. The latter isn't on route, but as it's a Marilyn that lies just a kilometre each way from our path, it would have been rude not to visit it.

Stashing our bags out of sight in the forest (in case a thief happened by who felt like carrying away two full packs - a smaller-than-miniscule possibility, given we've only seen two people out and about in the last 2 days) it was a remarkably quick (and light!) visit to the top.

A little while later I felt sure that the Waymerk placers would have chosen Allan's Cairn for a kist, but even so I wasn't moved to do the extra distance to go that way. From the map there didn't look to be merit in adding on the extra few hundred yards when we could just head straight down the forest track, so the shortcut was taken.

Before we knew it, the bothy was visible below us - a bothy we wouldn't have known was here had I not picked up a SUW accommodation guide from a box somewhere in the middle of nowhere the other day. I really didn't do any research for this walk, other than the location of shops along the way.

Mick's spent a good while doing housework on arrival. Some Israeli chaps 'kindly' left a whole bag of rice here, complete with a "help yourself" note, at the end of March. Someone since thought it'd be fun to spread the contents liberally around the inside of the building. I wonder if it was the same person who lobbed a rock through the window?

(The photo is today's lunch stop, nicely out of the cold wind, with Benbrack ahead of us.)

(Incidentally, I forgot to mention yesterday that we heard our first cuckoo of the year. Thankfully there has only been the one so far and it didn't follow us for long.)

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  1. At first glance at the photo I thought you'd uncharacteristically adopted a large grey dog, but "click to enlarge" enlightened me.

    Glad you're getting some decent weather and also sneaking in the odd Marilyn.

    I'm just packing the caravan for off on Tuesday (Monday may be otherwise busy and I want to be off early on Tues.).

    1. Nine Marilyns! That's the first time we've managed to do all of our intended tops during a cross-Scotland walk, thanks in a large part to the incredible weather.

  2. Looks like you are getting fantastic conditions. Sometimes not researching a route too much is a good thing as views and unexpected events on route come as a nice surprise. Not a well known bothy, even in Scotland.

    1. Whilst I'm known for being an obsessive planner, I do agree that we had some good surprises on this trip that wouldn't have happened if I'd done any reading on the subject in advance.

      From talking to the lady from the nearby farm, and from my correspondence with the ranger about the broken window, it seems that even if little known, that bothy has suffered more than its fair share of abuse.