Sixteen miles of walking along a surfaced track, rather than on footpaths and boggy moorland, is pretty hard on your feet. Today I did just that and now my feet and legs are aching far more than they did on my other recent big walks. But I’m not regretting a second of it! It was very different to both the Wanlockhead and the Muirkirk adventures, but equally as enjoyable and with lots of interesting things to see along the way.
I set off from home at 9.20 am – despite a rather ominous Flash Gordon-esque sky an hour earlier, by that point it was dry and bright (and thankfully it stayed that way all day – it was warm enough for me to not even need my coat on for much of the walk). I left the main road (A76) at the turning for Kelloholm, alongside the Guildhall Bridge Pet’s Hotel and continued up until I reached the sign – Glenglass 12km – pointing to a track on my right. Up and up the track went, past the Librymoor Plantation to my right and past Corserig Farm on my left. The path then kind of skirts around the forest of Sandy Knowe to the right and offers the first really beautiful vista of the walk.
By 10.15 I came to the second (and last) signpost informing me that Glenglass was now just 9km away. My plan, at this point, was to reach the wind turbines up on the hills and then head up through the forest to Polvaid Loch before heading back down to follow Euchan Water, all the way down to Sanquhar. From Sanquhar I could then walk along the back road straight back home to Rigg House. I still haven’t bought an OS map but I did spend 2 hours the previous evening on the OS website, writing a detailed step-by-step plan for the walk which I thought would be fine. But I was wrong and thus I hereby solemnly swear I will not go out on another big walk without a map because it is just a very, very silly thing to do.
After a mile or so of boring uphill walking through forest I was rewarded with another beautiful view and the comforting sight of 9 wind turbines along the hills to my left. By 11 am I counted 41 turbines up on the hills ahead of me! (not quite visible in the photo below). I know some people don’t like the sight of these giant white flowers on a landscape but I really love them – and their presence today certainly offered something a bit different from my other recent walks. I rested in a little quarry on the slopes of Mynwhirr Hill and ate half a sandwich, half a packet of crisps and two Quality Street (an orange cream and a toffee penny if you’re interested) before heading back down into forest territory.
I soon came to my first junction and the first sight of the blue and red sprayed arrows which I would go on to see throughout my walk. These weren’t as attractive as the carved arrows on the Wanlockhead walk (and they weren’t even footpath arrows anyway – I think the ‘TT’ stands for ‘Timber Turning’ i.e. places for timber wagons to turn around), but they were always a nice sight to see. Here I followed the track round to the left, over a bridge across Kello Water and through the forest. From higher ground I could now see the ‘golf ball’ atop of Lowther Hill, far away in the distance – I was surprised yet comforted to be able to see this familiar sight on this walk. It was at the next ‘junction’ where I made my first error and instead of staying on the track I was on, I veered off down a slightly narrower track on the left which lead to a dead end and wasted 30 minutes.
It was midday by the time I was back on the correct track and heading in the right direction. I continued up, correctly ignoring a track leading off to the left and stuck to the main track but then made another error of judgement at the next junction. Instead of taking the right-hand steeper option, I followed the left-hand track down to Carcarse Burn, spotting a few deer stalking hides along the way. By the time I was back on track I realised I had wasted another 30 minutes which annoyed me greatly. By this point I had wasted a whole hour because of bad decisions, although I should add that these forest tracks are like a pine tree labyrinth, making it very easy to get lost (hence the importance of MAPS!).
You pass another of the many little quarries on the right not long before you leave the forest area and are treated to the best part of the adventure; wind turbine fun! You’ll find yourself between two hills – Carcarse East on the right and Mid Hill on the left, both adorned with wind turbines. I dumped my rucksack and ran up the hill to my right which was signposted as being the track to ‘T11 & T12’. I spent longer than I should have done here but it was so scary and exciting standing under the spinning blades of the turbines – and the view across the hills all around me was incredible, made even more special with strips of blue sky and a pale yet constant sunshine.
It was 1.40 by the time I reached the biggest of the quarries (and the only one in current use I think) but really I shouldn’t have come as far as this point. I somehow missed a track on the left which would have taken me a short distance through the forest and down to Euchan Water (where I wanted to be) and instead I carried on and on and on, looking out across a vast and beautiful landscape punctuated with pylons and turbines. I carried on over Slot Burn, Magheuchan Burn and Graystone Burn (these were handily marked by the forestry companies) before I properly sensed that I was totally off track. I knew I wasn’t going to make it to Polvaid Loch today – that mission will have to wait until springtime – but by now I was starting to worry whether I was even going to make it to Sanquhar in daylight.
Thankfully the path dipped down across a bridge marked ‘Euchan Water bridge 1’ so I knew that as long as I followed the water down I would eventually reach Sanquhar. Now, follow the red and blue arrows to the left and continue over a large patch of harvested land looking down over the water for a long, long old time until you eventually see the buildings of Bank Cottage and Glenglass Cottage.
Now, I like to think I am super tough and not scared of anything but this proved to be quite untrue today. As I approached Glenglass Cottage I realised that it was not lived in, and despite the outbuildings being in a state of disrepair, the actual house was in a fairly good state and I wanted to do some Goonies-style exploring! I crept up to to a window and scared myself stupid just by looking inside. It was 3.30 pm and the light was beginning to fade but I could just about make out a white Aga stove inside what I assumed must be the kitchen. And obviously there were creepy shadows moving about which my mind invented. I turned to walk away but then couldn’t resist turning back towards the front door and checking its status. I gave it a gentle push…it was open. And of course it creaked when it opened. I jumped backwards and exclaimed out loud ‘I don’t think so’ (or perhaps something a bit more sweary) and hurried off down towards the proper looking road beside the water.
I knew for certain that I was on the right track now and all I needed to do was just carry on along this road and I would eventually reach the turning for the back road up to home. But the scares weren’t over just yet. Twenty minutes or so after my Glenglass freak-out I came across an incredible looking building which was so out of place and unexpected, so weird, but yet so perfect. Compared to the crumbling cottages and ancient sheep pen ruins I had encountered so far, this structure was a sci-fi headquarters. Again I couldn’t resist approaching the front door…and just as I was absorbing the sign on the door which said ‘You are being recorded’, all of a sudden a recorded message boomed out ‘Warning. You are being recorded on security surveillance cameras’. Repeating over and over again. As I ran away very fast, I wondered if I had somehow slipped into some kind of parallel Lost-style universe because it really was all quite odd.
By 4.30 the light had nearly all but gone and I started to worry as I still couldn’t see the lights of Sanquhar on the horizon as I had hoped to – although here I was treated to the sight of two deer bounding across the track, their white tails bright in the dying light. But then, another strange thing happened – I don’t know if I was all hyped up from ghosts in Glenglass Cottage and the creepy Dharma Institute building, but as I made my way along that dark and silent road, I swear on two occasions the sky flashed orange just for a split second. It was enough to creep me out and with my last 6% phone battery I sent out an SOS to Jay and him and the kids came to my rescue.
If I hadn’t made so many daft mistakes on this walk then I think would have been able to get to the loch and get back home by 4 pm, as was my intention. I had also wanted to join the beautiful footpath which runs right alongside Euchan Water, past Euchan Falls, but by that point it was too dark to see anything. But I didn’t mind – I’d still had a great adventure across a terrain that I doubt many people are mad enough to want to walk across. I can’t wait until the spring and summer months when I’ll have loads more daylight hours for longer adventures. And by that time I will definitely have a map.