I awoke in White Laggan early, but thankfully feeling pretty refreshed. My feet weren’t in a too horrific state and my legs, back and shoulders felt fine. Naturally I spent a couple of hours faffing about re-packing my backpack before bidding farewell to Ash and setting back off at exactly 9am.
The track wound around the south shore of Loch Dee, offering beautiful elevated views across its mirror-like still surface and little islands and what looked like sandy shores. The morning sun was a little weak, but it was dry and not at all cold so I still felt pretty happy and positive about the day ahead. Despite the fact that Ash set off from the bothy a full 30 minutes after I did, and with a backpack about 4 times as heavy, within an hour and a half he had caught up with me. He pressed on with his slightly more youthful speed and I continued on in my slightly dawdling day-dreaming way.
At 11 am, the glistening sight of Clatteringshaws Loch came in to view just as the sun managed to burn through some of the morning cloud. My only other visit to this loch had been over a year ago on a damp, grey winter’s day so it was nice to finally see it looking it’s best. I spotted a perfect little camping spot close to the shore and I really wanted to jump in the cold waters for a refreshing swim. I kind of regret not doing that but I knew I had to press on to my next destination. It was one of the many, many moments in my life when I wished I had Bernard’s Watch just to give me more time to do all the things I want to do.
Ah hour and a half later I came to the spot which became possibly my most favourite part of the whole route so far; the other-worldly landscape of Shield Rig and looking out over Drumbuie Hill. I was a little hungry and tired by this point so treated myself to a lie down in the bright, hot sunshine. But I felt very, very happy at this point. I simply couldn’t believe just how lucky I was to be in that particular spot at that particular time. It was simply perfect – I’m actually welling up right now as I’m writing this and remembering how completely happy I was at that moment. Despite the often tough and slightly lonely times of solo-walking, it was moments like that which made it all make perfect sense. With the vast, bleak and golden landscape stretching out before me I felt like I could achieve anything.
A good lesson I learnt soon after this is to not skim-read the guide book/map and assume that it was all going to be plain sailing from there on. At a point when I wrongly thought that I was just going to continue down the gentle tarmacked lane to the village of my destination, suddenly a signpost appeared telling me to turn left up a steep hill. No, I said., I don’t want to do that. You’re lying, I accused the signpost, before pulling out my map and confirming that yes, I did indeed have to make it up Waterside Hill before dipping down to Dalry. It was still only 3.30 pm at this point so of course I threw off my backpack and lay down in the sunshine again, cooling down and building up the momentum to make it up this pretty tiny little hill.
Less than half an hour after getting back on my way, there from the top of the hill I could see the picturesque sight of St John’s Town of Dalry nestled in the hills; white cottages and a church spire and the promise of Guinness and hot food. I could not have felt happier than I did at this point. After another little lie down (I do lie down a lot on my walks!) in a beautiful flat perfectly green field, by 4.30 pm I was making my way across the impressive suspension bridge which lead me directly into Dalry.
Immediatly around the corner from the truly beautiful church, there I saw the side of the Clachan Inn, with a sign proudly announcing it to be ‘Home of the Southern Upland Way’. And there was my fire-starting young Ray Mears friend, Ash, outside the pub, who had of course arrived there well over an hour before I did. But best of all, upon entering the pub (which I was worried was going to be like the decidedly un-walker friendly place in Bargrennan), I found myself in exactly the sort of place I was hoping to find and I instantly fell in love with it. The pub had a wonderful atmosphere and the dark wooden interior of old pubs I am familiar with from my youth. And despite them being fully booked for evening meals, the chef kindly offered to add in one more booking which meant that I got the chance to eat perhaps the best cooked vegetarian pasta dish I have ever had.
But now, here is the point where things get kind of strange. The Inn was fully booked for rooms so I was more than prepared to just find somewhere to camp for the night – it was still warm so it would have been fine. Because Ash had arrived earlier than me, he had managed to wrangle a room in an old man’s house who lived across the road from the pub, and then to my bemused delight, he went across to ask the man if there was a room for me to stay in as well to which he said yes. So at 8 pm we ended up in a elderly gentleman’s house, chatting to his lovely carer and settling down for an early night. John Edgar, our septuagenarian new friend, with his faint resemblance to Johnny Cash and his twinkle in his eye, was our absolute hero.
And so, there I slept in a spare room of an old man I had just met in a place I had never been to before. I considered texting my other half to tell him about the situation I was in, but I was quite certain he would have jumped in the car and dragged me home by that point. In fact, I actually thought that even if I told him the truth about my situation at that point, I don’t think he would have believed me. It was all pretty odd, but the strangeness of it all was eclipsed by the amazing feeling of lying down completely flat on a mattress and sleeping more soundly than I do at home.
It was a fittingly bizarre end to a wonderful day.
Read on for the tale of the final day: https://thescottishdream.com/2019/09/19/the-southern-upland-way-day-6-st-johns-town-of-dalry-sanquhar/
***PHOTOS TO BE ADDED SOON***