The idea for an adventure hit me the day before I set off. The weather forecast for the following week was better than incredible – no chance of rain and temperatures hitting above 20 degrees every day so I knew it was too good of an opportunity to waste, plus I was owed a few days off working therefore the timing was perfect – the only issue was deciding what I wanted to do.
Initial logistics threatened to put a spanner in the works – I had wanted to start at Portpatrick (the proper beginning to the SUW) but getting there was the tricky thing. I considered hopping on a train to Stranraer and starting from there, but the timings from my local station in Kirkconnel weren’t really suitable and by midday on Monday I was starting to worry whether I was going to be able to get away at all. I packed my bag and paced around, doing laundry and keeping my fingers crossed. And then when it got to 7 pm, and when I definitely thought all hope was lost, my other half had had enough of my whimpering and so we told the kids we were going on a fun evening drive, threw my backpack in the car and set off.
It was quarter past 8 when we arrived at my suggested location of Glentrool Visitors Center – this lies just off the SUW route but I figured it would be a decent enough place to start. And so, after bidding farewell to my family, I set up my hammock in some woodlands and settled down for the night. It was disappointingly a little cold during the night so I sort of accepted that I had a few cold nights ahead of me, although I managed a good few hours of comfortable sleep in the end.
After waking up in my hammock on Tuesday at the surprisingly late hour of 8.30 am, it was 10 am by the time I was finally on my way. But the sun was already shining brightly and I had the instant feeling that it was going to be a very good day (spoiler alert: it bloody well was).
Just over an hour later after walking along the wonderful path beside the Water of Trool (which blissfully buzzed with bees, butterflies, crickets and blistering sunshine), the marvellous sight of Loch Trool came into view. I was absolutely roasting by this point so as soon as I found a suitable spot by the water, I threw off my backpack and all my clothes and dived into the water – I really didn’t care if anyone saw me, I was just happy to be in the cool, soothing waters. Safe to say, it was amazing – and the best thing was that I knew I still had two other lochs to pass by before the end of the day so I knew I’d be repeating that experience.
By 1 pm I reluctantly tore myself away from the water’s edge and continued on my way, following the track up past the incredible high waterfalls up on my right. I remembered this stretch of the walk well from when I did it a couple of years ago, and as the woodlands fell back, the track rose up as far as I could see – and I knew that just over the rise I would reach my second loch of the day, Loch Dee. And by 2.20 pm I was taking the obligatory photo of the runic stone, positioned with a view over the water. Again, my previous experiences on the SUW served me well because I knew that within the hour I’d be at White Laggan bothy.
After a little detour down to the loch for a paddle (no skinny dipping this time as I felt a bit too exposed and I really didn’t want to frighten any passing mountain bikers), I went up to the bothy for a rest and to refill my water bottle from the burn. It was here I had met my dear SUW companion, Ash, back in the carefree BC era of 2019, and I felt a wee bit melancholy because I realised that the chances of meeting another version of Ash on the route was perhaps unlikely. Don’t get me wrong, I was perfectly happy enough on my own, but a chat with a like-minded person, easy going person would’ve been quite welcome.
Anyway, no Ash-like person showed up, so by 4.15 pm I was back on my way following the gravel forest track which led on and on and on towards Clatteringshaws. Now, I think I perhaps have an affection for forestry tracks more than the average person, but by 5.30 pm even I was beginning to grow a little weary of the relentless gravel – the loch was in view but it seemed to take forever to actually reach the section of the track which skimmed a little bit of the top shore. I had in mind the exact spot I was going to camp in because I had passed by it last time and I have been desperate to spend a night there for the past 2 years and I just wanted to lie down – I’d only done 14 miles by this point, but the heat made it feel like twice that.
But, at exactly 6.30 pm, there I was, lying down on the soft ground, with the beautiful waters of Clatteringshaws stretched out before me. It was everything I had hoped it would be. There were no suitable trees for my hammock, but it didn’t matter – the ground was dry and comfortable and I was still warm enough in just a vest top. My words do injustice to the complete and utter perfectness of it all; it was just simply wonderful. I ate, smoked and read my book until the light began to fade, and then I hobbled around collecting sticks and pine cones and lit a little fire which I played with until I fell asleep under the brightest of moons and a million twinkling stars. My first night of this SUW adventure was most definitely an improvement on last time!