Foulbog to Dryfehead

“Foulbog”

The name of the rural house to my right as I drove over the line separating the Scottish Borders from Dumfries and Galloway which made me giggle. On a par with “Cauldhame”, another building moniker I’ve seen on a walk which would surely make you re-think whether it was the best place to live your life.

The heat of the early morning sun was creating the only mists for miles as frost melted and the blue skies stretched over the southern hills. Only a few weeks earlier I’d stepped over the border between the two local authorities at Ettrick Head in the opposite direction as I walked some of the Southern Upland Way with Mr Clyde. Today I was out with Neil in the same area, even walking some of the same route, but with a different plan.

We met at the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, and after a wander around the grounds of the centre decided what to do with our vehicles and headed to Moffat in Neil’s car.

We were walking along the road leaving Moffat almost as quickly as we had driven in, such was our wish to be out in the open countryside. Once again following the Southern Upland Way path I walked with Mr C recently along the river and up the track, it’s always interesting to see a path on different days and in different weathers. There’s also the chance to see something you might have missed first time around. For me it was realisation that I had been calling the main SUW route over Croft Head the “high level route”, when in fact it’s nothing of the sort, it is the main SUW route. Today’s route would continue along the lower level “poor weather route”. Language is important and I kicked myself a little for my sloppiness.

So at Damsel Shoulder, we kept to the forest track and along the poor weather route (also known as the Romans and Reivers Route) and continued walking through the plantations, a wooded feature that would become the norm over the next two days. As well as the abandoned shielings, definitely an under-rated art form as well as practical in their own right.

Neil had mentioned Garrogill in passing as being the toughest part of the day but I don’t think either of us had realised how tough until we saw it. Almost 200m of ascent in less than a km of walking. Even with the plantations the view down the valley was beautiful.

From the top of Garrogil it was a steady drop in ascent down to the bothy, initially on a trail and then later on a forest road.

The wood and extra food/water we were carrying were starting to take it’s toll on our backs and shoulders and we were pretty excited to catch site of the Dryfehead bothy roof as we closed in.

The bothy is in a lovely spot, surrounded by the Dryfe Water and Rue Gill (making me wonder why I’d carried as much water with me….) and consists of three rooms, two with fires.

Already inside we met Morten (who we found out was the MO) and Jack (who made the fab new table you can see in the picture below) and they were just finishing a weekends labouring in the right hand room. A cuppa and a whole pack of jammy dodgers restored our energy after the walk in and as Morten and Jack set off, we made up our bed spaces for the evening in the left hand room.

We were joined later by Michael and Morag, and later still by Leah and Keir, who’d walked the same route as us but were heading back the same way to Moffat the next day, while we would be heading towards Eskdalemuir. As darkness fell, Neil became fire chief and the bothy heated up really quickly. We had our tea and as the whisky was removed from our bags the atmosphere became as warm as the the now roaring fire as we all chatted about walking, whisky, primary teaching, Labour Party leaders, Gaelic and a whole lot more besides.

As you’ll see below, I took no pictures of day 2. A combination of weather, recurring plantation views and maybe some icky belly from a little too much Highland Park meant the camera stayed hidden in the depths of my jacket pocket. It’s not like we didn’t reach our final destination in Eskdalemuir, with us vanishing into a bothy black hole, but Dryfehead was a great end to day one, and quite honestly I could have stayed on for a good few days as it is a fab bothy in a lovely location. After breakfast we said goodbye to our new chums and headed for that final destination.

The walk to Eskdalemuir and the Samye Ling Monastery was a breezier affair than the day before and our waterproofs kept us protected from the elements. The number of spruce trees we saw clearly explained the “timber” road we had seen the day before on the way to Moffat. The area is full of forest plantations and the trees and their cheering arms followed us all the way home.

We threw around a lot of Gaelic words around the fire on Sunday night. The best one that I think would describe this trip would be “sgoinneil”, which interestingly includes Neil’s name in it, but also means brilliant or fantastic.

Bha seo coisich sgoinneil! #hopethisiscorrect

Scarred

After a tough week at work and the world political situation moving into some kind of parallel universe, a day in the outdoors was a necessity. And after first planning a walk along the River Tweed, I spoke to Mr Clyde who was continuing his mission to stride along the Southern Upland Way from East to West. His latest weekend jaunt from Beattock to St Marys Loch sounded fun, his company and the chance to visit Over Phawhope bothy won in the battle of the potential outdoor adventures.

It was dull but dry when I parked up on the side of the road near Capplegill at about 9.15am. just as I was finishing my packing, a taxi pulled up and in I got to find Mr C and Emma the taxi driver discussing the possibility of Emma picking us up from the bothy later or even dropping off a takeaway. (Both ideas were ridiculous of course, unless she had a helicopter.)

We reached Beattock and Emma dropped us with our gear and a reminder that not all taxi drivers are grumpy.

Early on we saw evidence of the recent storm damage with a number of trees down, some of them big old timbers. This one was the first of many scars we saw on the landscape on our journey today.

The hills were covered in plantations and areas of storm damage.

Looking back towards our beginning in Beattock.

We rose steadily above the trees onto Gateside Rig and followed the ridge along towards Croft Head, the highest and windiest point of the day.

More storm scarring.

From Croft Head the views looking north east were fab. We stopped for lunch looking over the biggest scar of the day, Craigmichen Scar, eating boiled eggs, biscuits and wondering how this mark had been created in the ground below us.

After lunch, we continued down the hill towards the scar, with more storm damage to be seen to our right.

The zig zag path made the downhill much less of a chore and the scar looked even more impressive as we reached the floor of the glen.

The sheiling you can see to the right in the picture above was one of many we saw today, although this one was in the most interesting, and the most remote spot. You can see the path down from the peak in the photo below.

We continued plodding east and Mr C found the latest of his SUW treasures, a wind soldier near a bridge.

Onward and upward we climbed to Ettrick Head and as we reached this watershed, we did indeed see the rivers, which until that point had all been heading west, start heading east. We left Dumfries and Galloway and crossed into the Scottish Borders , my home region and into the Ettrick valley, the valley my grandparents had lived in.

We dropped height (passing another scar, Red Scar) and so our pace increased as we got closer to and finally reached Over Phawhope bothy. Mr C was pleased at this point as here was his end point for the day (I still had to get back to the van) so we got the stove out and had a cuppa and some biscuits.

After chatting with the landowner, it was clear he feels this bothy has a few issues with locals causing bother. So sad to hear. Another type of scarring perhaps. But we must have made an impression as just after leaving to head back to the van the same landowner stopped and offered me a lift! Very kind of him.

I politely declined and headed up over the moors and down again past Bodesbeck Law. The views of Hart Fell and the Black Hope valley as I dropped lower out of the wind were impressive. Before long I was back at the van and happy with my days walking. 21km and I was ready for tea.

Ambling the Annandale Way

Two days walking and camping the fantastic Annandale Way from Moffat to Hoddom Castle with Adventure Man and Gav.

The weather was glorious and the scenery was even better. People forget the south of Scotland, assuming the North is where the WOW moments occur. But the south has the x factor if you know where to look.

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