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The weather forecast is correct. The rain continues in bucket loads all day. It is a wise decision.
We arrive in Portpatrick which is just stirring. We pass the lighthouse, the harbour and make our way to the official start.
Further along the coast we pass some strange little buildings which stand at the point where the first telephone cable was laid under the sea to Ireland in the 1850's. From here the path winds it's way down to the beach.
Charl slips on a rock and jars his shoulder regaining his balance. Not long after, he slips on a stile and grabs the barbed wire for support! Not a good start. We climb steeply back onto the cliffs. A chain has been provided with which to haul oneself up and was indeed a great help with a heavy pack.
We stop for lunch before crossing Broad Moor and listen to the England v Denmark game. We win, 3 - 1. I'm so pleased we have our little radio. I cannot miss the World Cup. Many of the paths are very boggy and some absolutely water logged.
We arrive at Castle Kennedy and call in at the garage shop for supplies and directions to the Einhallow Hotel where we intend to camp for the night. The Einhallow Hotel, we find, is closed for refurbishment and has been for nearly a year. We are a little disappointed after over 14 miles of walking. There goes our shower but there is no alternative. We stock up on food and, as the weather is good, we decide to walk on and find a suitable place to wild camp.
The path continues through Castle Kennedy grounds through a broad avenue of trees, interspersed with rhododendra and we can just see the Loch of Inch and the remains of Castle Kennedy beyond. I stop to take a photograph and, unbeknown to me at the time, I catch a deer crossing the avenue. Once out of the trees, we continue along the lochside and the remains of Castle Kennedy can be seen clearly.
After about 2 miles we come to Dam Wood. There is a burn running below so we have water. We climb up into the wood and pitch, albeit a little on the slant, and spend a comfortable night although, when I first lie down, I feel I am going to slide straight down the hillside
We leave just after 7.00am. It is very damp and misty. We climb the hill above Dam Wood. We cross many ladder stiles, which I feel are going to be a feature of the way, and also have an hillarious time crossing a burn which is far more difficult than it first seems. It looks rather like a large puddle but the burn has met up with standing water and is actually very fast flowing and deep in the middle. Crossing it involves precariously balancing on a broken down stone wall to the side. We are some way past this obstacle when Charl realises he has left the map on a ladder stile, when he put it down to get the radio out of the top of my rucksack, and has to cross the water again to retreive it!
We cross some peaty moorland and then onto a broad track that leads into a dense forest. Charl answers the call of nature and whilst he is away I see a red squirrel sitting in a shaft of sunlight. The sun shines through it's tail. It is not thick like a grey squirrel's but is fluffy and looks like it has had a nineteen sixties backcomb. Unfortunately, the squirrel also sees me before I can take a photograph. However, I do take a photo of the patch of sunlight where it once was. I can't wait to tell Charlie when he returns. This makes up for the mountain hare on the Pennine Way.
The track divides and the view opens up a little. There follows some very squelchy walking through woodland on a rough, thin path over humps and hollows. It is especially difficult when it runs beside the railway being overgrown, exceptionally muddy and following a ledge on the hillside. We cross the Craig Burn on a wooden footbridge and the wood begins to thin out. We cross the railway and double back walking along the river bank until we come to a small wooden suspension bridge that crosses the river, The Water of Luce.The path then crosses a field and heads uphill beside a small stream. We get a brew going and have lunch, sitting on rocks by the stream, whilst listening to the Ireland v Spain game.
Nearing the end of the moor, the rain begins to set in. We need to find water before we can camp. The track meets up with the Water of Luce, once again. We now have water but are in a valley with fenced off farmland and nowhere to camp. The rain is now very heavy and the way follows a lane uphill toward a white building in the distance. As the weather is now deteriorating rapidly, I decide to knock here and ask if any of the land is theirs and if so, ask for permission to camp. We reach the house and I knock. There is no answer. We peer into the windows. It is empty! ...... Now, I know this is probably against the law of trespass and I humbly apologise to the owners but any port in a storm ...... we put the tent up round the back of the house.
We hang our wet clothes in a shed. There are fierce gales all night. At around 4.00am a tent peg flies out. Charlie's clothes are in the shed! He carries out hurried repairs in just my sweat shirt! The ground is very stony. The wind howls and the tent flaps and bows. We spend a very restless night!!
We are away by 8.30am, continue along the road and are soon on open moor. There is a constant sound of curlews which I always find enigmatic. Once on top of the moor, the sun shines and there is one solitary rock just crying out to be sat on, so we stop for a smoke break.
The way so far has been very well signposted and we can see a line of posts leading over the top of the hill. Once over the brow, the way ahead is clear, a broad swathe through the conifer forest. It is heavy going through the forest. What looked from afar as an easy stroll is very wearing. It is extremely wet and uneven and we jump from tussock to tussock.
We come to a clearing where a footbridge crosses a burn. The sun is still shining and it is a dry place to sit
.. and after a cup of tea, we continue through the forest till we reach the Beehive Bothy. We are told later, by a warden, that they could not obtain permission for a bothy on this spot. The beehive is classed as "a mobile home" and was flown in by helicopter. We stop here and have a long lunch after the rigours of the forest path.
We hang out our wet clothes from yesterday. Charl finds a slug in his waterproof and a snail
in his hat!
We continue and soon come to the ancient standing stones of Laggangarn. These stones were probably erected in the New Stone Age some 4,000 years ago and were adopted, in the Dark Ages, by pilgrims who carved Christian crosses on them. Soon after this we reach the summit cairn of Craig-dhu. We cross the flanks of Craig Airie Fell and are expecting, according to the map, to turn right here and descend along the forest track. However, the waypost points left and we ascend to the summit! Craig Airie Fell is indeed extremely airy. We shelter behind the summit cairn and admire the views before moving on. There is a long descent and then we arrive back at the very same forest road! There is forest machinery about but no sign of activity but maybe this is the reason for the detour.
We descend along the road into the valley and pass Loch Derry. We decide we will camp about 2.5 miles further on by some ruins beyond the Darloskine Bridge. Unfortunately, when we arrive one ruin is now renovated and indeed occupied. The other has the builders in
..best laid plans!
We pick up water and continue along the forest road through the valley. We pass several farm houses but there is nowhere to camp. Eventually, we find a side forest track and camp in a lay-by. We clear the stones and surprisingly it is very comfortable.