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Southern Upland Way

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Days 1-4 5-8 9-12 13-15 20-23 24-25

Day 16. Beattock to Over Phawhope - 10 miles

Leaving Beattock is a nightmare! Although there is rain in the air, the midges are out in force. I carry all my worldly goods to the “Ladies” to pack in there, only to find I have dropped half of it on the way! I rush back to retrieve all my “bits” that are strewn across the campsite, getting wet especially those that have landed in puddles! Having finally got myself organised, I waltz about with my backpack on to avoid the dreaded midges, waiting for Charl to pack his rucksack and at last we are off.

woodland The first mile or so is on road and after a brief sortie up and over a small hill, we meet another quiet lane beside a river. From here, over a ladder stile, we enter a beautiful wood with a mixture of birch, beech and native pine. click here for information

pine cones For a short while we follow a track alongside a river and so back into a forest plantation. This conifer forest proves to be more interesting than most. We see some bright orange pine cones and a "christmas" type tree that seems to be growing it's own candles.

We also find another leaflet box

dramatic sceneryIt has been drizzling all day but at this point the rain gets quite heavy. The way now takes on a more dramatic look with gullies, waterfalls, and scree slopes. Unfortunately, it is not the best weather to appreciate the surroundings

Over Phawhope Bothy

We hit a wide forest track which leads to the valley floor. We are very wet indeed and are pleased to see the Over Phawhope Bothy!

Charl gets a fire going and we are soon cosy and warm. We hang up all our clothes to dry including the guide book - the map case is supposed to be waterproof ..... NB. My boots are in a very safe place above the fire. .....

We enjoy a meal and toast our feet whilst listening to Scot’s folk music on the radio.

There is a strange smell. We decide it is the paint on some of the wood left for the fire. Too late, when it is smoking, I realise it is my boot. The whole of the tongue on one of my boots has melted! Oh well, no use crying over melted tongues

We listen to “Jimmy Shand Junior” which really makes me giggle and brings back childhood memories. Charl doesn’t remember Jimmy Shand so doesn’t understand why it is so funny. The programme is exactly as I remember it, except of course for the demise of poor Jimmy Shand and the promotion of his successor

We tie up our food and hang it on a hook out of reach of the mice and snuggle down in our sleeping bags. During the night we hear many strange bangs and creaks as is usual in bothies converted from very old farmhouses. We also hear a lot of rustling and realise we may have hung up our food but forgot to do the same with the rubbish bag!

Day 17. Over Phawhope Bothy

We wake to the sound of wind and rain so turn over and go back to sleep.

The rain continues all day and the cloud cover is so low, at times we can see nothing outside the windows. We decide to stay put, after all we've only just dried out!

Charl collects water and wood all day like a true boy scout.

Day 18. Over Phawhope to St.Mary's Loch - 11.75 miles

sheep shelter We leave the bothy early at 6.10 am, eager to get away after our lazy day yesterday. It is grey but not raining. I have an improvised tongue, in my boot that is, comprising of a piece of foam wedged down the front.

The first five miles is along forest track and quiet forest road. We see many neat round sheep shelters along the way. Also some deer and birds (little brown jobs) that we are unable to identify.

edge of Pikestone Rig descent of Pikestone Rig We leave the metalled track and climb to a moorland plateau. We stop for a tea break and then on to Peniestone Knowe and Pikestone Rig. This is an invigourating and enjoyable walk with wide views. There is a very pleasant descent.

Loch of the Lowes glimpse of Loch of the Lowes comes into view for a while and then disappears Loch of the Lowes again behind the hills.

We do not see it again until we are quite close to our destination

camped at Tibbie Sheils No.3 We arrive at St.Mary’s Loch and Tibbie Sheils Inn at 12.20 pm and go straight into the pub for our usual shandy. The rain starts as we are putting up the tent so it seems we arrived just in time. We listen to Wimbledon in the afternoon.

We return to the Inn in the evening for a meal of poached salmon and raspberry and whiskey cheesecake which was quite special. Jill, the landlady of The Tibbie Sheils Inn is quite a character and keeps her guests, which comprise of a New York couple, a couple who organise back up for SUW walkers and us, entertained the whole evening with wild stories of previous guests and Southern Upland Way walkers. Tibbie Shiels

A few whiskeys were imbibed and a good time was had by all.

Day 19. St.Mary's Loch to Innerleithen - 13.5 miles

The first three or so miles is alongside the loch and very easy going.
Loch of the Lowes Loch of the Lowes Loch of the Lowes Loch of the Lowes Loch of the Lowes

Unfortunately, Charl has another bout of colic, though not as severe as before. I break open the chocolate. It works again! I think I may patent this cure ..... hmmmmm or is Charl just after extra chocolate ration.

Dryhope Tower At the end of the loch we pass the Dryhope Tower.

back to Loch of Lowes Hawkshaw Rig The way is very pleasant through a bowl of hills. We stop for lunch at the foot of Hawkshaw Rig by the little footbridge over a stream. For the rest of the day, I keep singing “Tallahassee Bridge”. I know this was Hawkshaw Ridge or was it Chockshaw Ridge (someone will tell me) but, anyway, I can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

We meet the “New Yorkers” around this area. They appear over the brow of the hill in their designer walkwear and plethora of cameras. We chat for a while and they move on while we continue our lunch break.

changing light We cross the Douglas Burn over a wooden footbridge and then climb steeply up through forest and back onto open moorland. above the forest The day has been one of cloud and sunshine with the landscape continually changing according to the light. Now, the weather begins to deteriorate. We can see Innerleithen as black clouds gather Innerleithen

We come to the road into Traquair. We start to wind down and dream of a shower and food. The road, although only 1.5 miles seems to go on for ever! We reach Traquair which seems to consist of a bus stop, bench, and a few cottages at a road junction. We sit on the bench and discuss the whereabouts of the campsite and/or shop. A gentleman comes out of his house and informs us that there isn’t either! We will have to walk into Innerleithen. Another 1.5 miles. Not far, but far enough when you think you have reached your destination for the day! We decide it is to late in the day to branch off and visit Traquair House so we plod on

crossing the Tweed into Innerleithen We continue along the road and cross the Tweed into Innerleithen. By this time, most of the shops are shut and it is beginning to rain. We are starving.We catch a bakers that is just closing and I buy an almond slice, a mini quiche for Charl and two bottles of drink. It is now chucking it down and we duck into a covered alley, sit on our rucksacks and eat. We are told, in the bakers, that the campsite is on the outskirts on the other side of town!

The rain eases off a little and we go in search of dinner. We come across a take-away. Should we find the campsite, put up the tent and come back for the take-away. We honestly can’t be bothered to walk any further than necessary and plump for taking away the take-away straight away.

The take away is run by Asians. Charl gives his order but the young girl doesn’t seem to understand a word he is saying. Perhaps, she doesn’t speak English. Her father comes out from round the back and deals with the order. We realise, then, that it is the cockney accent she cannot understand as she has a broad Scot’s accent. Her father asks where we come from and it transpires he used to have a shop in Hackney, where we used to live, and knows the area well. After quite a chat and much fumbling for change (which Charl has been accumulating and lives in a plastic bag at the bottom of his rucksack) we leave with our chicken and chips.

We arrive at the campsite. It is still raining and reception is closed! There is quite a queue outside, so we presume it will open soon, at least before our take-away is too cold. When it is finally our turn, the receptionist gives us a weird look and asks us if we have a dog! We return the weird look. She says, “We don’t take backpackers with dogs anymore”. She looks at us as if she would rather not take backpackers at all!

We rush to put up the tent. The take-away is luke warm, the chips soggy and the chicken tough. Still, we are hungry.