It looks as if WordPress successfully published last week’s post for me as I slept at Carter Notch Hut in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. At least, I was probably sleeping. I suppose it could have happened during one of my wakening moments – when a critter scuttled across the hut floor; when the hut filled with a thin gray light of uncertain origin; when the gale and rain outside really cranked up the noise. Anyway, back to Scotland three years ago.
Week Six took me from the Upper Clyde Valley at New Lanark, over the Southern Uplands, and finally along Annandale to the Solway Firth. The Firth is a bay that divides southwest Scotland from northwest England, and was therefore the end of my journey.
Some journeys fizzle out. I don’t feel this one did. Although the last two days were an easy walk on country lanes, the 20 miles on the Southern Upland Way harkened back to the Highlands – solitude, rough trails, treelessness.
START: New Lanark, Saturday October 8th.
FINISH: The Solway Firth at Annan, Thursday 13th.
DISTANCE: 73 miles.
TERRAIN: Mostly country lanes, plus 20 miles of the Southern Upland Way. Approaching Beattock, I came to think of the path as the Southern Upland Waterway.
BEST WEATHER: A rainbow during a bright spell near the source of the River Clyde.
WORST WEATHER: Cold, horizontal rain on the climb to Wanlockhead, Scotland’s highest village.
WILDLIFE HIGHLIGHT: A gray-white bird of prey – a peregrine falcon perhaps – circling above the river at the Falls of Clyde.
MOST IMPRESSIVE HILL: The steep green hills hemming in the Dalveen Pass between Wanlockhead and Beattock.
BEST COMPANY: The friendly staff and guests at The Hopetoun Arms in Leadhills, where I took shelter from that “cold, horizontal rain”.
BEST “CRAIC”: Spain versus Scotland football match in the bar of The Old Stables Inn at Beattock. It was the end of Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012, but the crowd – especially a joker called Willy – eased the pain.
BEST LODGING: The Garage B&B in Wanlockhead, run by a friendly granny named Emily.
HIGHEST HIGH: Spying the Solway Firth 40 miles off from high on Hods Hill.
LOWEST LOW: My evening in Lochmaben. It seemed a nondescript place but, more importantly, I just wanted the time to pass so I could start my last day’s hike.
HISTORY NOTE: Recent economic history. I ran into the turbines of Clyde Wind Farm high in the Southern Uplands. It was still under construction, but when it opened a year later it boasted 152 turbines, generating power for 280,000 homes. This is at the cost of views, of course. A reasonable cost? A government survey of visitors to Scotland found that 80% of them were not put off by the turbines that have sprouted over the landscape to date. I agree with the 80% – for now.