Tucked up in bed in the tiny, charming village of New Luce, population about 80, after polishing off beef and Yorkshire pudding, Indian chicken curry, and a couple of pints. At 8.45pm it’s still broad daylight outside, but my eyelids are drooping and it’s a BIG day tomorrow – and the next day.
Two days in to the hike and I am in love with bluebells. And black-faced sheep, stone walls, flowering gorse, friendly Scots, those birds I can hear twittering in the forest, and the special treasures hidden along the Southern Upland Way for walkers to find. The weather has been kind – apart from a couple of showers on the first day, it’s been pretty fine so far, and hot at times today.
Day one we headed along the coastline for a few hours enjoying a windy, sunny day and clambering up and down to the little beaches and bays of the area, before heading inland. I was so excited to be walking at last that I wandered along having a quiet cry for the first half hour. So beautiful. Ireland lay just across the sea, the waves thundered in, it was divine.
The clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped, and we picked up the pace. Discovered the 3pm missing waymark syndrome of the Southern Upland Way, whereupon the critical post letting you know you should take a turnoff somehow becomes invisible. As a result, 4pm found us trudging along endless lanes in the rain, trying to locate ourselves with my iPhone as its battery headed south. A good lesson for day one – read the maps and the guidebook carefully and don’t always rely on the marked posts. By the time we arrived at Castle Kennedy, tired and hungry, it was too late for the tearooms. Lesson two – don’t skip lunch. Our guest house host collected us – a little tired and grumpy – and we fell into bed with a hot whisky toddy after some restorative fish and chips.
This morning, spent a while in the gardens of Castle Kennedy. Having watched an entire season of Downton Abbey on the plane trip, I was well placed to appreciate this gorgeous country estate with its walled gardens, woodland paths and brilliant flower displays. Then it was walking in earnest, wondering why the packs seemed so much heavier than yesterday. Through woodlands, farmlands, up on to the open moors. Another 3pm missing waymark led us through a field and a muddy farmyard. Today’s lesson – whisky,tea and fruitcake at 4pm will fix most ills. Wound down through stone-walled green fields full of sheep into the whitewashed village of New Luce. Which I would love to explore if I wasn’t falling asleep.
The next two days are huge – 28 and 34km – feeling a bit nervous. We’ve divested ourselves of all sorts of (hopefully) unnecessary bits and pieces that were weighing down the daypacks and getting psyched up for some hard walking – these are probably the two toughest days coming up.
I’ll write again on the other side of that!