Scotland – Christmas Break

Those days between Christmas and the New Year are usually lost on me and I sometimes end up doing nothing and regretting it. A couple of days ago I got back from a great couple of days spent in the southern parts of Scotland and exploring parts of Hadrians Wall in the far north of England.

We found ourselves on a dark Friday night walking to Tunskeen Bothy to spend the night. We were here just a few weeks ago and promised ourselves a quick return to do some more exploring of the area. There really is something quite special about opening the door to one of these cosey shelters and finding like minded people have left food, cut wood and other supplies for the next people who come across the place. We made ourselves a hot meal and had a good nights sleep.

Many northern parts of the UK have been hit by some serious flooding and as such we found ourselves cut off from the approach to a mountain we wanted to get up that day. So we made other plans to go and explore the nearby west coast. We went to 3 castles that day with one of them being Turnberry Castle which has links to Robert The Bruce and is thought to be his birthplace.

We decided to go to another bothy that night. It was some mileage away and again we found ourselves in the dark walking uphill in the driving rain among unfamiliar hills. When we found the building with our headtorches struggling to spread light in the foul weather we were rewarded with a wonderfully well kept mountain bothy. Another really great place that gave us another great nights sleep.

The next morning we awoke to a cold windy day and set off down the hills back to our transport.

On our way back we took in a walk along parts of Hadrians Wall with a visit to Birdoswald Fort. An incredible place that has opened the door for us to explore this border area in the future.

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Bothy Life

Last weekend I went to the Dumfries and Galloway Forest In the south west of Scotland to do some mountain biking, running and to explore and stay a couple of nights in a bothy. We had warnings of a storm called Abigail so it was going to be an interesting couple of days to spend outdoors.

A bothy is a basic building usually quite remote. They are places to escape the elements. You always find pots and pans sometimes food, wood and fuel to get a fire going if it has a fire place etc. The ethos of the whole thing is summed up nicely in this statement “To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places” These places are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association follow that link for more information on this great organisation.

Tunskeen Bothy

On the first day we had planned a long mountain bike trail route. After driving many miles and arriving at the start point, getting all the kit ready we set off. About 200 meters into the ride my bloody chain broke. I couldn’t believe it. After all the perpetration it was stopped by a small link. My good friend Gaz laughed and picked my drooping lip up with some dark humor and his usual positive attitude. We went to a mountain bike trail center where we found a great shop called The BrakePad Bike Shop not far from Newton Stewart. This was a 14 mile drive. After the bike got fixed we headed north to Glentrool. We set of in an easterly direction from the visitors center. The weather was great and I was feeling a lot better. It was a stunning place to ride. We stopped at the Bruce’s Stone where the battle of Trool took place. A few miles on we found the first bothy, White Laggan. It was set in a stunning landscape and we found it in good order. We were running out of time so we set off to find the next bothy where we were going to spend that night.

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We parked up in woodland and set off in the dark to find Tunskeen Bothy. The wind had picked up and we were starting to get a bit of the storm Abigail. This bothy was only 3 miles away from our start point but due to the landscape and elevation it seemed more like 5. We had to negotiate some fallen trees and some rough terrain on the final mile or so. In the pitch black with head torches on we found Tunskeen Bothy. When we opened the door the place looked like heaven. It was clean, cosy and very welcoming. The previous occupants had kindly left some kindling in the fire place so it was easy to get the fire started which we did as soon as we had picked our beds in the form of large wooden planks. Fire on the go beer in hand (we brought our own) and a huge pot of food to shove down our necks I couldn’t have been happier. In the morning the wind was howling. After a coffee and some breakfast we packed up and set off back to the van. Got changed and went for a great 6 mile run from one Loch Riecawr to Loch Doon. We spent the rest of the day exploring Ayr and Alloway the birth place of Robert Burns.

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Another pitch black approach to the bothy but this time in a downpour accompanied by a strong gusting wind. About 300 meters from the bothy we had to negotiate a couple of streams. When we crossed them we jokingly said to each other lets hope they don’t flood or words to that effect. We had a fantastic evening back in the bothy out of the elements. It really is a pleasure to be inside on of those places when the weather is as bad as it can be. I had a great nights sleep. We did the usual routine in the morning and set off in storm Abigail. When we got to the stream it was no longer a stream but now a torrent of gushing water. We couldn’t cross here so we had to go up stream and find a point to get over. We chucked our rucksacks over and jumped from a large rock to get across. It seems nothing is easy here in this stunning place. Which makes it great.

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We have only scratched the surface and there is so much more to explore in this fantastic part of Scotland. Will be back very soon. We have another weekend planned in early December of this year, Cant wait!!

 

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