Scotland 2023 – Days 11-13 Dumfries & Galloway

We are now on the return part of our journey for the last few days of our Scottish trip. We keep returning to this wonderful country and why not, there is so much to like about it. I feel as though I’ve lost my ‘mojo’ for writing the blog, not as amusing or descriptive as I have been in the past. I’m trying to put my finger on it and there are a couple of thoughts that creep into my head. One is the heat, the past two weeks have been extraordinarily hot and with this comes a jaded lethargy invading the body and mind – basically it’s called being lazy (but I have to admit to having enjoyed it!). Second is the mindset of of the time it takes to do this, often during the evening after a day of traveling or activity and my wish to get this down digitally before it all fades away is, at the moment, feeling like a chore. I don’t want it to because this is a record for Janette and I to look back on in our dotage and enjoy, for those future moments I want it to be light, airy and happy. I’ll try my best next time.
Meanwhile back on the road we are traveling from New England Bay to New Abbey for a 2 night stopover. Along the way we stop for lunch at Clattershaw Loch for lunch and then on to the Ken-Dee Marshes RSPB reserve for a spot of birding.

View of a Scottish Loch - Clattershaw
Driving the ‘B’ roads in Dumfries & Galloway has its advantages.

Hilma the Hymer
Once again we venture down the ‘B’ roads and found an amazing place to park for lunch.

Boy it was hot, we were glad of the shade in the trees walking down to the reserve. Highlight of my birding calendar was spotting an Osprey flying over Loch Ken looking for food. That was a first for me, only ever seen one on camera at Loch Garten or watching ‘Springwatch’ on television. A not to be forgotten experience albeit briefly.
Landis Farm CL site is a real gem, a beautiful 5 van site sitting above New Abbey which is only a 15 minute walk from the site. The ruins of the Cistercian Abbey were closed to the public due to safety inspections on the stonework. Probably a wise move as you would need more than a prayer to help you if one of the high stones fell on your head!

Cistercian Abbey
Unfortunately we could not access the site as safety inspection work was being carried out and so a pretty uninteresting picture!

Our afternoon was taken up with a visit to New Abbey’s 13th Century Corn Mill – apparently one of 7 mills that used to supply all the local area with all their needs. A fascinating tour and a glimpse into a bygone age, the corn miller held a very important role in the community as the law said that all the surrounding farmers had to use him, the owner of the mill, the local laird, took his cut from the miller and the miller took his cut from the farmers.

Inside a 14th Century Corn Mill
The lifting mechanism to raise 56lb sacks to the top floor

Inside a 14th Century Corn Mill
This machine was for ‘rough’ milling cattle feed from the Oats

Leaving New Abbey we wound our way through Dumfries and Gretna sticking our noses up at the M6 motorway and went across the North Pennines through some bleak yet wonderfully uplifting countryside. Mrs Garmin is definitely playing up and I need to get used to plotting routes better. We came across the South Tynesdale Railway – a heritage narrow gauge railway which used to be a fairly large standard gauge railway in the heyday of coal as our main energy supply.

Signal Box at Alston Station
Now a narrow gauge heritage railway

A busy day in Alston as there was also a sheepdog trial on the local playing fields. We have noticed where there is no pressure on home building a lot of small towns and villages have large open spaces for the community to use, and long may it stay that way! I digress, the sheepdog trials were a marvel of communication between man and beast. These working dogs love their work and you can see it in the way they move, they are bred with the instinct of gathering stock, however the stock always have other ideas!

Sheepdog trials
One of the few ladies’ we saw working a dog today. The sheep were very frisky for this trial and unfortunately she ran out of time despite being in control.

Our final leg of the day took us to The Crown at Mickleton in Teesdale where we ate and then wandered into a folk concert in the local village hall. Not your ordinary festival, it was celebrating the life of John Martyn a Scottish singer songwriter, a serious gathering of very, very talented singer-songwriters and guitarists. Met an interesting fellow called Will Fox from York, a poet descended from Keats. The whole evening was one of those surprises we have found often raise the level of our tour to something special and not just writing about pretty pictures and museums. That’s what I’ve been missing – talking about events and people!! The headline act was a Scott Matthews who heralded from Wolverhampton and has had success all over the world.

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