SUW 2015 – Day 1

3rd May 2015 – Portpatrick to Stranraer: 9.6 mls

Today’s walk is brought to you by the word “dreich” which is a proper Scottish word hijacked by us southern softies who don’t really know what real weather is. urbandictionary.com defines the word as A combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather. At least 4 of the above adjectives must apply before the weather is truly dreich . Well I had all six, a Full House! To be fair I also had a couple of dry spells, a warm bit where I was sheltered from the wind and some pretty good views between the misty sections.

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This is what ‘dreich’ looks like: Knockquhassen Reservoir

The B&B is OK, it’s got some noisy water pipes which made for an early alarm call but the breakfast was adequate compensation and I get the impression that the hosts would bend over backwards for you.

I’d ordered an 8am breakfast, so I had a lie in and a relaxing pack, especially as most of my gear can stay in my room today. Two nights in the same place means I only need to carry the essentials today. In fact, because the weather was so awful, I was actually wearing most of my essentials and had close to bugger all in the pack. I overfilled the hydration bladder so I wouldn’t get used to the empty pack. I don’t want the full weight to be a complete shock to the system tomorrow.

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Why are the bad forecasts more likely to be right than the good ones?

The forecast for the next few days is a little bleak. Rain today, fine tomorrow, then 5 days of rain. But I don’t tend to take much notice of the forecasts, anything beyond 48 hours is pretty much a guess and there’s bugger all I can do about it anyway. A forecast in the morning may help determine if I wear the overtrousers from the start or not, but that’s about the extent of my reliance on them. Anyway, the forecast was bob on today.

It was raining as I walked away from the B&B, along the road beside Port Rodie to the bus stop opposite Tesco. I joined a lady in the shelter and she confirmed I was waiting in the right place and when the bus arrived I paid my £1.85 for the uneventful but very rattly journey to Portpatrick. We were delayed slightly as the driver had to squeeze between badly parked vehicles on the way into the village, she actually got out and had to get someone to guide her through the gap!

I took a couple of ‘Start point’ pictures and made my way up the steps, past the official start sign, onto the coastal path.

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Portpatrick from the coastal path

Over the past few weeks I’ve been exchanging tweets with a lady called Trina, whose husband, Ian, is walking the Way at the same time as me. He’s actually starting on the same day. I saw a tweet this morning that said Ian was out walking and I guessed I would catch him at some point. I did this quicker than I thought in fact. I saw a guy taking a breather at Port Mora. We said hello, he knew who I was too and we chatted for a while. Ian is walking for Rethink Mental Health, a charity his wife Trina supports, so if you want to follow his progress you can find Trina on Twitter (@TrinaWh) and you can support Ian’s walk by sponsoring him at
Ian Whittaker Southern Upland Way

Last time I walked the Southern Upland Way I did 120 miles before having to bale and I saw no one for the whole time. It was good to break my duck early this time round, but at the same time I don’t want to be tripping over folk all day like I would be on Wainwrights Coast to Coast!

We walked together round to Port Kale where we dipped our boots and selected suitably small but, impressive stones. I collect one to keep and one to release at the other side. It’s always felt crazy to me when doing a Coast to Coast walk that I will cut the handle off my toothbrush to save weight and then collect stones to add to my pack. I don’t obsess quite as much about weight as I used to, I don’t butcher my toothbrush for example, but I did pick small stones!

After Port Kale, Ian insisted I walk on ahead, he really didn’t want to slow me down and he obviously has a pace he’s comfortable with and that’s slower than mine. So I said farewell, knowing that as he was going further than me today, we’d meet again tomorrow. He’s staying in bothies where possible and carrying camping gear, a real double edged sword in my opinion. Lots more weight but loads more flexibility. Good luck Ian!

Beyond the lovely coastal path, after the lighthouse at Killantringan, the Way takes to tarmac, along quiet lanes for the most part, but still a bit boring. The boring tarmac section saw an intensity in the wind and rain and I was soon head down plodding into the headwind.

A blessed relief from the tarmac came as I approached and then crossed Mulloch Hill, finding the Kist as I did last time and then onto the crossing of Broad Moor. The mist was well down now and I could see very little, but the lovely path was enjoyment in itself and occasional views of Knockquhassen Reservoir through the mirk did help. The path was pretty sodden though and more than once I found myself doing the bog dance. Those weird little running, hopping, dancing steps that try to make you as lightweight as possible, while still generating enough forward momentum to drag you through any deep spots. My boots got wet, of course, and before I knew it I was back on tarmac.

This section took me all the way into Stranraer, passing Hillside Piggeries, which made me smile and then it was downhill, with views into Stranraer and across to Ailsa Craig, 25 miles away at sea. A huge hump of rock surrounded by waves, home to nesting seabirds and very little else it’s certainly an interesting sight.

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On the final stretch, dropping down into Stranraer

Where the Way turns right to avoid the centre of Stranraer, I carried straight on in to the town, making a beeline for The Grapes pub, the only CAMRA rated pub for miles. It’s an old place, with loads of character and full of characters today. A dozen guys all trying to out-shout each other, standing toe to toe at the bar. I found a seat and sipped my draught beer, the name of which I’m ashamed to say I forgot. The Duke of something I think. It was OK.

I remembered nearly all of today’s walk from two years ago, which is strange because so much of this section is completely bland and uninteresting. It’s basically two pleasant bits separated by long stretches of tarmac. The coast path and Broad Moor beside the reservoir, the rest is eminently forgettable. Tomorrow is better though and Tuesday’s bit is better again.

The weather hadn’t been conducive to taking my time, so I was a bit early to rock up to the B&B, so I nursed my pint and wrote up some of this journal while I waited. By 3pm I decided enough was enough and headed for Lakeview. The weather had perked up nicely while I was in the pub, not exactly sunny, but warmer and drier than it had been. It looks promising for tomorrow at least.

Back at the B&B I showered, changed and hung my wet gear around the tiny double room, hoping most of it would dry before tomorrow. The WiFi signal was good enough to watch the first half of the City vs Tottenham game on Sky Go on my phone and at half time (with City 1-0 up) I headed out to the Custom House where I was assured I’d be able to watch the second half and get some food to boot.

The food was pretty good and the match result was also acceptable, a City win, despite Chelski securing the Premiership title earlier in the day.

I returned to the B&B, via a trip to the local Tesco and a cash machine, the last one for a while. I’m watching Fortitude on Sky Go, downloaded before I left home, something to while away the evenings and save me from shit TV. I have a couple of episodes lined up for tonight.

A relaxing morning is in order again, with only 14 miles tomorrow and a target arrival time of about 3:30 I can afford to take it easy. Breakfast is booked for 8am with a departure of around 9am.