Monday, 28 February 2011

16 February Durisdeer – Morton Castle Circular (Fourth time)

Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Peter & Rex

For a change this year the weather men were forecasting a reasonably dry and sunny Wednesday so our much postponed Durisdeer jaunt was on for today. Yet when we gathered in Jimmy’s in Cumnock, the day looked far from promising; a wet night had given way to a dull, damp and dreich morning. Still, optimists as we are, we believed the forecasters and set off to Durisdeer with the intention of playing it by ear – if the sky lifted and the day was fine, we were for the hill; if not we would take in one of our favourites, the Morton castle circular.
The morning was still dreich when we reached Durisdeer with extensive hill fog hanging down to the eight hundred contour. There were those among us who began to doubt the forecast and waterproofed up from the start. And, despite protestations from the hill men, the consensus was for the low level walk. But, to make it different and appease the hill men, it was decided to do the walk in the reverse of our usual i.e. anticlockwise today. So, with some dressed for the rain and some for the dry, we took to tarmac down out of the village.
At the crossroads we left the Lang Glen and took the road for the Gateslacks (See Burns’ ‘Braw Wooer’), with Davie and Jimmy setting a fair auld pace. And that pace was kept on the flat stretch of tarmac to East Morton Farm, the waterproofed among us feeling the heat as bodies were warmed up with the effort. Yet, with the sky still hanging heavy, there was a reluctant to disrobe, even though Jimmy gave the assurance of a sunny day. So we walked on some of us expecting rain and others waiting for the sun to arrive.
In the tree-lined wee gorge of East Morton bodies, well some bodies were crying out for a caffeine boost for it was a while since breakfast and tongues were beginning stick to dry mouths. But, despite pleas from the parched, Davie insisted that we make Morton Castle before we stop for coffee and without waiting for arguments, pushed on along the road. The rest followed, some with tongues hanging out.
We made Morton Castle around half-eleven and sat down with our backs to the ancient walls and had a well earned coffee. To cheer the birders among us, a pair of Goldeneye bobbed and ducked in the waters of the loch and a gaggle of geese could be heard in the field beyond a drystane dyke only showing as stretching wings seen through gaps. Across the water a new path could be seen running uphill, a path that we’ve now noted for future jaunts in this area.
As we sat taking this in, Rex complained as the first spot of rain hit him and he questioned the weathermen’s ability. He needn’t have wasted his breath for no sooner had the rain come than it was gone again and to cheer even the non-birders, blue sky began to show through the grey.
Yet, even this brightening in the sky failed to convince the cynics who remained happit in waterproofs.
With caffeine levels restored to normal, we moved on. The day was certainly brightening when we left the wee narrow road from Morton Castle and turned down the slightly less narrow road to the bridge over the Kettleton Burn. Then, almost immediately we turned off this on the road past Burn Farm and the sun came out. Snowdrops in cultured bunches and natural-looking swathes decked the roadside banks and nodded in sunshine in the gentlest of breezes and the day turned almost spring- like. At last the pessimists conceded and stripped off their waterproofs. Good job too for we were now approaching the steepest climb of the day.
Tarmac ran out at the waterworks at Shaw and we took to the un-tarred estate road. This would lift us steeply on the flank of Par Hill, high above the Kettleton Reservoir. The sun was now driving the remaining cloud away and blue was filling the sky above us. But the day was wearing on and stomachs were rumbling. We reached the sheep fank and Rex suggested lunch. In this he was supported by Paul. Peter was easy but Jimmy, Davie and Ian were set on pushing on to Kettleton and the bothy there. Johnny sided with Rex so the final decision rested with Allan. We would continue to Kettleton for lunch. And continue the climb on Par Hill.
The warming day and the steep climb were taking their toll and many were the view stops called before we crested the rise. And what view greeted us at each stop. Initially this was in front of us, over the reservoir. We tried to reckon where the new path from Morton Castle led to and to work out a new route to the reservoir. Then, as we gained height, the view was behind, over Lower Nithsdale and the Cairn Valley to the hills of the west. Then higher still and we looked through a gap in the hills, Mid and Upper Nithsdale came in view, Corsencon Hill marking the Ayrshire boundary. Higher yet and the snow covered Lowther Hills shone in the sun. Then, as we crested the rise, we could see the Durisdeer group that had been covered in clag this morning were similarly blanketed in white. Pangs of disappointment stirred in the mountain men but this was as close to the hill as we would get this day.
Hunger eventually overcame Rex and he sat down by the side of the road to satisfy it. Davie was the one who joined him for the rest were still intent on pushing on to the bothy. And push on to the bothy we did. The road ran slightly downward now, down over a wee burn interestingly named Clintycleuch Gutter and on to the shepherd’s station at Blackhill. Two hundred metres further and we sat down at Kettleton Byre Bothy for the peece.
Paul knows where his bread’s buttered – he tells us it’s on the kitchen table – for this was the day he forgot his peece. In walking on with the crowd he had a greater choice of sandwich than if he had stayed with Rex and Davie. Such is the generosity of the Ooters that Paul dined better than if he had brought his own food. Next week everybody is going to forget his peece and be fed by everybody else. Or something like that!
Anyway, Rex and Davie joined us at the bothy and we spent a good half hour or so sitting in the sun outside the old byre.
‘It’s all downhill from here’, said one. We all knew this for many’s the time we’ve struggled up the steep in the opposite direction. And, yes, it was downhill almost immediately we left the bothy. Down then, past more intriguingly named landscape features; past Jock’s Cleuch; past Lane’s Loup; past Sleepy Cleuch and down into Glentaggart (No, Allan, there hisnae been a murdur). Over the ford in the Sheiling Grain we came across the upturned bole of an ancient tree, cut to form a table. By the number of annual rings Paul counted, it must have been in the region of a hundred and fifty to a hundred and seventy years old when it was cut. But why it was upturned and why it was here was beyond our simple understanding. Another of the same ilk was seen further along the glen, as was a man who appeared to be re-building the hillside.
As we approached the man, a man much younger than us, he stopped his labours for a blether. He was a gemmie on the estate and he was setting cage traps for weasels and stoats. What we took to be a re-adjustment of the landscape was him cutting turfs from one side of the road to disguise the trap on the other side. His justification for this was that the vermin eat the eggs of ground nesting birds such as lapwing, curlew and hen harrier. We know the real reason is to protect the pheasant and grouse so that some townie with a gun can have more of them to kill! He also told us the reason for the upturned tree stumps – to provide the shooters with a table on which to have their lunch. Now why didn’t we think of that?
Anyway, we left the young gemmie to get on with his work and continued along the glen. Now a gentle amble in the afternoon sunshine brought us by the cemetery and back into the village.
This was another good walk for this year. What started off so inauspiciously turned into a super afternoon. Well done to those who had faith in the weathermen.

FRT was taken in our usual howf for this part of the world, The Crown in Sanquhar.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

23 February: Smugglers' Trail, Troon-Dundonald

Distance: 12.7 kms

Arrangements for Wed 2 March

Edinburgh - irrespective of weather.
Meet at St Margarets Loch Car Park (EH8 7) at 10:30
Plan is to climb Arthur's seat then Calton Hill. No need for a peece, we will have a bar lunch somewhere.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

16 February: Durisdeer Circular - route

Distance: 16.0 kms

9 February Glasgow – Ancient Places, Deid Folk und Deutsches Bier

Alan, Allan, Davie, Ian, Johnny, Jimmy, Paul, Rex & Ronnie

Another wet Wednesday saw a cancellation of the Durisdeer jaunt yet again, but this time we were prepared. A quick bout of phoning round on Tuesday saw nine of us gather in Ian’s in Kilmarnock this morning with the intention of taking another trip to Glasgow, a bus trip. At least in the city we could get some relief from the wet.
The twenty past nine bus leaving Killie dropped us in Buchanan Street bus station just before ten. Ian was put in charge of finding a suitable destination for, though he came to God’s county early in life, this is his home city and he seems quietly proud of it. He chose to point us towards the oldest part of it, the area round the cathedral.
The St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art was our first stop. Though only one or two of us would claim to be religious, the museum had something for every one of us. From the history of Kentigern and the founding of Glasgow Cathedral, through the reformation to comparative religious practices and artefacts, the interest was held. Particularly of interest us Ayrshiremen was the huge painting of the martyrdom of John Brown of Priesthill near Muirkirk. And then of course no Glasgow museum would be complete without reference to the Billies and the Tims.
But examining all this religion is thirsty work and some were in dire need of bodily sustenance. Coffee and cake were taken in the tearoom while we laughed at the rain falling outside.
The next port of call was just over the road from the museum. Provand’s Lordship is the oldest building in Glasgow, dating from the late fifteenth century (1471) when it was built as part of a hospital. Following extensive restoration and a donation of 17th-century Scottish furniture by Sir William Burrell, it now gives some idea of what the home of a Glasgow merchant of around 1700 would have been like. Again there was something for everyone to enjoy; Jimmy was particularly taken by an early portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots when she was eleven or twelve, Davie was taken by the pictures of early Glasgow painted in an untutored naive style while the trio of Davie, Allan and Jimmy were most interested in the blonde in the car stopped at the traffic lights outside the window. Yes, there was something for everyone.
Glasgow Cathedral is an impressive building, even more so on the inside than the out. For a description of it see We wandered around the two levels in small groups and individually, taking in the medieval feel of the place and absorbing the peaceful atmosphere. When we gathered again ready for leaving Davie was found to be missing. Ten minutes we waited for him. While impatience is not in our nature, most were raring to go. Yet, even when Davie did join us we couldn’t get away until the ‘fishul photie’ was took by Allan.
In the cemetery surrounding the cathedral we came across the burial place of Hugh Tennent, the founder of the brewing empire. Jimmy thought that there might be an Ayrshire connection here, a kinsman of John Tennant of Glenconner, trusted friend of Robert Burns. Since Jimmy knows such things there was no reason to doubt him and we wandered on.*
We left the grounds of the Cathedral, crossed the Bridge of Sighs and entered the Necropolis. Ian had the guide to the graveyard and directed us to some grandiose edifices to the famous dead. Dead they may be but on the whole far from famous as far as we were concerned. None of us had heard of the first half dozen or so and only one or two had heard of others. Yet there were a couple of monuments worth our seeing. The first crowns the hill and is a monument to John Knox and the Scottish Reformation. Apart from Knox being a leader of the reformation, here was a definite Ayrshire connection. The bold John, at the age of fifty, married seventeen-year-old Margaret Stewart of Ochiltree. Imagine for yourself the comments from the Ooters when this piece of information was delivered.
The second monument was over the grave of Charles Tennant founder of the chemical works at St. Rollox and a son of James Tennent of Glenconner, Ochiltree. We knew that this was true for it said so on his tombstone. Charles was also the progenitor of the Lords Glenconner whose family home is called Glen after Burns’ ‘guid auld Glen’
All this history-ing fairly used up the energy and, by the time the Necropolis had outworn its interest, we were in need of lunch. Since we were in the city we would take a bar lunch. Davie had the perfect place in mind, WEST, the German pub in the old Templeton’s factory on Glasgow Green. So down the Molindinar valley we went, past where stood Tennant’s St. Rollox works, past the Barras, onto the Green and into the pub.
A genial couple of hours were spent while we dined and sampled der Weiss Bier oder Dunkel Bier# brought to us by a delightful German Fraulein. But pleasures are like poppie’ spread and the time approached for us tae head. (Sorry about that.)
We came across the Green to the riverside at a fairly brisk pace. But this pace was nothing to what was to follow. When they realized what the time was and when the bus left, Davie, Jimmy, Johnny and Rex upped it to racing speed. Away from the river they sped; up through the city they raced; up to the bus station they sprinted, leaving the rest of us trailing behind. We – all of us for the slow were only five minutes behind the speedsters - made the four o’clock bus. Aren’t bus passes wonderful?

*Further research by Jimmy himself revealed this not to be the case. Hugh was born in Glasgow to a family of brewers and distillers of whisky.

# Jimmy mentioned to his German friend that we had sample Weiss Bier and Dunkel Bier to which she replied ‘Dunkel Bier is only for old ladies and pregnant women!’ This goes some way to explaining the shape of some Ooters.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Due to circumstances outwith my control I am obliged to alter the dates of our Mosset trip. I have checked and the flight prices will be exactly as before, £56 return . The new proposed dates are 19th- 26th October. Hope this suits everyone. Please let me know a.s.a.p. and we can press forward with actually booking flights.

Friday, 4 February 2011

2 February A Dreich Day’s Dauner Frae Cumnock Tae Cauturn

A wet and windy Wednesday saw eight of us gather in Jimmy’s in Cumnock. The intention of day was to travel to Durisdeer for a walk in the hills there but the present conditions and the poor forecast caused a change of mind. We would walk somewhere from Cumnock.
We parked the cars in the swimming pool car park and set off down the banks of the Lugar Water for in the dreich conditions, we were for the short walk to Ochiltree with the aim of catching a bus back to Cumnock. It might be thought that, in view of the wind and rain, this might be a heads down-push on type of walk but it wasn’t like that; well not entirely. Though it wasn't especially pleasant walking in the rain, it might have been a lot worse. When we dropped down to the water side, we were out of the wind and, though the rain was constant, it wasn’t particularly cold. We cheered ourselves up by thinking how much worse it would be at Durisdeer. And there was plenty of interest along the route; there was the sewage works for a start, and the bypass, and the old gravel quarry, all interestingly viewed through the constant dribble.
Nearly twenty past ten and it was a long time since breakfast and some were in need of a caffeine boost. (Some Ooters just refuse to make coffee for us!) So in the bit of shelter afforded by Adam’s Brig in Dumfries House Estate, we stood and took coffee.

As we climbed the path on Barony Bing we found the wind again. But at least the rain was easing now and the day appeared to be clearing. We could look back from the height of the bing to see Avisyard Hill we had been on back in August (see 18/08/10) and Cairn Table at Muirkirk that we have been on many times. We might be lucky and get a better afternoon.
At the Barony ‘A’ frame we sat for a few minutes while Alan doctored a blister and Davie played with the buttons to listen to tales of the barony miners. Ochiltree was less than an hour away and it was only eleven o’clock. In the absence of Robert, Jimmy made the decision. We would not walk to Ochiltree. Catrine, Cauturn in the local patois, was two hours away through Auchinleck estate. In light of the improving day, we would walk to Cauturn.
We turned out on to the road, the Barony straight, Alexander Boswell’s ‘Via Sacra’. Barely had we covered twenty metres of it when the rain came again, heavy rain, wind-driven heavy rain, wind-driven heavy rain that stung the face and chilled the sweaty bodies. And we had to suffer the rain for the quarter of an hour or so that it took to walk the road and find the entrance to Auchinleck estate. Then it eased again.

Somebody was in residence in the big hoose. When he heard the linguists attempting a translation of the Latin motto above the door (see below) he came to the door for a blether. And he invited us in. He invited us in but only Jimmy was cheeky enough to accept, the rest thinking of the mess muddy boots would make. The fellow was from Bute and had rented the house for the week. We met his wife and dug a few minutes earlier as we approached the house. When Jimmy returned from his nosy in the house, we wished him well for the rest of his stay and turned our steps eastward towards Cauturn.
The estate was Peter’s boyhood haunt and he knows parts of it that other Ooters haven’t seen. When we came to the Dipple Bridge, he had us down the side of the burn. The last time we came this way we had to scramble along the burn side on a narrow pad through the vegetation. Now trees have been thinned, brambles have been cleared and a new path is being laid in. We followed the new path to a hewn ‘cave’, a sort of folly, in the wall of the sandstone gorge. In the relative dry of the folly, we sat for the peece. Jimmy thought this was the ice house for the big hoose but Peter corrected him and promised to show us the ice house on the way out. After the peece, at Peter’s instruction, we followed the path downstream. After a few metres it climbed steeply up a grassy slope towards another ‘cave’ in the sandstone. This, Peter assured us, was the ice house. Only Alan and Ian ventured the wet muddy path to verify that it was the ice house; the rest stood and dripped in the dribble that hadn’t let up since the Barony ‘A’ frame.

And the rain wasn’t to ease for the rest of the walk. We found the estate drive again and followed it out to Catrine House tea room and the River Ayr Way footpath. We would now follow the path upriver. This section had its interest just as the Cumnock section had; there was the graffiti on the underside of the brig, the burnt-out wheel bin at the fishing hole and, the ultimate, the smell from Catrine sewage works.
Despite the rain, this was a good enough outing and one that peter suggests we do in the summer time and in a dry day.

When we did make Catrine, we had some time to kill before the bus arrived. This time was taken by a visit to see Peter’s new pottery showroom ( where his wares were admired by one and all, but nothing was bought.

The interest of the day was not yet past. The bus we boarded made a quick visit to Sorn before doing a tour of the scheme in Auchinleck to view such delights as the graffiti on the co-op walls and the boarded up church. Eventually we arrived in Cumnock and, at Rex’s prompting, the driver stopped to let us off at the swimming pool car park.

A quick change into dry clothing was followed by FRT in the Sun. How come whenever we have a wet walk in Cumnock it always ends in the sun?

Distance 13.2 km

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Arrangements for 9th Feb

Following the cancellation of our journey to Durisdeer on 2 Feb due to inclement weather, we will try again on 9th Feb. Meet at Jimmy's at 9.00am.
If the forecast is poor we will meet at Ian's at 9.00am and travel to Glasgow for a cultural day.
If you do not hear from Allan on the Tuesday evening (by phone or on the blog) assume we are going to Durisdeer.

The trip to Edinburgh has been pencilled in for the 16th.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

For classical scholars only

Horace (Epistle ix, 29-30)
‘Quod petis hic est; Est Ulubris,animus si te non deficit aequus’
‘What you seek is here in this remote place, if you can only keep a balanced disposition.’

Rental for 4 nights - £901. For 7 night £1800. Hmm! Are there any sums teachers out there?