After bailing out of my Southern Upland Way challenge after just 3 days last week, I knew I wouldn’t be able to properly rest until I had redeemed myself and completed my mission. The 80-hour target to do Portpatrick – Sanquhar was long out the window, but I knew I still had to make it back to Sanquhar no matter what. The weather forecast told me that there was a 0% chance of precipitation in all the areas I would be passing through so it was just too good an opportunity to waste.
I set off from where I stopped in Bargrennan last Wednesday at 11.45 am and made my way down the woodland path. I knew it was a fairly easy stretch of 14 or 15 miles-ish to reach the White Laggan Bothy at Loch Dee so I was happily confident that I would reach my destination before nightfall. Today was all about having a happy sunny walk.
The woods were buzzing with groups of kids doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award challenge which was a contrast to my lonely people-free part of the trail last week. And by the time I reached Caldons Woods at the western tip of Loch Trool at 2.45pm, it suddenly became the most people-y place I have seen on any of my walks; dog walkers, afternoon sunshine strollers and cyclists all out enjoying a stunner of an afternoon.
I was stupidly happy as I made my way around the south shore of Loch Trool, knowing that I wasn’t all that far from my destination. The path was easy going, with little bog compared to last week’s sections, thus meaning my feet were still wonderfully dry. This makes all the difference to happiness levels.
It was exactly 5 pm when Loch Dee came into view, looking down from the runic-inscribed stone. As beautiful as Loch Trool had been, I completely fell in love with Loch Dee instantly. All I had to do now was continue along the track and I would reach my home for the night and within half an hour, over in a little elevated clearing in the forest to my right I spotted the White Laggan Bothy. I had seen enough photos of this place to instantly recognise it, with its handily painted Saltire on the side of it.
White Laggan Bothy had a slightly creepier vibe than the other 2 bothies I have spent time in – more Cabin in the Woods than Cottage in the Forest, but I knew I would be able to make it feel homely for the night, just as long as I could get a fire going in the stove. But in all honesty I couldn’t really be bothered going through all the hassle of finding dry wood etc so I think if I had ended up being alone all night I actually would of just sacked off the idea of a fire and forced myself to try and catch an early night and sleep though any nighttime cold temperatures.
But as things turned out, I had a fire-starting hero about to arrive. Half an hour or so after I reached the bothy, another backpack-loaded hiker arrived and I think I knew pretty much instantly that we were going to get on. I guess because this was someone who was doing the same walk as I was then we instantly had something in common and we were soon sharing stories of our journeys so far (mainly our experiences of the dreaded bog which all Southern Upland Way walkers will be able to relate to!).
My new hiking friend, Ash, gallantly spent well over an hour trying to get the fire going with a crappy selection of damp logs and tealight candles. I felt a bit useless as I feebly offered some help and despite nearly giving up, he persevered and soon he had a lovely warm fire blazing. I told him that if I was a TV executive then I would definitely commission a new series with him as a Ray Mears for the Millennial generation.
We opted to sleep on the narrow benches in the room with the stove in rather than go for the bunk beds in the adjacent room by the front door and despite it not being the most comfortable way to sleep, I still managed to get a few good hours in. It had been a good day – so different from the first night of last week’s mission and I felt pretty happy and contented as I went to sleep. Even a narrow uncomfortable wooden bench is better than being in a tent in a boggy marsh land.
The journey continues here: thescottishdream.com/2019/09/19/the-southern-upland-way-day-5-white-laggan-st-johns-town-of-dalry/
***PHOTOS TO BE ADDED SOON***