Sunday Morning @ 10:00am
Johnny and I parked the car at the bottom of The Grey Mare’s Tail. It took less than 25 minutes from The Mill meandering up the A708, past St Mary’s loch, admiring the beautiful valley as we travelled. On arrival we put a £2 coin into the machine for the day’s stay (there is a donation box for the upkeep of the footpath too). The dogs were very excited and we ventured off with picnic, and sticks and walking boots (trainers OK to get to Loch Skeen but walking boots advised for beyond).
It was the most glorious day, sunny, blue skies and a crisp chill in the air: perfect. The first 20 minutes walk is quite steep but worth it with the magnificent waterfall to the left (the fifth highest in the UK). After this 20 minute ascent the walker can enjoy a gentler slope as the footpath then curves and bends around the contours of the hillside. Arrival at Loch Skene is surprising, dramatic and beautiful (picture of Fidget posing). In spite of having done this walk many times I always get bowled over when I arrive there, it’s breath taking, and it takes me back to many a time we have taken friends and the children for picnics, paddle dipping and fry ups with the camping cooker. This is a great afternoon or morning adventure 1 hour up and 45 minutes down depending on your fitness and how keen you are!
We were on for the full route today, a four and a half hour walk, again may differ depending on energy levels. The ground was beautifully crisp and frozen (usually very wet under-foot), so we could easily cut across to the right and over the very thick heather and peat hags. There was lots of snow and we followed the dyke (stone wall) up and down two steep hills until we hit the fence line where we headed left to the summit which can be seen from quite a distance (stone cairn on top). This is called White Coomb and is (821m/2,694ft, the highest hill in Dumfriesshire. We didn’t bring a map, we were wearing jeans and we had no waterproofs, so on suddenly seeing the change of skies, I was a bit panicked. Johnny was very cool about it, pulled out the compass (to take a bearing to follow to get off the hill if the fog came down) and we sat on a rock with our hot stew; but not for long. We met only two people on the walk and they were kitted out with crampons etc., I was quite keen to keep one of the men in sight, he was an A & E surgeon in Edinburgh, never asked him his name. He might have been quite useful. The sky turned a beautiful blue/black menacing colour and followed us, but it didn’t catch up.
The dogs and I were tiring a bit but we descended to follow the dyke, this is was a rocky and muddy path down and finally we had to find a great place to go stone hopping over the stream, our sticks were very useful for this and other parts of the walk (I am trying out Nordic walking). Having crossed the stream our downward route followed the path which we had originally walked up. The story boards at the bottom are worth a read. I found out that The Grey Mares Tail is a superb example of a hanging valley; exciting for all you Geographers and Geologists 🙂