It was John Kearney who first suggested that a visit to Kirkconnell Linn saying it would provide me with a good opportunity for photographs and video, John spent his childhood in the village of Ringford and he told me this was one of the places he would visit on a regular basis. This Kirkconnell should not be confused with the one in Dumfriesshire close to Sanquhar.
Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of visiting what sounded like a good location it was out with my OS map and off I went in search of Kirkconnell Linn.
In Ringford you take the A762, locally known as the Laurieston Road, during the summer I was in Northumbira and on several occasions drove on B class roads which were like motorways compared to some of the A roads in rural Galloway.
The Linn is not signposted in any way but is relatively easy to find. After the turn off for Barstobrick look out for a large lay by on the left hand side of the road, this is where you will park. After parking your car continue to walk along the main road until you come to a farm road on the left at Beoch Bridge, this is the road you will now walk on for part of your journey to the linn. Remember the country code when you are out and about, you are walking on working farm land so be aware there may be livestock in the fields so leave all gates as you find them. As you walk up this farm road you will be able to hear the water flowing in the burn and on your left see the trees that line it’s edge. If you use the road for most of your journey you will find it much easier. When you come to a couple of bends in the road start to make your way across the field towards the trees, the choice of footwear is important for this trek as the ground you will have to cross can be wet especially after a lot of rain which is when you would want to pay a visit to the linn.
The water that comes down the burn has came from Loch Mannoch and will eventually become the Water of Tarff. It goes without saying to take care when out on this type of walk, there are a lot of steep bankings and the ground is rough in places. If you decide to go on your own make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you expect to be back, remember you will not always have a phone signal. I would allow a couple of hours if you intend to take photographs.
John was correct, Kirkconnell Linn is well worth a visit.
If you are visiting Aira Force from the north as we were, there are two easy ways to get there if you have driven down the M6 as far as the junction 40 the Penrith turn off. After turning off the M6 onto the A66 at Penrith and heading west you can take a drive along the A592 which gives good views of Ullswater and a nice place to stop if you have brought a packed lunch or you can continue along the A66 before taking the A5091 which gives a scenic route through Troutbeck and Dockray. Anyone who has visited and driven in the Lake District will tell you that some of the roads do not make for easy driving with the sometimes very narrow roads continually twisting and bending to accommodate the ever changing landscape. At the height of the holiday season this can be made even worse when the number of visitors to the region explodes, this increased volume of traffic can change your journey time dramatically as you become stuck behind a campervan or even worse a group of amateur cyclist who between them are wearing enough lycra to cover the millennium dome and no matter how slowly they are cycling decide to remain three or four abreast so it's always worthwhile allowing a bit of extra time.
Aira Force, as the banner above shows is a waterfall. I always have difficulty in saying Aira Force without getting an image of Harrison Ford dangling out of the back of the presidential jet after he has spoiled a kidnap attempt by Gary Oldman. There are actually a series of waterfalls with the main fall dropping 65 feet after the stream has passed under a small stone footbridge. During the late 18th century the area around the falls were landscaped by the local land owner and it was used as a pleasure garden. As part of it’s development species of conifers from all over the world were planted which gives a great variety to the surrounding woodland you walk through. Aira Force and the surrounding land came up for sale in the early 1900s and the newly formed National Trust purchased the area to prevent housing development.
The National Trust have provided three car parks for visitors at different locations although I only found two of them and I would recommend the main car park which has it’s entrance on the A592 mainly because it’s larger, has toilets, a tea room and a visitor information centre. The car park is not free and there are machines where pay and display tickets can be purchased. The cost of parking ranges from £5 for 2 hours to £9 for the whole day but is free for National Trust members and this free parking is also available for National Trust Scotland members which is a welcome benefit but remember to get a member of staff at the information centre to scan your membership card.
The walk itself is circular and not to strenuous even although you do climb to a good height along well maintained paths which are very narrow in places so care is needed when passing walkers you will meet who are walking in the opposite direction to you. The shortest walk should only take about an hour to complete and will allow you to visit the main fall which is what we did on our first visit during April, this is the most popular part of the walk and can be busy with other people enjoying a day out. If the paths are a bit to busy for your liking you can take a bit of time out by relaxing on one of the many strategically placed benches and just enjoy watching the world go by until you are ready to move on. If time permits and you feel a bit more energetic it’s worth continuing past Aira Force and heading on up stream towards another fall called High Force, this path is not as busy and although the fall is not as spectacular it’s still worth a visit.
If you are lucky enough to live within reasonable travelling distance it’s always worthwhile trying to make a visit at different times of the year this way you can see and enjoy how much the surroundings change with the seasons. It goes without saying a visit after prolonged heavy rain will show of the full power of nature as the volume of water crashing down the fall increases dramatically. I haven’t experienced this personally but have seen some video footage of the falls in full flow and it does look spectacular if not a bit wet from the spray.
Is it worth a visit? I would say yes and I will go back again.
Often someone I know will come up to me and say “I’ll tell you where you want to go to take photos” and a couple of years ago it was suggested that I take a trip to Crichope Linn. As usual I didn’t have the time or the weather until last August to pay a visit so one Saturday we set off in search of this must see place.
We headed up the A76 from Dumfries towards Thornhill and turned right onto a minor road just before The Trigony Hotel, after crossing a railway line we turned left at a T junction and then turned left again at The Auld Smiddy. Although the roads are narrow there is an area you can park just after the signpost into the walk. You could easily miss this sign so keep an eye for it.
When we visited, the walk was overgrown with ferns and the path was muddy, so a good pair of boots and waterproof leggings would help to keep you dry and make it a more pleasant experience. The walk itself is not to distant and not strenuous so leaving yourself an hour for the round trip would give you plenty of time to take in the magic of this place without trying to rush along the narrow path.
Walking along the path to the linn you are following in the footsteps of some famous Scots including Thomas Carlyle, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Scott increased the popularity of the gorge by using it as a location for Balfour of Burley's lair in his novel “Old Mortality. There are also references to the gorge being a meeting place for covenanters during the 17th century.
The gorge itself is supposed be 30 metres deep and has been created by the action of the water flowing along Crichope Burn which over the years has worn away the soft sandstone.
To get a good view of the gorge you have pass through a natural arch that has been cut out of the rock. There are a lot of names and inscription carved in the rock and even one supposedly from Robert Burns himself, so vandalism is not a new thing.
My first impression of seeing the gorge was of a location that would not have looked out of place in Jurassic Park and it's easy to see why it was thought of a place for supernatural beings. Although there had been a lot of rain there was not a lot of water cascading down the waterfall but this did not take away any of the natural beauty of this place.
This is not somewhere that I would venture to on my own. I could imagine you could loose your footing easily with the amount of dead leaves and moss on the rocks and if you fell damage would be done.
Is it worth a visit and for me a return visit, the answer to both of these would have to be yes. As I said, we visited Crichope during August, I'm sure it would be an interesting place to visit during the winter and spring when there would be different levels of vegetation.
The Forth Road Bridge was opened on 4 September 1964, which helps me to date my last visit to South Queensferry because somewhere in the house there is a photograph of me sitting on the railings at the car park and in the background is an incomplete Forth Road Bridge. Only the middle section was missing so it was near completion and I am assuming the photograph was taken just a few weeks before the bridge was opened. For a seven year old it was a day out and it’s only now when you look back you realise how lucky you were to have gone on these trips and to have a dad with a camera who was keeping a record of these days out. My father enjoyed photography and I often wonder what he would have made of the equipment I am lucky to have.
Sometimes it’s nice just to jump in the car and arrive somewhere simply because that’s where the road took you but on this occasion it was a planned trip, so with the destination details entered into Tom Tom we set off. Having looked at various websites and OS maps I knew I was hoping to park in the car park next to Hawes Pier on Newhalls Road but as we made our way down the B924, Hawes Brae, which was nose to tail with parked cars it was obvious this was going to be a busy place. Undeterred by the sight of these parked cars we continued down to the car park only to have a quick look before heading back out the town to join the parked cars on the roadside telling yourself it was a nice day and walking is good for you.
It’s not until you walk under the rail bridge you actually realise the size of this feat of engineering that was completed in 1890 and understand why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will also see a small road heading out of the town and we found a limited number of rough parking spaces along here, so it might be worth checking this out if you are looking for a parking place closer to the bridge.
It was a reasonably short walk along Newhalls Road, onto Farquhar Terrace, under the Forth Road Bridge before ending up on Shore Road and Port Edgar Marina where you could get a good view of the new crossing which was after all one of the reasons for our visit.
A day out is not complete unless you have something to eat and in my opinion there is nothing better than a chippie. There were several places to choose from including the newly opened Harry Ramsden's at The 3 Bridges but on this occasion we went to Maurizio’s on Farquhar Terrace, the staff were very friendly and made you feel welcome which always makes a big difference, I remember one day Janice and I were in a chip shop in Keswick, the Old Keswickian, when I ordered the food I could hear a lad working in the back shop area say "I don't like the Scottish" unfortunately I had already paid for the food. Food in hand, Janice and I walked back to where we had earlier seen a set of steps which leads down to the shore and gave a good view of the rail bridge. Eating a sausage supper outside without being attacked by seagulls, what more could you ask for, perhaps not everyones idea of the high life but for me it's ideal. The food was great but perhaps the next time I’ll ask for some sauce in the corner and not all over. Visitors to Edinburgh chippies will know all about salt and sauce tradition.
We were very lucky with the weather and although we only saw what I suppose is the tourist part of Queensferry we found it to be an interesting place and we’ll worth a visit and I would certainly make the trip again. Next time I would definitely take one of the boat trips out to Inchcolm Island and perhaps get a train at Dalmeny station and cross the Firth of Forth by the rail bridge.
It was estimated that The Tour of Britain would roll into Castle Douglas around 1530 on Sunday 4 September for a final sprint finish up King Street, the town’s main shopping street.
Today was the opening stage of a week long cycling event and the only one in Scotland which had started with The Grand Depart, with riders leaving Glasgow's George Square before doing a circuit of the city and heading south through various towns and villages.
The Tour of Britain has became a major event attracting big names and this year there are eight medalist from the Rio Olympics including, Mark Cavendish, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Owain Doull, Elia Viviani, Jack Bobridge, Alex Edmondson, Michael Hepburn and Tom Dumoulin. Other big names in the sport were due to take part including the former world hour record holder Rohan Dennis and German sprinter Andre Greipel, nicknamed The Gorilla,
It was predicted that ten thousand people would descend on Castle Douglas which only has a population of just over four thousand so it could be a bit crowded. With the tour having such a high media interest this was going to have a large impact for a lot of residents with parking restrictions being enforced. This is not an event that is just thought up overnight and there is bound to have have been forward planning and yet Dumfries and Galloway council only informed residents about these parking restrictions just over a week before they were due to be put in place. When asked why there had to be parking restrictions on streets that were not even part of the route a spokesman for D&G council replied, "The restriction was requested by Police Scotland to ease congestion and to accommodate the diverted traffic." It was also amusing to see so many council workers out weeding pavements and sweeping the streets which would suggest the town only deserves this type of treatment on special occasions.
As a build up to the arrival of the tour cyclists arriving in the town various children’s races were held along King Street.
I had a high viewpoint thanks to Eric at Monty's so at least I had an unrestricted view which would have been difficult with no press pass and the number of spectators lining the street. A report in the media had predicted that the group would arrive in a tight bunch and they were correct. Unfortunately I was not able to see the crash that involved Mark Cavendish as the cyclists took the turn onto King Street, it must be disappointing to cycle just over a hundred miles and crash within sight of the finish line. The stage was won by Germany’s Andre Greipel.
As you would expect, there was a great deal of interest in Sir Bradley Wiggins with a large crowd gathering outside his motorhome in the chance they would get to see this top cyclist at close hand and perhaps even an autograph or if you are really lucky a selfie.
The presentation for the winner of the stage was still taking place when the support vehicles started to move out of Castle Douglas heading south to Carlisle where the whole thing starts again tomorrow with a 117 mile cycle from Carlisle to Kendal through the beautiful but hilly Lake District.