Craigenbay to Stroanpatrick, 29Km
Neither of those places actually exist. Craigenbay is just a drop off point for walkers at the end of a dirt track. It’s an invention by the taxi company. Stroanpatrick is a windswept barn in the middle of nowhere. As I reached the day’s final summit, I could see the little spec of the taxi waiting there. The thunder was rumbling and huge black rain clouds were hovering about 50m above me. Even then, I got lost in the bog on my way down and was 10 minutes late. Somehow I escaped a good soaking but Brian soon had the wipers on.
It’s a bleak and desolate walk along the Southern Upland Way and I’ve still not seen another walker. However there was an oasis today. It’s called St John’s Town of Dalry and it was named by the Knights Templar, apparently because John the Baptist rested there. He probably stayed in the Clachan Inn where I sat dripping in the corner, enjoying a fish finger sandwich with salad. Although it hadn’t rained, I had to force my way through bracken almost as tall as me which was soaking wet from last night’s rain.
The author of my guidebook freely admits that “not a few” abandon the SUW at Dalry because it’s the first place you can get a bus. A woman in the Inn said the SUW was so much better than the West Highland Way which she thought too popular. Maybe when I get home and look at the photos I’ll be nostalgic but right now I yearn for the sight of another human being on one of those expensive benches which have never been sat on.
Today’s walk was partly along a river through mixed woodland and mostly over moorland covering the hills at the southern end of the Rhinns of Kells. “The path is faint, the markers well-spaced and scarcely above the bracken, so keep checking the compass”, advises the guidebook.
A drama was unfolding in the woods across the river as I walked along. A young deer was being chased by something big and was squeaking for help. The chaser pounced and killed the deer. I couldn’t see what it was. A few moments later, mother deer leapt across the stream almost in front of me, gave me a mournful look and ran off.