Lighter nights are upon us here in Scotland at last. Spring should be here … I’ve seen it linger in the snowdrops and daffodils, but frost and snow has been cheeky and returned hindering their growth.
I took some time off work the first week in April intending to get out and start visiting places on my peak challenge list. The start of my week was rain, sleet and snow. I’ve also been feeling a little off lately, low in energy, but it won’t stop me from trying to complete my challenges.
My running training has been slow progress. I’ve two 10k runs coming up in May and I’m not as prepared as I was last year. I’ll still give a go though, but I aim to just get round the course at my own pace, whatever that may be on the day.
I’ve created two new videos this year though, showing two amazing Ayrshire castle ruins. I hope you don’t mind me adding them to this post as I normally don’t write separate WordPress posts for my videos. You can watch videos on my Scotland from above page or Vimeo, YouTube and Facebook.
I’d love to know if you like them.
I had such a relaxing day visiting Dunure Castle again and was lucky to see the Outlander filming set at the harbour. When I visit an Outlander filming location I always meet lovely people who are also fans. I end up chatting to strangers for ages about the TV series and places we’ve visited. Outlander fans are so friendly!
I was in my element wandering around for seven hours soaking in the beauty of the Ayrshire coast and castle ruins. The best days are when you don’t need to worry about time.
Eglinton castle and country park
I also returned to Eglinton Castle and Country Park to finish my video story of the ruins and park. We started recording drone footage here last year and returned to capture some angles from the ground. I’m trying to create a mix of both in the hope that it makes a more interesting video to watch. I’ve been very brave and added myself as an extra … kind of a mystical cameo role. It’s not like me at all as I’m usually very camera shy but it’s only the back of me.
After that wee update, I’d better start telling you about my day out to Ness Glen, Loch Doon and another Ayrshire castle ruin, Doon Castle. Here we go …
First you can watch my video if you don’t have to time to read. This is the first time I’ve ever managed to get a blog post and a video out at the same time!
Watch my video of Ness Glen and Loch Doon Castle
It was Thursday before the weather decided it might play nice. I was determined to get out and walk no matter how I was feeling. I’d just take my time and go with the flow. We packed salad rolls and snacks, so hopefully this was enough fuel to get me through the day.
We set off early. It was a cold, icy morning with snow still lingering in the fields and hills around Ayrshire. As the sun was rising it looked like it could be a warmer spring day, well kind of. It was unusual to see spring flowers and snow sitting together.
In under an hour we arrived at the entrance to Loch Doon which is near the village of Dalmellington in East Ayrshire. The narrow road into the Galloway Forest was slippery with ice. I was starting to feel better already when I saw the snow-topped hills in front of me. I always get goosebumps and an overwhelming feeling of wowness. Is there such a word?
We didn’t get far along the road to start with… I kept asking to stop so I could take photos.
Loch doon dam
We reached the Loch Doon dam. The dam was built in 1935 to generate hydro-electricity. Loch Doon is a freshwater loch and is the largest inland loch in Southern Scotland at around seven miles long.
We parked up at the Roundhouse Cafe. The cafe is open seven days a week from April until October. In the winter months it’s sometimes open Saturdays and Sundays depending on the weather. I was surprised to find a cafe here and is very much welcomed after a day’s walking. I was sorry we didn’t get to try it. We’d already brought our own food and drinks.
The Ness Glen riverside walking trail starts here. I was really excited to go on this walk as I’d heard so much about it.
As we were walking down to the glen we arrived at two paths to choose from. I wasn’t sure what one to take as I forgot to remind myself about route before I left. I was so scared I’d miss something but luckily it turned out to be a circular route.
The low path takes you alongside the riverbank and gorge then you climb back up a hill top path through beautiful woodlands.
We chose the low path. You can of course start the walk from any path. I will try walking the other way round the next time as you always get a different perspective on the views.
The trail was muddy, wet and icy at parts but that didn’t matter. In fact, as usual, my feet were already soaking wet as I decided to walk off the road towards some nice pine trees to see if I could get a good angle on a photo and ended up ankle deep in boggy water. I seem to do this a lot.
Even the start of the trail in the photo below was beautiful.
As I walked along the muddy path I was already in awe of the beauty. The trees were still bare with traces of autumn still lying from last year.
The green moss covered rocks always draws me in. Moss looks like velvet to me, short and fuzzy. The cliffs towered over the fast flowing river and I started thinking I must come here in summer when there is more foliage. It would be darker and even more atmospheric!
I was drawn to this spot to take some video footage and Alan took a photo of me standing with the beautiful light and river.
At every turn we both were stopping, taking photos and video. I was hopeful that I could capture the real beauty I was seeing with my own eyes with my camera.
I damaged my camera last year. Depending on what setting I’m using it’s now marking some of my photos with a dark mark that I need to edit out. It’s helping me learn editing skills but I wish I had a new camera. I’ve kind of went back to using auto again too.
The sunlight was peeking through the trees now and then, dancing on the water and rocks. What a stunning gorge walk!
You might have heard of Finnich Glen, tis very bonnie. This glen is just as beautiful and what I think was better is that you can enjoy walking through its wonderous natural beauty for around 4km before you head back uphill away from the riverside. Look at this tree, isn’t it amazing!
We met a lovely couple and their daughter along the glen. Luckily they didn’t catch me in my blue cloak!
I love when we meet strangers and stop for a chat. We have something in common. We are all there enjoying the same surroundings. They were from Leeds and on their Easter holidays and also confirmed the circular route for us. I was excited when they told us that we would be walking through the woodlands after the river. What a wonderful variety of walking.
The riverside path just seemed to go on forever. I kept thinking surely it will end soon.
It did. All good things come to an end and we finally reached a footbridge that the couple we met told us about. We didn’t cross the bridge, but turned back left up a hill through the woodlands. Then it was onwards to the next good thing!
I could still hear the river rushing but the higher we climbed it started to fade. It was a steep climb back up. The ‘killer hill’ at the Smugglers’ Trail in Dundonald came to my mind. My friend nick-named it that as it’s so steep and hurts our legs. A term used in Scotland often is ‘ma legs are killin me’. I don’t know where it came from but it’s slang for my legs are really sore.
The climb was worth it. We found a money tree on our way up! Coins were buried deep into the wood, similar to the tree trunk we saw at The Hermitage in Perthshire.
We finally reached the top of the hill. My energy levels at this point were surprisingly okay. I had the usual achy knees but it was bearable.
We should have kept to the left and followed the top of the gorge alongside the river, but a short detour to the right up another short hill took us to this fantastic wooden fort! We approached the fort from the back. The door was open so I had to look inside. Wow, what an amazing base camp. I really wanted to climb up inside one of the towers but I felt like I shouldn’t as the base is usually locked up.
As I walked round the outside of the fort to the front entrance I was instantly drawn to a cluster of trees on a hill. Is it just me that thinks this is so inviting and beautiful? I walked up the left side of the trees keen to reach the middle.
It was dark inside the cluster. All of a sudden the wind came from nowhere shaking the trees, making a slight howling sound. Eerie! Scattered patches of snow and sunlight really made it look so pretty too though.
We could also see the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory from the hill and would have loved to visit, but we still had a lot of walking to do. Alan is a keen sky watcher and has a few telescopes of his own. We don’t get to use them often though. The light pollution where we live doesn’t really help any potential views of the stars and planets.
When we walked out of the trees that’s when I saw Fort Carrick in all its glory. Wow! I almost didn’t walk up this far and I was so happy I did. Just that little bit more of an effort to walk up that extra hill can give you the best views.
I had a look at the Craigengillan Fort website as I was keen to find out what it was used for. It was built in April 2010 and took seven months to complete. The fort is a command centre and base camp for Cadets, Scouts, Duke of Edinburgh award candidates and other organised youth groups. What an amazing place to camp and look at the views!
After that surprising side trail we walked back down to the woodland trail and followed the path through the woods. It really was pretty. I enjoyed a wee peek back up at Fort Carrick wishing I could camp there for the night.
I’ll apologise in advance for all the wonderful trees … I just love their bendy shapes and tallness. Their roots are strong and go deep. This next stage was the hill top woodland walk.
Wow, I loved that! It was very much needed.
We returned to the starting point at the cafe where it was getting quite busy. I was thinking of buying a coffee but there was a queue so we didn’t wait and drove down to the Doon Castle ruins instead. I was hungry and ready for my chicken salad rolls and a warm Mocha. Alan started boiling up the water, perfect!
We hoped to record some drone footage of the castle but the wind was picking up at times and it was busy with people coming and going. We try not to include people in our photos and videos if we can. After waiting for a while we managed to record some footage. It has been a while since Alan flew his drone so it takes a bit of practise to get used to it again.
Doon castle ruins
Loch Doon Castle was thought to have been built in the late 13th century. It is not known who built the castle but possibly an Earl of Carrick, either Robert the Bruce or his father.
The castle originally stood on an island in the loch but it was taken down and re-built to where it is now in 1935 to try and save it from rising water levels from the dam. You’ll see the island where it used to sit in my video.
There’s not much left of this round castle as you can see but when I walked through the arched doorway I totally fell in love with it. I stood in the middle and turned around a full 360 to see everything around me. Then I walked to the arched door with the view across the loch. It gave me goosebumps.
I started to feel quite tired now but still happy. I was excited about the photos and footage we captured and I know I will be back here soon, especially to see the wild garlic that’s sprouting and the summer growth.
When we got home, and I was researching the area, I realised there are so many other walks and hills to explore here. I remember seeing some signs for a hill walk at the castle so we will need to return. Southern Scotland has so much beauty to explore!
There’s also a touring caravan site at Loch Doon that I didn’t even know was there. This would be a very scenic base to explore Ayrshire and the surrounding area, such as Dumfries and Galloway. Find out more on the Ayrshire Scotland website.
I hope you enjoyed my photos, video and story. Hopefully this is the start of many more adventures for us this year.
Take care and be adventurous. Go on, you know you want to!
Thanks for reading.