A weekend visit to MoffatSeptember 10th, 2006
I am back home after taking advantage of the fine weather by taking myself off to Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway to take in some of the walking missed by the hordes passing north on their way to the Highlands; they do not know what they are missing, even if the hills show themselves to all and sundry proceeding along the West Coast mainline and the A74(M). The Southern Upland Way is a major walking attraction around here but there are loads of hills to explore as well. They may not be high like the Munros but the rough country does demand some preparation and respect.
My previous encounter with the place was last June when I based myself in Lockerbie. That time, I got in the section of the Southern Upland Way between Moffat and Ettick Head but the day remained cloudy until my return to Lockerbie for the night. This time, I walked the Southern Upland Way from St. Mary’s Loch back to Moffat, also covering the ground that I explored on my previous visit. I had designs on more walking but the after effects of a 20 mile stroll and a heavy pack returned me to my senses.
To get to and from Moffat, I travelled by train between Macclesfield and Dumfries (well, apart from a rail replacement bus service between Manchester and Stockport: they were at the line yet again). On Friday evening, a taxi got me to Moffat and I left the 114 bus do the honours on the return. There was a bus on the Friday but a 60 minute wait would have been in order. Mind you, if I had been more patient, I might have avoided a bizarre taxi conversion laden with strange coincidences.
Over the weekend, I stayed at the Balmoral Hotel which offered exactly what I needed. The only fly in the ointment was the locals talking loudly among each other out on the street until 02:00 in the morning. And no, I have no idea what was going on. It never endangered my plans, though.
A useful Saturday only service (Houstons 130) got me to St. Mary’s Loch and would have been a useful fallback if I decided not to walk all the way back to Moffat. Both St. Mary’s Loch and nearby Loch of the Lowes looked so magnificent that I could have spent the whole day on their shores but I had other walking on my mind and it really did take some willpower to get going. Most of the Way followed paths and tracks through the hills but a five mile road walk was endured in the middle, a minor complaint given what else was on offer. As regards terrain, the only tricky section was around between Craigmichen Scar and Ettrick Head where the effect of landslips is obvious to all. The sight of sheep grazing on steep slopes littered with them was nigh on unbelievable; it looked like reckless behaviour. Recent land movements has resulted in the redirection of the Way around here (be warned if following the OS map) but I suspect that a more permanent route will have to go up and over West Knowe some day, a potentially tiring but safer diversion.