Newton Stewart November 2011


Helen Rose  Hill Diary

I went on a short weekend to Newton Stewart in Dumfriesshire in the south of Scotland. The area is at the Solway Firth and across the water is England. The scenery here is much softer than the Highlands of Scotland but it has many interesting aspects. The weekend was arranged by the Glasgow HF Outdoor Club  where Tom is arranging weekend trips outwith Public Holiday weekends when it is easier to book group accommodation. We were based in the Newton Stewart SYHA Hostel at Minigaff , a village outside Newton Stewart. We had sole use of the Hostel and although I am not a fan of hostels, we were comfortable here and had a meal in as the hostel has a good kitchen. Sharing a dormitory with people you know is very sociable but I don’t recall a midnight feast!

We drove from Glasgow in the morning to the Glenkiln Estate  to walk the sculpture trail. There is good parking on the Estate and the walk only takes a few hours. The sculpture at the car park is a Rodin bronze of John the Baptist, a copy of the original at the Louvre in Paris. From there we walked along the road to a Henry Moore abstract Standing Figure and then up a hill to the famous Henry Moore, the King and Queen which was cast in 1952 to celebrate the Coronation of Elizabeth 2.

The reason that there are original Henry Moore Sculptures here is that he was a friend of the Estate owner,  Sir William Keswick,  who had decided to set up a sculpture walk on the Estate in a lovely glen overlooking a reservoir. It is admirable that the public are allowed access free of charge. Further on to a wooded glade where there was a Sir Jacob Epstein bronze of the Virgin and St Elizabeth who was to become the mother of John the Baptist. The last sculptures we saw were fibre glass by Henry Moore. We proceeded to the Hostel where Alistair prepared the tasty steak dinner.

The following day was very windy but Stephen made the decision to go ahead with the coastal walk along the top of the cliffs to eventually reach St. Ninian’s cave. It was an exhilarating walk from Whithorn over BurrowHead and certainly blew the cobwebs away. To stop for a tea break, we had to find a little dip in a field out of the wind. The cattle in the field were very curious and were trying to nose into our rucksacks so we hastily left the teabreak stop. There was an old WW2 lookout shelter but it was very dark inside.

 The wind was whipping up white horses on the sea. However, it was dry. We proceeded along the top of the cliffs and were being covered with what looked like snow but it was the foam being blown up from sea in the clefts on the cliffs. This is something I have never seen before, white foam on the grass looking like snow! The walk along the beach to St. Ninian’s Cave was a delight. This is where St. Ninian is said to have landed and brought Christianity to Scotland.  . From Creetown we drove to Wigton, a small town noted for its annual book festival. We browsed around the many bookshops and had excellent coffee and cake at the Rendezvous Cafe there. In the evening, we had an excellent meal at the Creebridge Country House Hotel.

On Sunday, we went on a walk from Creetown on a circular trail through forest to a lovely little lake with a covered in wooden structure where we had lunch sheltering from the rain but looking on to the tranquil scene of the lake and tastefully placed rocks very much like a Japanese Garden. The route included passing through a red squirrel sanctuary. Unfortunately, there were no red squirrels around which was a disappointment. From Creetown we drove back to Glasgow arriving back in time for dinner.

This weekend trip was full of historical interest, invigorating walks and very good company. I would like to explore more of Dumfries and Galloway so have suggested to Stephen, a trip in the future to the Kippford area.  If we had had more time, a visit to Dumfries House and also the Costume Museum would have been a must.

Coming attraction: Drama on the Cowal Way.