Walking off the mince pies

Christmas Day (doesn’t it already seem a long time ago?) poured with rain so I was more or less forced to stay indoors eating chocolate and mince pies and watching feel-good films. Boxing Day, however, was bright and sunny so there was no excuse not to head off with the DH on one of my favourite walks in Dumfries & Galloway – Balcary Heughs. This is a great walk at any time of the year, though not if it’s very windy as the narrow path goes along clifftops.

From the village of Auchencairn a single track road leads follows the shoreline to the Balcary Bay Country House Hotel, built in the 17th century by Messrs Cain, Clark and Quirk who ran a shipping – or smuggling – business. The area around this part of the Solway has an exciting smuggling history.

A car park for walkers is situated close to the hotel. It was almost full when we arrived so I guess I wasn’t the only one feeling the need to walk off those mince pies.

Mostly I do the walk in a clockwise fashion, taking in the coastal part first and returning inland. We chose to do it the other way so the winter sun would be behind us when we walked the narrow path on the cliffs.

Despite the hard frost overnight, the ground was still pretty boggy in places. Loch Mackie looked stunning even though there was a distinct absence of bird life

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Loch Mackie

The coastal path is a great place for bird watchers: guillemots, razorbills fulmars and kittiwakes. In summer, wild flowers form colourful ‘hanging baskets’ on the sides of the cliffs. There are stunning rock formations – Adam’s Chair, the Door of the Heugh and (below) Lot’s Wife.

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The sea stack named Lot’s Wife.

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The only ‘wildlife’ met on the walk were those donkeys.

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Looking out across the Solway. The little white dots on the cliff side are sheep! Sure-footed sheep to be sure.

As we neared the end of the clifftop walk we had fantatstic views of Heston Island. When the tide is out it is possible to walk over to the island – though best done with a guide who knows where to avoid the quicksands. It was once owned by monks, briefly a Royal residence (or hideout) and has smuggling links. The novelist S R Crockett used the island as the model for Rathan Isle in his novel The Raiders. I’ll do a post about it soon.

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Heston Island.

Still in sunshine we ended our eight-mile walk – and went home to finish the mince pies.