Capricious – a rather lovely word to describe Scotland’s changeable weather. I can think of others less flattering. My last post was about a very wet walk along part of the Ayrshire Coastal Path when it rained on us for the entire walk. Yet the following day the sun shone out of a brilliant blue sky.
It was supposed to be a writing day but I couldn’t resist going out to enjoy the sunshine and decided on a short walk along the shore at Sandyhills, on the Solway coast. It’s about twelve miles from where I live. In the summer, the beach is crowded with holiday makers, some of whom stay at the caravan park and there is a charge for parking. In the winter, parking is free. Most of the other people on the beach are dog walkers or, like me, simply out to make the most of a bright, sunny – if cold – day.
In the 19th century and early part of the 20th century the Solway Firth was a major shipping channel bringing and taking goods to and from the ports of Dumfries. The treacherous Barnhourie Banks were responsible for a number of shipwrecks including, among others, the William Levitt bound from Quebec to Greenock in 1888, the St Patrick (four days after the ship ran aground one crew member was found alive, clinging to the rigging), and the Village Belle heading for Glasgow from Penzance in 1914. She ran aground at Barnhourie, the crew took to the lifeboat, which also ran aground and they then walked across the sand for three miles to the Southwick Burn where a local farmer helped them.
Apart from history, which includes the remains of a Bronze Age cremation burial site, the area abounds with legends of mermaids – some of whom save drowning sailors, while others who sing them to their doom – smugglers, and excisemen.
It’s a lovely walk from Sandyhills over the coastal path to Rockcliffe but today I don’t have time so content myself with a walk along the shore before climbing up and returning along the clifftop path.
Stake nets are a traditional form of tide fishing. Long ago, before stake nets were developed, fishermen created a hollow in the sand which trapped fish in a pool of water left when the tide retreated. Later, rocks and hurdles were used to form the pools and eventually the stake nets. These consist of nets hung vertically on stakes driven into the sand, often in a zig-zag pattern. The nets have narrow openings which salmon can easily enter but not so easily exit.
The rocky cliffs are peppered with caves and incredible shapes.
From the clifftop path the views are stunning. You can see why this is such a popular place with both visitors and locals alike. Despite how empty it looks in the photos I met many people out walking – it’s just such a big, big space!
The square shape out to sea is an RAF bombing target used in World War Two by the Number 10 Bombing and Gunnery School based at the Heathhall airfield, Dumfries.
This final photo is looking across to the snow-covered hills of Cumbria.