I thought I’d take you on one of my favourite circular walks. Even on a grey day it’s a great walk which takes in coastline and woodland and an ancient hill fort. It’s a short walk (3.25 miles/5.25 km) although, if the tide is out you can add a bit extra by walking to Rough Island over the causeway which is exposed at low tide.
The walk starts at either Kippford or Rockcliffe, two villages on the East Stewartry Coast, a National Scenic Area in Dumfries & Galloway. The area is known for its turbulent history, smugglers, wonderful scenery, wildlife, birdlife and wild flowers. In fact, the Victorians, who discovered its delights as a holiday resort, named it The Scottish Riviera.
Starting at Kippford there’s car parking by the village hall and from there you walk past the marina (dreaming of the yacht a lottery win would buy) and through the village, past the lifeboat station and The Ark shop and tearoom (cakes to die for when you return) and along a private road (choosing which of the very desirable houses that lottery win would buy) along the shoreline.
Rough Island is soon in view. It’s owned by National Trust for Scotland and is a bird sanctuary. Visitors are discouraged in May and June to avoid disturbing nesting oystercatchers and ringed plovers. It’s small but nice to visit and you can take a stone from the beach to place on the cairn on top of the hill.
A track leads up from the shoreline into the woodland. Follow the path for Rockcliffe. You come out of the woodland, cross a meadow, through a kissing gate, past the entrance to a house and through a second gate.
The track takes you out onto Rockcliffe bay with its lovely mixture of rocks, sand and rock pools. There are public loos and often a Mr Whippy van parked nearby, an information board tells visitors about the area – and more lovely houses overlooking the sea.
To return to Kippford, follow the signs for the Jubilee Path (to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee) and head back up, past the Baron’s Craig Hotel, into the woods. At a crossroads, signposts direct you to the Mote of Mark, the hilltop fort which overlooks the Urr estuary.
It was the court of a Dark Age chieftain, possibly one of the princes of Rheged, and was occupied from the 5th to 7th centuries. The main defences consisted of stone and timber walls with a timber gate at the main entrance. It may have been destroyed by fire in the 7th century as the outer wall shows evidence that heat caused stones to fuse together. This could have been due to the Angles attacking and burning the place (Angle runic inscriptions were found at the site) though it’s possible the walls were deliberately vitrified to strengthen them.
Excavations in 1913 and 1973 unearthed a large, circular timber hut and evidence of metalworking. Iron was brought from the Lake District and jet from York. Pottery imported from Bordeaux and glass from the Rhineland, were also found.
Back at the crossroads another detour can be made to Mark Hill – okay so these detours add a bit more to the length of the walk but that coffee and cake at the end will be worth the extra effort. The path, through managed woodland, climbs up and round the hill and offers spectacular views of the Solway from the view point.
Head down the hill, re-join the path and carry on back to Kippford – and coffee and cake. I had a banana and chocolate brownie. I’d eaten before I thought to take a photo of it!