Wild Walking UK

LEJOG Chapter 12: Carlisle to Crawfordjohn

I’ve finally made it to Scotland! This chapter of my wild camping adventure takes me across the border at Gretna, and takes in some of the Southern Upland Way and a LOT of road walking.

You can read about my journey from the start here and my rough route plan and gear list here.

Day 43: Sunday 31st March 2019 

It was a frosty start then clear and sunny with a clod breeze. I’d packed up by about 6.30am then walked along the river in the gloom – the clocks had changed last night so it was dark longer this morning, I then followed the road all the way to Gretna and into Scotland.

Note the mileage on the signpost outside this pub – Land’s End 478 miles, John O’Groats 360 miles. Yikes.

I managed to stock up on food here, but there was no cafe, so I kept plodding on the road. At least the weather was clear and sunny. My solar panel was earning its keep, charging everything well which was a bonus as it was Mother’s Day. I couldn’t see me getting a meal anywhere if I passed a pub, as everywhere was likely to be booked up. Not that there’s much out this way anyway!

The sun was out so I stopped for half an hour or so to dry everything off. A handy field gate was the perfect drying rack – I am never one to miss an opportunity!

Drying time

It was a nice, quiet road to Kirtebridge, then the old main road to Scotland. It was massive with cycle lanes both sides and very, very little traffic, but really boring. I found it such a slog to get to Ecclefechan where I found a hotel / pub for a much-needed meal and a pint. Perhaps they’ve never heard of Mother’s Day in here as it was nearly empty at 2pm.

I then had hard going on another boring road to Lockerbie. Arriving here on a Sunday meant there were no shops open for me to buy food for the next two days or so, so I had to spend a small fortune in a petrol station’s overpriced shop instead. Little choice, so carrot cake had to count as one of my five a day. I did manage to find an open chip shop a bit later though! Lockerbie looked like a nice town and I liked it.

Only 30 miles of this to go…

I was just finishing my chips and thinking about where to camp when a teenager rolled up on his Trek full suspension mountain bike. He chatted for half an hour about my walk and why I was doing it, and asking whether I was stopping along the way and doing things. His family are farmers so we talked about the right to roam rule, and he said they often have people just wandering about on their land. An interesting lad!

I walked another mile or so out of town to join the Annandale Way and camped in the woods as soon as I could to rest my sore feet.

Camp for night 43

Day 44: Monday 1st April 2019 

The morning started off nice and clear but pretty quickly became overcast. The drizzle started at about noon.

My ‘friend’ – and proof the sun was out!

The Annandale Way was nice walking on good paths and tracks. I later joined the Southern Upland Way which was well walked but often wet and boggy underfoot. Passing Brattleburn, there was a sign to a bothy, and in the drizzle I thought this was a good idea for the chance of a coffee in the dry. It ended up being a bit of a walk – maybe a quarter of a mile from the path – but it was a lovely two up, two down bothy by a stream. I made coffee and lit a fire with rubbish I had accumulated, as I hadn’t passed a bin for a few days. Luckily someone had also left some lovely dry firewood. It was 4.30pm and a bit too early to stop, but it was just too tempting so I decided to spend the night here. I spent the time checking my maps, sorting my route north, as I only had enough food for half of tomorrow, and washing my socks in the nearby river.

Brattleburn Bothy on the Southern Upland Way

A Scottish man arrived at the bothy with his four children and dog. They were jealous of my fire but really nice people – they were planning to spend a couple of nights there. They struggled to light the fire in the other room but managed it eventually.

I ate my tea in front of the fire wearing my body warmer and windproof on top of my usual softshell and Polartec hoody). Tea consisted of a King Pot Noodle, protein high fibre thins, sausage roll, carrot cake and coffee. I had found yesterday stressful, trying to walk over 20 miles and thinking of the 450 miles left. The thought that I had to walk over 20 miles a day to finish by Easter was too much to take in, and my body had suffered pushing like that. It felt easier to do the mileage by just looking at the next place I had to get to, or the next map, and just thinking of a few days ahead.

Brattleburn Bothy

Day 45: Tuesday 2nd April 2019

I left the bothy at 7.15am, having got up to leave at 5.30am but it was raining so I went back to bed. The man with his children came in for a chat just before l left. It turns out his children live with their mother, and this is the only way he can get them all together overnight.

Nice morning

I had soaking wet feet within a minute of leaving the bothy, and I was cursing the waterproof lining in my boots. Just a thin layer of leather would be better at keeping my feet dry than this. My walk today was hilly with frequent hail and snow showers, but the odd sunny spell gave me good views. I climbed to 567 metres, descended to Daer Reservoir, another steep climb and descent over Laght Hill, then a climb to Lowther Hill at 725 metres which is when the snow started. I met two men here who were walking the Southern Upland Way and had stayed in the hotel in Leadhills. One of them was an uktra marathon runner and he had just been to my home county of Norfolk. He was quite amused that in the 50 miles he ran in 11 hours, the highest point he reached was Cromer cliffs! He was very impressed with my efforts. Both of them had cycled LEJOG and completed loads of long distance trails and I could have chatted to them for hours, but it was bloody freezing up there so I needed to keep going.

Snowy.

It snowed all the way to Leadhills where I finally found a shop. I knocked on the door as it said to, and the lady came out to tell me that this was now a teddy bear shop, and the food shop was further down in the village. I made it here but the choices were limited – my tea was Pot Noodle, bread, two chocolate bars. No coffee, and no pub. The next shop was about 12 miles on, and my lack of coffee worried me.

Crawfordjohn – six miles of road walking

I pushed on from Leadhills, aiming for Crawfordjohn where I knew there was a pub and a chance of some dinner. This was six miles of road walking, luckily on quiet roads. What little traffic there was gave me plenty of room and often put their hand up. I arrived in Crawfordjohn and sure enough found a lovely pub – closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. This was pretty hard to take and I sat on the wall for five minutes or so before I could get myself going again. Luckily I was carrying an emergency Pot Noodle (they’re light to carry). I have made some good decisions on this trip, and this was another one.

It’s Tuesday. I could have had dinner here….

I pushed on another few miles to get water for my Pot Noodle and camped in a small wood, in a nice out-of-the-way spot. Tomorrow night I should be on the outskirts of Glasgow all going well, which is another milestone achieved. I have to hit Glasgow perfectly because it’s 20 miles through the city before I have a chance of camping again. If I do well tomorrow it should work out well for the next day.

…but had Pot Noodle here instead. Not quite the same.

You can read the next chapter of my adventure here.

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