OUT­DOORS

Drum­lan­rig Woods

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - ROGER SMITH

Lo­ca­tion: Dum­fries and Gal­loway Map: OS Lan­dranger 78. A copy of the Drum­lan­rig Walks leaflet, avail­able at the cas­tle, is rec­om­mended Dis­tance: 5 miles (8km) Time: 2-3 hours Ter­rain: Way­marked paths

DRUM­LAN­RIG Cas­tle, set among rolling hills, is one of the homes of the Duke of Buc­cleuch. The cas­tle is a ma­jor vis­i­tor at­trac­tion with se­lected open­ing times but our fo­cus was on the sur­round­ing ex­ten­sive wood­land in the valley of the River Nith. Open­ing today for 2017, the es­tate has laid out a se­ries of way­marked walks and by com­bin­ing two of these we got a sat­is­fy­ing and var­ied walk, tak­ing in four lochs and a stun­ning view­point. The way­mark­ing is very good and we only found one point where we needed to be a bit care­ful.

All the walks set off from the cas­tle car park where there is a large in­for­ma­tion board and map, and all head di­rectly into the wood­land through a gate. We started by fol­low­ing the red route (called the En­chanted For­est), adding a very short di­ver­sion to Beech Loch, the first of the four. Soon we were pass­ing Cold­stream Loch, which is stocked with brown and rain­bow trout. There’s a good chance you’ll see the fish sur­fac­ing as they try to catch in­sects hov­er­ing above the wa­ter.

There is also a com­ple­men­tary net­work of moun­tain bike routes, with warn­ing signs where these cross the walk routes. For a short time af­ter Cold­stream Loch we shared the path with cy­clists. The route led us down to the Mon­tagu Bridge, one of a num­ber of fine old stone bridges in the woods. A lit­tle care is needed here. Cross the bridge then go down the steps with the burn on your right. There didn’t seem to be a way­mark here but we picked it up at the next track cross­ing. Af­ter this we were fol­low­ing the green route, the long­est of the four.

It led us past Druid Loch then over the Marr Burn be­fore a wind­ing path led up to the small em­i­nence called Mount Mal­loch, which of­fers a glo­ri­ous view of the cas­tle, with its pep­per­pot tur­rets, framed by woods and with the ranks of rolling hills as a back­drop. Def­i­nitely a place to linger.

A broad track led down to Starn Loch, the last of the four, and also fished. In a field to its east is a chim­ney, which looks a bit odd here stand­ing on its own. It was in fact built as part of a scheme to take smoke from the glasshouse fires in the Low Gar­dens away so that the out­look from the cas­tle was not ob­scured.

The path en­ters Ne­w­house Plan­ta­tion, and again a lit­tle care is needed to fol­low it round and down to the left to cross a track and reach Starn Cleuch, a pretty lit­tle gorge where the path, a favourite walk in Vic­to­rian times, has been re­built for us to en­joy today. Shortly af­ter this the blue route is re­joined and the two run to­gether through the cas­tle grounds back to the start.

The cas­tle it­self is of course well worth a visit but so are its gar­dens, for which a sep­a­rate il­lus­trated leaflet is avail­able. At one time there were 30 gar­den­ers em­ployed by the es­tate. Today there are just four but they still do a won­der­ful job. As well as tra­di­tional gar­dens of roses and other flow­ers, more mod­ern at­trac­tions in­clude an ex­cel­lent ad­ven­ture play­ground and a re­cent ad­di­tion in the form of the Leap­ing Arch, com­mis­sioned by the cur­rent Duke in 2009 from the renowned sculp­tor Andy Goldswor­thy. Built from lo­cal sand­stone, it rep­re­sents a salmon leap­ing up­stream to its spawn­ing ground.

Route: Start and fin­ish at Drum­lan­rig Cas­tle car park (GR: NX852994). From the car park fol­low the way­marks into the wood. In 300m go right (red ar­row). Join a track. Where red ar­rows go left walk ahead for 50m to see Beech Loch then re­turn and fol­low red ar­rows past Cold­stream Loch, on to a track then loop left and along a shelf. At Mon­tagu Bridge cross and go down steps on the left-hand side of the burn. At the next track go ahead, now fol­low­ing blue and green ar­rows. Pass Druid Loch, cross the road and cross Marr Burn. At junc­tion where blue route goes left go right with green route and climb on wind­ing path to view­point. Drop down to wide track and fol­low to Starn Loch. Swing back left (still green ar­rows) and at junc­tion take path ahead into wood. Loop left down slope, cross track and fol­low path to Starn Burn. Do not cross but fol­low path down be­side burn. Cross track and pick up blue route. Cross foot­bridge and swing left. Fol­low ar­rows back to start.

Drum­lan­rig Cas­tle and es­tate oc­cupy a mag­nif­i­cent lo­ca­tion in Dum­fries and Gal­loway in which to take a stroll on way­marked paths

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