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