This morning in Dumfries I was told to “Go doon the Vennel”. If I hadn’t been asking for directions, I’d have been sure it was a special insult reserved for Sasanach (A Scottish term for “Englishman” with mildly derogatory undertones) backpackers.
My ultralight backpack is not designed for the loads I need to carry to tackle this section: winter camping gear plus four days of food so my back and shoulders ache after just a few hours. I’m not concerned though as I’m utterly engrossed by saturated colours of the wild winter landscape and see my first red squirrel and have regular encounters with groups of Roe deer.
At Glen Isle everything is covered in thick moss, the standing trees, the dead trees and the path itself. The moss, and my beard, drips from the fine mist densely hanging in the air.
Near Orchardton Tower I meet a tweed-clad game keeper doing stretching exercises against a gate. “It’s important to keep moving at my age” he tells me. On enquiring where I’ve come from, he tells me he used to camp at White Port beach as a boy,
On approaching Orchardton Tower I assumed it would be closed, being remote and off-season, but the door was open, so I could ascend the damp five hundred-year-old spiral staircase to view the silent landscape.