This first section of the Southern Upland Way is likely to take most people 2 to 3 days to complete. There is a good bothy about halfway at Laggangarn (where you can also camp), but otherwise no accommodation, shops or pubs once you’ve left the Stranraer area. Bargrennan has a hotel/restaurant.
Getting to Portpatrick
I booked ahead and picked up a £5 advance ticket with Scotrail from Glasgow to Stranraer arriving at 10.50am. The station at Stranraer is located half a mile out into Loch Ryan as it once served the Stena ferry terminal which has now been demolished and the service moved up to Cairnryan. We missed the connecting bus to Portpatrick so decided to walk the six miles or so taking the quieter road through Knockglass, crossing over the A77 and through the farm at Lagganmore to pick up the old railway line into Portpatrick past Dunskey Castle.
I wet my boots in the harbour whilst Inca chased stones in the sea someone was throwing her and we started on the Southern Upland Way proper around 3pm. From Portpatrick you follow a cliff top path out to the lighthouse at Killantringan dropping into a couple of bays along the way. If you are starting late in the day then there are a number of stunning spots to camp out for the night.
At Killantringan you follow local roads up into the hills towards Broad Moor. The road goes through fields with cows and calves at Killantringan which are clearly used to people walking past. The path enters fields to gain Mulloch Hill before dropping into very wet and boggy ground towards Knockquhassan where made camp for the night.
A heavy mist came down overnight making almost everything damp and stayed until mid morning. Making an early start we followed the way through country lanes, through the pretty Culhorn Estate arriving at Castle Kennedy mid morning. The Southern Upland Way is routed through the Castle Kennedy estate making a pleasant meal stop and then climbs through Chlenry Farm up to Glenwhan Hill. It wends its way across Glenwhan Moor before coming into woodland at Craig Fell and dropping down to the Water of Luce.
A wooden suspension bridge crosses over the Water of Luce at Cruise Farm and the way then climbs steeply up towards Kilhern Moss and farm. The path across the Moss was really boggy and the going very slow. At the derelict farm buildings the path turns left and drops down to the minor road at Knockcraven which leads up to Balmurrie Farm.
At Balmurrie we continued through the farmyard and out to cross the moor at Kilmacfazdean. There were several inviting grassy pitches so we made camp for the night here.
The next morning we headed across the rest of the moor and into the forest at Muirglass. There was a combination of forest operations and wind farm development that made the area somewhat of a construction site. Unfortunately heavy plant had been driven along the path at several places making the going difficult.
At Laggangarn we came across the Beehive Bothy. It was in good shape, tidy and it looked as if we were only the second visitors this year. The land about is good for camping but being lunchtime we pushed on through the forest up to Craig Airie Fell where there are great views across to Loch Dee and the Galloway Forest.
The going is good from here right until you reach the tiny hamlet of Knowe. From Knowe the way climbs through a forested area towards Glenruther and Ochiltree Hill. There are fabulous views from Ochiltree over Loch Ochiltree and would make a good spot for the night. The final descent towards Bargrennan is through fields that are used by cattle and had been ruined by them with the recent wet weather. The herd was skittish and once they saw us ran counter intuitively to safety right in front of myself and the dog. It was a good thing we waited for them to settle else we would have been right in their line of flight. Crossing over the road it’s a short walk through fields and down to Bargrennan.
There is an occasional bus service from Bargrennan to Barrhill and Girvan railway stations. Apart from the restaurant there is no shop to resupply so if wild camping then you need food to last you until you reach St Johns Town of Dalry – at least another two days away.