Distance: 40.1 miles (64.5km) Ascent/Descent: 750m/700m
Start/Finish: Bargrennan to Portpatrick
Terrain: 40% gravel/surfaced road, 35% boggy track/trail, 25% easy trail
Route: Route Map | Garmin Course [Coming soon]
Southern Upland Way Stages: Prev
There's quite a lot of road walking/running on this section, but there's also a lot of bog to make up for it. In spite of the area being heavily forested, I was pleasantly surprised how open the route was. The first 20 miles does feel very remote, even when "on-road". Towards the end its very different - farmland and country lanes. The best is left to last though - 2 miles of coastal path between the lighthouse and Portpatrick are possibly the best 2 miles of the entire way (in my opinion at least)!
We stayed the Friday night in Newton Stewart, and in the morning I could tell my dad was excited for me as we drove the 8 miles North to where the Southern Upland Way crosses the A714, near Bargrennan. The weather added to the excitement - it was the kind of weather you dream up when planning these crazy things. Pale blue sky, crisp still air, wisps of mist above the ground vegetation that was white with frost. Midgies wouldn't have a chance!
Was a bit surprised when a car came along - I'd catch up with the occupants later as they were walking along the Southern Upland Way to check out the "Wells of the Rees". The road downgraded into forest track for a few miles. At one point I stopped, unplugged the music and indulged in a few moments of absolute peace and quiet. Even the gentle North West breeze didn't penetrate the trees around me. A couple of miles later, back in open terrain, thistle posts lead me off the gravel and up a grassy/muddy path to ascend Craig Airlie Fell. The views remained open all the way to the top, and although I wasn't moving forward very quickly I certainly felt I was climbing well, not wanting to walk but not wanting to burn myself up either. I knew from recent training that my fitness and endurance was back to how I like it, and it was moments like these which made it all worth while.
I was really enjoying this run in spite of the difficulty, and the miles had flown by. I wasn't counting them - but I did know that once I had "escaped" the forest and descended the moors down to a road by the river, I'd be approaching halfway, and my second drop bag of the day.
I was aware that there'd be a final climb before I got to see the coast (and hopefully Ireland beyond!). As I've commented before, there always is a "final climb" on any section of the way. To be honest, this one did start to get to me, not because of the gradient, but because of the subject of one of those "bog photos" above. The worst one. The one with my hand and leg-prints clearly shown. Hardcore cross-country training!
Portpatrick became visible around the corner, and lived up to the expectation of being a great setting for a finish.
My dad and I had a fun evening in "The Crown" with some fellow runners who were down for today's Stranraer 10k. Yes I had plenty to drink. As promised.
The next morning, on the start of the long drive back home, we both commented on how it seemed a shame it was over. Obviously it wasn't all about the running - it was the fact that these weekends on the Southern Upland Way had forced us to explore parts of Scotland neither of us had really visited before, and stay in towns like Newton Stewart, Dalry, Moffat and of course Portpatrick. We made a point of making the car journey as much a part of the weekend as the running, deliberately taking different routes home.
So, I guess we'll just have to find another project.
Southern Upland Way Stages: Prev