DOON VALLEY MUSEUM, CATHCARTSON
This museum is housed in a neat row of eighteenth century cottages
beside the Muck Burn in Dalmellington. Recent renovation of the
properties has been well done, but inside the museum somehow fails to
deliver. It's difficult to say why, but it feels a bit clinical, and
there appears to be too much
blank vacant space. I'm sure they could get a few more artefacts in
there, maybe scatter some dust or dirt around, and bring the rooms to life. There are, of course, wall-panels
telling you about the town's history and that of the Dalmellington Iron
Works, but for me the whole shebang was lacking something.
You may be able to get a small booklet in Dalmellington's museum
titled, 'Dalmellington Town Trail.' It is a little out of date, and if
there was but one thing that I would say to those who run the museum it
would be to reprint the updated trail on a leaflet. With the information
at hand, you can wander around the town's streets and learn about the
history of the many inns, or walk to the top of the ancient 11th century
motte and marvel at the view.
LITTLE WALKS AND BIG WALKS
Dalmellington's one, and perhaps only, redeeming feature is the
countryside in which the town sits. It is some of the best and most
beautiful countryside to be found anywhere in Scotland. If you have a
map (Ordnance Survey Landranger 77 'Dalmellington To New Galloway',
1:50000 or about an inch-and-a-quarter to a mile) you will see countless
little dotted tracks and paths criss-crossing over the land. And not far
to the south are the rolling Borders hills and mountains and scenes that
will reduce you to tears of wonder and happiness.
There are any number of walks near Dalmellington. There's one that leads
you beyond the Craigmark County Inn up onto the hills overlooking the
Doon Valley, and down eventually into Waterside. Or there are delightful
forest treks leading from Bellsbank, south of Dalmellington, towards
Loch Doon. As with all walks in any area that you are unfamiliar with,
you should have your map and a compass (and you should know how to use
them!), and you should have sensible clothing and footwear and perhaps
even tell someone where you are going for the day. But most of all, you
should enjoy the great outdoors and all that it has to offer. In the
case of Dalmellington, what it offers is out of this world.
HERE FOR A SPECIAL PAGE WITH AN INTERACTIVE MAP OF THE AREA.]
USING YOUR MAP - A SMALL LECTURE
I suppose many folk who are unfamiliar with maps could be put off by
that initial visual complexity of what is basically a sheet of paper
festooned with lines and colours. This, I can understand. And so, with
that in mind, I thought I'd impart some of my knowledge in the hope that
you will get familiar with and grow to love your map, as having one
opens up a whole new world that you probably didn't know existed.
So, hopefully you've got your Sheet 77 map, as detailed above in the
'Little Walks and Big Walks' section. Okay?
Right, open out your map on the floor or a table. Big, huh? You'll be
delighted to know that you are not expected to wander through the
countryside with it opened up like this. Folding is permitted. Practise
folding it so that it becomes the same size as it originally was when
you bought it, although with the bit you are interested in at the top
and always in view. This skill may take several years to master.
Alternatively, the day before each hike, take it back to the shop and
ask them to fold it as instructed. If they refuse, lay your head on the
shop counter and weep.
And so, thus adept at map folding, you may open it all out and look down
upon the intriguing web. You see all those green bits? Well, that's
forest, and if you look real close you may even see little trees. If you
look even closer you may see pixies.
The areas that are not green may look at first glance like a confused
nightmare of lines. Many of these areas are white with many wavy brown
lines. These are an indication of steepness of the ground, the closer
the brown lines are the steeper the ground. Amongst these brown contour
lines you may even see numbers. This is the height, in metres.
There are many other lines. Most of the coloured thick ones are roads,
coming in red or orange or yellow. Motorways are blue, although there
are thankfully no motorways in the sheet 77 area. Yet.
Other lighter blue areas are generally water. You may see large blue
lochs or long winding rivers and streams. If you go for a swim and find
yourself thrashing around on a lump of black tarmac with vehicles
roaring past at great speed, you'll know you've mixed up your motorways
and your rivers.
You may see other very thin black lines, which can be overhead power
lines or, if dotted, tracks and paths, or even boundaries.
Now, spend a while reading through the legend on your map, and you'll
see exactly what all these things are.
Right, now that we're all experts, let's look at Dalmellington. You'll
see it near the top left of the map, above, or north of, the big blue
splodge that is Loch Doon. See it?
Now, the important thing about map reading is to have a little bit of
common sense. And here's why. During my day in Dalmellington I decided
to walk through woodland in Bellsbank Plantation towards Loch Doon. The
problem was that as soon as I stepped off the bus in Bellsbank, I was
not entirely sure where I was. I knew roughly where I was, as I'd
followed the route the bus took with a finger on my map, but I was
unsure which little road in the housing scheme I was on. And this is
where common sense comes into play.
The track I intended to follow initially runs quite close to the part of
the River Doon that links Bogton Loch with Loch Doon. See it? It
therefore stood to reason that if I headed south-west (what - you mean
you don't have a compass - then go out right now and buy one... sheesht!),
making sure not to go uphill, I would come to the track before I came to
the river, as I did.
To be honest, once you start to tramp around the great outdoors, map at
hand, you start to get an instinctive feel for things and find your body
homing in on the right location. Some times.
At other times you think you're following a particular path, then all of
a sudden you get a horrible panicky feeling and realise you are miles
from where you should be and probably on the wrong path. This can happen
a lot in woodland. Indeed, it happened on a few occasions during my day
here; branches in the path that you wonder if you should follow but
you're not sure where the branch is on your map. You will even find
paths that are not on your map. How old is your map? Look at the date in
the bottom left-hand corner. It could be ten years out of date and some
goblins might have built a few new paths in the intervening years.
But, again, that's where common sense comes into it. Always keep your
eyes peeled for recognisable features that are likely to be on your map,
like tiny bridges over rivers. If you look at the river south of Bogton
Loch you will see maybe three bridges over the river between there and
Loch Doon. Some might be overgrown and hard to see, but they will still
be bridges. Other features to watch out for could be overhead power
cables, buildings, roads, small lochs, etc, etc.
At least that's the theory, according to The Soupsayer. The most
important thing is that you stay safe. Try to become gradually familiar
with how to use your map. Don't take too many initial risks.
Some final words of advice... always take a few moments out from your
wander to hug a tree. Don't swim on motorways, and don't eat worms.