Venture to the Great Water of Fleet Viaduct – Dumfries and Galloway

Leader Una reports -

Walking in Scotland is different. We do have the right to roam, but there is not a dense network of footpaths, and the terrain can be testing – boggy and uneven, with tufty grass and gorse. As a gentle introduction to this area, I devised a route which used some footpaths, had minimal roaming through open countryside, and so, by necessity, some miles on minor roads.

Six members of the Cumbrian LDWA joined me at Gatehouse of Fleet car park, and we set off into the Boreland Hills as the clouds were clearing. Having made a slight detour to Rutherford's monument to catch the view across the Fleet estuary, we reached Anwoth where much of the original Wicker Man was filmed. Today the only wild dancing was done by a sprightly red squirrel. Our route followed a muddy track and open countryside to Ordknockenoch Loch. The ground was surprisingly firm, enabling good progress, and the dry stone wall, inconveniently reconstructed since the original recce, proved to be surmountable. After coffee, we followed a track northwards, and then wound our way by road to Gatehouse of Fleet station. From here, the old railway line took us to our target.

The Big Water of Fleet viaduct is an imposing 300 yard long railway bridge, opened in 1861, and “famous” for featuring in Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of the Thirty Nine Steps. None of us were inclined to do any dramatic re-enactments, so we contented ourselves with lunch on the nearby picnic tables, to the plaintive cry of an early cuckoo.

After a brief stop at the Cairnsmore visitor centre, we made our way back to the station, and retraced our pre-lunch steps by road for about a mile. We continued on a pleasant footpath by the river Fleet, nimbly sidling past the three bulls guarding the entrance. A further short stint on the road and over the Fleet took us to Carstramont Woods, which in May is renowned for its abundance of bluebells. Unfortunately this was April, but a few brave bluebells obliged. A final push by road and across several fields, and we completed twenty miles – earning our tea and cakes at the old mill.

Thanks to my fellow walkers for making the journey north.


These photos were supplied by Andy showing some railway history of the area.

The rusty track indicates the line is not in use and the old carriage with the Clints of Dromore in the background was once used as a church.