Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Walking from the 'Muckle Toon'

Last week I spent a sunny afternoon in the hills of south-west Scotland around Langholm prior to an evening reading at the lovely, recently refurbished, Gilnockie Hall. It's a place with an interesting writing heritage, being the birthplace and burial ground of poet Hugh MacDiarmid. I worked in schools in this area during 2005-6, and discovered a new generation of enthusiastic writers with powerful imagingations, as can be seen from the 'Our Island' story I wrote with Glenzier Primary pupils.
I joined a local walking group to head south over the hills below Whita Quarry and into the lower reaches of Tarras Water. Then we doubled back to cross back to the 'Muckle Toon' along the old railway line. Features of the walk included a dramatic rescue of stranded tadpoles from a drying puddle (a crisp packet the vital conveyance), sights including a former distillery, seams of coal, and the 'Marl Well', a petrifying spring in a hillside. Best of all, was the subversive temptation of what must be the most extreme bungee jump in the world (I didn't dare).
When working in the area I discovered, with the help of some useful signing and leaflets, some wonderful and varied walks in this area. This makes the annual Langholm Walking Festival a big draw to the area, coming up shortly, in early June. If you venture there, I can highly recommend the Border Guest House for a friendly welcome and the best scrambled eggs in Scotland.

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