12 years to Criffel

….ever since we moved to Cumbria in fact. Although it is no distance as the crow flies, about 12 miles, without wings (or a boat) it is a relatively long trip. One has to go inland beyond Carlisle, then north to cross the Solway Firth at the first available bridge (since the more local one was taken out by an ice berg in c.1938), and then continue to Dumfries to cross the river Nith, before turning south to arrive a few miles due north of where you started.

Unfortunately we managed to choose the one recent day when the Criffel was swathed in cloud. As we approached it began to rain quite heavily so we started the expedition in the teashop at New Abbey – the very same tea shop that featured in an expedition to Sweetheart Abbey in August last year. Again we did not actually have cake so there is no cake photo. 🙁

It was still raining as we left but a mile or so away in the car park this stopped, so off we went. I had been planning a bit of an expedition but then I discovered it is only a 5 km walk from the car park to the summit, albeit a steep 500m ascent within that distance. It’s possible to do a ridge walk but the weather really wasn’t right for that so we didn’t bother. I actually used my compass on the summit but we did get a few brief views.

Sarah gets a glimpse of the Nith estuary on the way down
Anna takes a bearing at the summit cairn

There was time to pay a visit to another place that has been on my tick list for ages: Caerlaverock Castle. It is only across the Nith from Criffel but you have to drive north up the true right bank, cross again at Dumfries, and drive south along the other bank. We stopped on the way for a cuppa at a rather nice new tea shop funded by Euro-money, with glass walls giving a great view across the smooth river. A closer look disclosed that the current was actually very strong; it would have been a mistake to fall in.

Looking west across the river Nith

I forgot to take a cake photo, sorry.

Caerlaverock Castle was worth the journey, it’s very attractive and interesting. (There is also a tea shop but we did not need more cake at that point.)

Here was the scene of an important siege in 1300 when the Hammer of the Scots, Edward I, subdued the fortress in 2 days. This is known about in great detail because of the survival of a contemporary manuscript. (Seven years later Edward died on the Solway Plain, a few miles from where we live and there is a monument to this event on the marshes.) Another important siege took place in the Civil War – after which the castle’s defences were destroyed for ever.

The castle is also very unusual in being triangular. Although I could not get a photo to show that – Terry and his microlight would have been useful – there is a picture of the castle here…

So: poor weather but a nice day out. And it made a change to be walking rather than running up a hill!

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