Galloway Ring of Fire

The first few months of 2021 were spent, as I recall, either in the kitchen cooking recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook, running along the South Ayrshire coast or observing online Maths lessons during the second placement of my PGDE. I remember being frustrated at the amount of spare time I had to do things but at the limited possibility of using it because of lockdown.

With the prospect of Highland adventures off the cards, and the prolonged wrist problem keeping me off the water (either in the kayak or with the kite), I set my sights on my local ’round’ – a big run that would require excellent fitness and careful preparation.

I was already conversant with the notion of a ’round’, having completed the Charlie Ramsay Round in 2019 and the Dartmoor Round in 2020. The Galloway Ring of Fire (so called because of the granite rock that makes up these hills) was not quite on the same scale but still involved 45 miles and 4000 metres of elevation change over difficult terrain.

GPS Track from the round.

The outing leant itself well to public transport usage, and so on Saturday 10th April I boarded the Stranraer train at Prestwick with the mountain bike and a big rucksack full of kit. An hour later I disembarked at Barrhill, and cycled 15 miles into the Galloway Forest Park, eventually reaching the road end at the car park for the Merrick, the highest hill in the area.

I was to camp here for the night to allow me an early start the next morning. Unfortunately the gas canister I had packed had almost nothing left, but I accosted a pair who were staying overnight in their campervan and joined them by their fire to warm up the evening meal. It was great to chat to some strangers after spending so many months with the same people!

Gradient Profile

I was up before dawn on Sunday, it was bitterly cold but crisp and calm – better conditions could not have been hoped for. The boggier ground lower down was frozen, making passage through the boggy tussocks much easier and allowing me to keep my feet dry.

I made good headway and in spite of the odd navigational issue and failure to stay on the half hour eating schedule, I completed the circuit in just under 14 hours, just before it got dark. I was happy to have the tent pitched and ready to roll into once I finished!

The next morning was a warm and sunny one, and I contentedly munched on a hearty breakfast as the sun streamed in through the tent. With the mission complete, I retraced my route on the bike to Barrhill and was back home by mid-afternoon. A fantastic outing and a great way to put a mark on the blank expanse of time that was lockdown in 2021!

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