After a cracking sunny morning on Cairn Table we headed for the small town of Douglas where,according to the map,there was a large estate with three small lochs/ponds nestled in landscaped grounds.This looked a promising oasis and when Alex mentioned it contained the wonderful sounding Castle Dangerous I had to see that. This was all a new area for me.A surprising change.
Tundra like would be the best description of the Douglas water valley this castle resided in.Capability Brown style open meadow and parkland was the aim here but it lacked the usual lush quality given its bleak moorland surroundings. It did have an attractive wide scale look about it though and would be a pleasant place in summer.
Several understated but atmospheric memorials dotted the landscape.Near the entrance the Polish memorial garden had three separate monuments which were now together crafted by Polish soldiers stationed in the town during the war who had formed links with the local community.
Castle Dangerous however did not look remotely threatening being one lone tower from the 17Th century version of the castle.Sir Walter Scott called it that in one of his novels knowing the bloody history of the area.Castle Douglas is the proper name and the earlier castle would indeed have been very dangerous as it was the place where the infamous "Douglas larder" incident occurred.
During the Wars of Independence Sir James Douglas was the close companion of Robert the Bruce.His family stronghold was taken,Garrisoned by English soldiers.Being somewhat displeased by this turn of events he stormed the castle during Palm Sunday when mass was being held in the chapel killing everyone ,tossing them in the cellar then burned his home to the ground as a warning not to mess with the Black Douglas.
His loyal support of the Bruce led the family from modest beginnings over a few generations to become the most powerful family in Southern Scotland.In time this was perceived as a threat by the monarchy who ,in time honored tradition,stomped them down again taking away most of the lands, deeds and titles given earlier.
Same thing happened to the Knights Templar and many others who made the kings of the day twitchy with their influence, power and strength of arms. Acquiring power and the keeping of it afterwards was always a hard balancing act in those days.
There was also a sloping square of railings containing the Cameronian Cairn which marks the spot where the Cameronian Scottish Rifles were raised in 1689 and then disbanded on orders of the goverment in 1968.Maybe they made them a bit twitchy too during a time of relative peace.
Anyway enough of history.Time for bikes and a Bing.
I`d always fancied going to Coalburn. You can see its pointy little bing coming up the motorway from the south.No time like the present.We parked and strolled up the incline on a beautiful sunny evening,Alex a bit concerned by a large group of trail bikers zooming around the surrounding network of tracks and gravel jumps below.
I was secretly hoping they`d pay us a visit at the top and sure enough three or four of them came roaring up the slope to check us out and show off their hard won skills on a bike.
It was a fantastic view up here over the flat badlands of the Broken Cross muir area towards a distant Tinto.
Coalburn,an ex mining town, had a more looked after feel about it than a lot similar sized towns in isolated positions and still looked to have a good sense of community to the casual eye.
It had rich coal seams but the last deep mine closed in 1968.Nearby Dalquhandy reputedly had the largest open cast operation in Western Europe.
It still has a real wild west feel about it and it certainly has bags of character.An interesting day out.