Friday, 14 December 2012
Galloway Forest Park.White Laggan.Millfore.
The view above was taken on the track to the bothy looking towards the Silver flow and Craignaw.
Alex suggested taking the bikes and cycling in from Clatteringshaws Loch so this is what we did.
In the bothy we met Jordan and Kate, a young couple from Manchester who were exploring the district. This couple we shared the bothy with and one other girl we met on the hill were the only people we spotted in the area over two days. Not bad. Must have been a mad rush towards the area on those two days.
In ancient times this area had a much bigger population when it was even wilder and more remote than it is today. No land rover tracks and few paths ran across it when the tribes of Galloway occupied it and they had a deserved reputation for being even fiercer fighters than the highland clans. I tried to find a good link to this but couldn't find one that gave all the information needed in one article so here's my half remembered version instead.
They demanded and received the dubious right to be first into battle during every war fought and old accounts tell of near naked Galwegians running into battle with a collection of arrows sticking from their torsos yet still actively hacking arms, heads, and legs off the enemy until they eventually succumbed to blood loss. The word berserker comes to mind. The King of Galloway (Fergus if I remember it correctly) was also reputed to have once chewed the nose off a messenger sent by the King of Norway who demanded that Galloway fall under his control or he would send a thousand long ships to decimate the area. The unlucky emissary, minus his nose, was sent back with the message that it would be just as easy for Galloway to muster a thousand ships then raid Norway. In other words bring it on big man. The King of Norway declined as he quite liked his subjects without teeth marks and missing facial parts. The Romans ,after a few costly skirmishes, simply ringed it off then by passed the region as they pressed further north, deciding it wasn't worth the effort trying to subdue such an unruly population with such an unproductive upland as the prize.
This long lasting reputation over the centuries may have given rise to the story of Sawney Bean ( which simply translates as Alexander the killer) and his family who reputedly lived in a cave under Bennane head and supposedly killed and ate hundreds of travellers before the males were executed and the women and children burned alive. There is no record that this family ever existed however though several isolated tales of starvation and cannibalism around this region by unfortunate individuals in the distant past are probably nearer the truth .If you were faced with a life or death choice in the middle ages its not inconceivable you would be tempted. But that is more to do with desperation than any wilful act.
There is a legend of a hairy tree however that was planted in Girvan by Sawney bean's eldest daughter who escaped the fate of her family. Many years later the townspeople discovered who she was and hanged her from her own tree bringing an end to her deception. This tree has not been found either but the legend persists as several attempts have been made locally to find it.
We also met a girl up here who knew a friend of ours and worked in the same office in Inverness as he did. Hi BD. Its a small world in outdoor circles. Three random folk in a vast area and one of them knows one of our friends.
Alex went on to climb Curleywee but as it was a sizable descent then re-ascent up this I only did the first bit, watched him slogging upwards then went down to the bothy to pack up and read my paper in front of the fire. So glad I'm no longer a bagger! Happy days.
'Its not intentional.' I replied. 'Its just anytime I turn round on a hill you're always walking up it.'
'Don't you dare post that photo of me walking. Take one of me cycling up it instead.'
Which reminds me of a true Gordon Strachan quote when he was asked by a sports reporter if he had time for a quick word after a match in which his players had failed to shine presumably.
'Yeah. Velocity.' He replied, quickly shooting out the door to his car. Now that's style!