I'd been to Glentirrow and thence to cairns north of New Luce on the Barrhill road, the sun was sinking.. time for this today too? Not really, but couldn't resist, despite gammy leg. The Caves had been on my hitlist when planning my holiday, and the photos had sealed it - this place was a must see. Parking at the side of the minor road where the Southern Upland Way crosses, then up the track to the gate with side gate for walkers, and up the slope alongside the plantation. The Way here is undefined, choose any rut from several. Another gate came into view. Beyond, a hairy silhouette with big horns. Gawd, not a g a i n. A highland cow, calf alongside. Since there was a gate between I approached. A motley collection of other cattle were there too. All turned and ambled off. Should I continue or head back? The former. The more distinct track was boggy in places. The trees were behind me, a stone wall to my left. At the top of the rise was another gateway which had no gate. The left hand gatepost is an old railway sleeper. Had I looked to my left there I would have seen the site, but I kept my eyes front as more cattle came into sight. Warily I continued down the track, crossed over a stream and then bore sharp left on another track, up and over a rise. The cattle were a few hundred yards away and stayed put. Like Glentirrow, in 2015 there's no signs to your destination. Beyond a wire fence and gate I saw a rectangular fenced off area, and thought the Caves were in it. No. The foundations of a building, covered in black plastic. Where were they? The sun was setting and the light was going. I looked to my left and saw a capstone's silhouette on a rise about two hundred yards away. Phew, just in time. I tried to get to them, and found that the ground between contained very deep, hidden drainage channels. Be warned. Really. I picked my way across, and made it. It was worth it. A great place. If only I could have stayed longer. The sun was hitting the horizon. I stood a minute or two, circled, took some pics then headed for the wire fence, thinking, rightly, that the drainage channels would cease before it. The fence was followed back to the gate by the rectangular fenced area. Soggy footwear was a better price to pay than a fall in one of those drainage channels. It was then that a bull started roaring. F**k. I had to go in that direction to get back to the Way. I kept a low profile as I returned to the top of the rise. Which of those dark lumps beyond was the bull? A second then roared somewhere in the distance in response to the first. Back on the track I walked as quick as I could, looking behind, listening for footfalls. None. Onward, back to the 'sleeper' gateway, paused. The Caves appeared ghostly against the vegetation surrounding them. I resolved to return, said farewell, returned to the other gate. No highland cattle. Relief. It was very nearly dark. The plantation was now a roost to inumerable crows and jackdaws, and I thought of recording their cacophany as a new ringtone for my phone. No time. Onward... I could scarcely see where I was going, but knew at the bottom of the slope was the final gate. I was glad to make out its shape, and knew that a little way down the stone track beyond was my car. Boy, was I relieved to sit inside it again. Finding that the Southern Upland Way has bulls on it and no warning signs is something future visitors should note. Back to lovely New Luce. It has a fine pub, the Kenmuir Arms. Good Beer Guided. Driving, I couldn't drink, despite temptation. Back past Glentirrow's stones to beyond Leswalt on the North Rhins, my tent and chicken curry under the stars. Memo to self and others: Friday night at the Kenmuir is haddock and chip night. They smelt good. Next time...
Phew, what a full-on beauty to end the day with. Bang on!
Like nearby Cairn na Gath, this site is also accessed via the Southern Upland Way, a steep, waymarked track climbing away from the minor New Luce road near a burnt mound. The route contours around to the right of a farm, beside a forestry line, before rejoining the track and crossing heavily 'hoof marked' ground to a sign indicating the monument to the left.
A phalanx of wind turbines stand astride the skyline as I complete the final approach, the sloping, slatted fenceline curiously having no stile.
Once across, I begin to count the chambers within the long cairn... one at the southern apex; a lateral within the left hand (western) flank; at least one further lateral to the east (possibly two?); and, last but most definately not least, a fine, northern chamber bearing capstone. Not bad, then.
As I venture inside the latter, a small vole pops up and looks me up and down before scurrying off, as if to say 'Oi, I don't want the likes of you in my house thank you very much'. That may well be, but I'm afraid the creature has no choice in this instance since this is an exquisite little chamber. The light of this fine evening is equally exquisite, the site a perfect hang. I finally leave gone nine to sleep where I'm parked.... I've been in worse places.
An entry from Ancient Stones, an online database that covers most of the standing stones, stone circles and other stones found in South East Scotland. Each entry includes details, directions, photograph, folklore, parking and field notes on each location.