Gretna to Annan – 9.2 miles (642 total)
We faced yet more walking on road today because there are very few paths of any use to me around the Solway Firth. In fact most of my planned route from Carlisle to the start of the West Highland Way, at Milngavie (pronounced ‘MullGuy’), just north of Glasgow, is on road and cycle paths. Gretna was a pleasant stop. It has a number of hotels and is a well-established tourist stopover on the Scottish side of the border.
Peter will be walking with me for 3 more days before I have to return him to his wife, Colette, and young son, James. Today was a short, uncomplicated walk to Annan, which will hopefully set us up for 2 longer days ahead. The sky was blue and the forecast fine as we made our way past the local football stadium to then head west for the remainder of our walk. As we turned into our direction of travel a strong, cold, unrelenting, westerly wind hit us face on. We walked along Dominion Road, then Old Graitney Road to reach the B721, which took us all the way to Eastriggs.
As we approached Eastriggs we spotted a modern museum, called The Devil’s Porridge Museum. Having time on our hands we decided to investigate while treating ourselves to a coffee. What followed was an interesting half hour of conversation with Robin, one of the curators. Apparently, during the first world war, Eastriggs was chosen as the location for a massive explosives factory. Thousands of women worked there mixing ‘guncotton’ which contained, among other things, nitric acid. The women would mix this concoction by hand – no health and safety, then, in 1916.
They were housed in units and buildings nearby which eventually evolved into the community that is now Eastriggs. The streets were named after places in the British Commonwealth. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, visited the factory as a war correspondent, famously referring to the manufactured end-product as ‘ The Devil’s Porridge ’. We could have talked to Robin all day but felt it was time to continue our walk, taking lots of photos as we walked through the town.
After Eastriggs we reached Dornock where we pushed on, following NCR7 through a colourful rural backdrop of bluebells, dandelions, cherry blossom trees and lush vegetation. The smell of wild garlic added to the experience. Around 1.30pm we finished a relaxing walk with a leisurely stroll into Annan in bright sunshine.
Tomorrow’s long walk to Dumfries will require an earlier start plus we’ll have little time for sightseeing.