DAY 24: Strathaven to Coalburn – 12.50 miles
After a decent nights sleep I was looking forward to a good breakfast. My first and sometimes only main meal of the day usually consists of cereal and/or porridge with fruit and yoghurt, plus a cooked breakfast of minimum egg, sausage, beans and few rounds of toast. This morning was no exception. After my extra long day yesterday I was pleased that I only had 12 miles to cover today. And today would mostly be about wind farms… It would seem north of Fort William and south of Glasgow you are never far from these huge white silent turbines, and today not only was the horizon full of them, but I managed to get close up to them as well. I find them a little hypnotic and peaceful, so together with the quiet country lanes and pretty farmland, I think this turned out to be one of my most relaxing days yet. And having tonight already pre-booked definitely helped with that.
For the third time this trip (the others being around Thurso and south of Fort William) my upcoming path wasn’t obvious, so a decent amount of forethought and research was required. Unlike road trips, you can’t just throw caution to the wind and take a route as the mood takes you. Each and every step is felt, so daily distances have to be the main consideration; back tracking is not an option. With the weather still not good enough to bivi-camp I also have to make sure there is somewhere to sleep at the end of each hard day… So last night I summoned up all the brain power I had left and spent a few hours trying to work out which way to head to the English border.
With about three main options and a couple of extra variations below that, it was providing difficult to nail down the most suitable. Often what looks like the most direct route, has one piece of through road missing and/or a big chunk where I cannot find cheap accommodation. And ultimately the further west I drifted, the more I would have to then walk east to cross the border at Gretna. Flicking between Google maps, Ordance Survey Maps, Bookings.com, Airbnb, Hostel World and Scottish campsites, I eventually decided on Strathaven-Coalburn-Abington-Moffat-Lockerbie-Gretna. All a good distance from one another, linked by a quiet B-road and each with at least one decent accommodation option. For the first time this whole trip I had my next week all figured out, and it felt good knowing I didn’t have to think about it again for a while.
So I arrived in the tiny village of Coalburn mid-afternoon and easily found my Airbnb accommodation. Natalie and her daughter warmly greeted me at the door and immediately kitted out my beautiful sunny room with tea, iced water and fruit. On the way through the village I had passed one convenience store and a pizza takeaway. It was only 4pm and I wasn’t particularly hungry but fed up being too lazy to move of an evening and simply snacking on porridge or biscuits before bed, I decided I would go back out and pick up a pizza. Anything I didn’t eat, I could always take away for lunch/dinner the next day. Whilst out I also picked up a slab of cheese, apples and coleslaw… The take away turned out to be an Indian / kebab / pizza / and a million other things rolled into one with a totally overwhelming menu. In the end plumping for a medium sized “Eastern Surprise” pizza (minus any coriander and onion) I was genuinely surprised when I ended up with a large deep pan pizza, topped with a doner kebab, masses of chicken tikka, big chunks of vegetables, an inch layer of cheese on the top (and a heart attack on the side!) I ate two pieces then Natalia put the rest in her fridge for me to worry about tomorrow. A knock at the door around 9pm, Natatia then proceeded to offer me a hot chocolate and piece of Russian cake… I don’t know what “no” is in Russian, so of course, I had to accept it.