It was very hot and sunny the other day so we decided to walk to White Port beach - this is a lovely hike through mature woodland to a secluded beach that is great for a swim. Take a look at this video to see what will be waiting for you at the far point of your walk...
White Port beach is known as Palnackie's swimming beach. Many beaches on the Solway Firth are secluded and sandy, but this local beach has the advantage of having a reasonable slope meaning that when the tide is in the water gets deep enough to swim quite near to the shore. The walk takes about an hour, meaning that on a hot day you will be ready for a swim by the time you get to the beach! It is also possible to cycle the whole way on mountain bikes.
The start of the walk is 3 miles from Kirkennan Estate Holiday Cottages. Take the road from Palnackie past the primary school and continue on past the turn to Orchardton Tower until you get to a sign saying Almorness House and 'no vehicles beyond this point'. If you are cycling you can continue along the track. If driving there is a car park with room for about 5 vehicles - we have never not been able to find a parking space.
It is suggested that the name Almorness comes from the Norse words almr (elm tree) and nes (headland). So this walk takes us along the headland of the elm trees.
Walk along the private road in front of you. Take time to enjoy the views and the mature trees enroute. Don't forget to also look behind you where you will see a fine view of Screel and Orchardton bay.
Screel is 344m high - not a great height, but it is prominent enough to give great views in all directions. In particular the view over the coast is stunning on a clear day with amazing views of Rough Firth and Auchencairn Bay.
Take the gate to your right as shown in the photo. Remember to leave it as you found it. The route follows the rough track through pleasant woodland.
To your left you can catch glimpses of Rough Firth with Rough Island in the foreground and Castle Point behind it. I describe the walk from Sandyhills to Kippford which passes over Castle Point in another of my blogs.
I either read somewhere, or was told, that back in the day when Dumfries & Galloway was a rather lawless place that there was a permanent smuggler's encampment in this field for many years. I have looked for the source of this information and been unable to find it so would be grateful to hear more if anyone knows the details.
You are now walking through Gibb's Hole wood. Gibb's Hole actually refers to a deeper pool within the river Urr. Sailing vessels would wait here for the tide to be high enough for them to sail up the river or to wait for fair winds if going in the opposite direction. In the 1890s, if the tide was not favourable to get to Palnackie, boats bringing timber from Canada would sometimes off load from doors on their bow-side and roll out the timber. This would then be rafted up to float to Palnackie.
This stunning knarled oak tree marks the point where a shortcut diverts from the main track. You can take either route as they join again shortly, but if walking I would recommend the path.
When the path rejoins the main track head to your left. The trees start to open out into grassland with many wild flowers. Whilst we were there in early August meadowsweet was in abundance. There is another short cut to the right later - again you can take either route.
Shortly you will leave the trees and find yourself in more open land at Horse Isles Bay. If the tide is in, this is a lovely sandy beach, but when the tide is out, as it was when we arrived, the water will retreat a long way beyond where the mud starts.
From Horse Isles bay you can look across Rough Firth to see Kippford and Rockcliffe. From further along the beach you can also get good views of Glen Isle. It took us about 40 minutes to get to this point, though we weren't walking fast. If you are short of time or want a shorter walk you can turn around at this point and retrace your steps.
We continued along to White Port Beach which looks outwards into the Solway Firth and is good for swimming. This take about another 10-15 minutes. The track is reasonably clear but muddy in places. It climbs slightly and you cross rough moorland with wildflowers which is known as a place to look out for rare insects and butterflies. When we were there the harebells were blooming.
After about an hour of leisurly walking we arrived at White Port Beach. By this time we were all ready for a swim. The tide was only partly in so we had to walk a little way into the water to get enough depth to swim, but the water was quite warm having just passed over sun warmed sands on its way back in. There were two other groups on the beach but it is large enough that it felt like we had it to ourselves. We picked a comfortable rock to set up by and after a swim sat and read for a while. White Port Beach is is sometimes visited by yachts who call in to the beach to have a BBQ as at high tide the water is deep enough to anchor off shore.
Almorness Point is to your right as you look out to sea. In the first world war a british airship from Stranraer Aerodrome snagged on some trees just outside Auchencairn and crashed into the water near here. The strong wind pushed the airship into the bay near Castle Point where as much as possible was salvaged. The hapless pilot returned by plane a few weeks later intending to thank the locals who had helped him during the crash. However he tried to land in a field at Rockcliffe, misjudged it, and wrote the plane off by crashing into a wall. I don't know how he got back to Stranraer, but I doubt his superiors were very sympathetic! You can read the full story at the Dalbeattie Museum website.
Eventually we tore ourselves away from White Port Beach and retraced our steps. The views and trees are stunning in both directions. Here you can see Michael returning to Horse Isles Bay with Glen Isle in the background.
The tide is sidling up to Almorness,
unmet by those returned now north & west
away from here, back to the daily grind
of mornings, work & dinner, closing time
& mornings. Just a couple & three dogs
on White Horse Beach, grey haired, their many stops
a hint of winter in this cusp of days
when everything’s retreating to a place
less friendly & exposed. November starts
to pull on thicker drawers & warmer clothes
The poem was written for and broadcast on Radio Scotland's Out of Doors on Saturday, 25 November 2017. Note there is some variety in the names used for the two beaches with some calling the outer beach 'White Horse Beach'. I have stuck to the names used on the maps to avoid confusion - you can find links to these below.
Allow at least 2 hours for the return trip if walking, longer if you want to idle away time on the beach. It is also possible to cycle the whole route on mountain bikes in which case it will be quicker. An all terrain pushchair or wheelchair could get to Horse Isles Bay though it would be challenging. They would not get to White Port beach. Decent footwear is required.
The walk is suitable for dogs though they should be kept under close control or leads if livestock is present.
The walk can be done whatever the state of the tide but swimming is better if the tide is in. The tide is quite fast so take care if in the water whilst the tide is going out. Heston Island is the nearest place to look for tide times.
About the author: Jennifer Chapman
I run the 74 acre Kirkennan Estate with my husband Michael Bourdages. We enjoy managing the Estate for the benefit of wildlife and trees and pay our way by offering 3 cozy Green Tourism Gold rated holiday cottages. We can normally be found pottering around the Estate doing gardening or maintenance tasks but do find time to enjoy the wonderful local scenery and coastline. If you are looking for a peaceful location for a holiday set within beautiful landscape. then please do take a look at our 3 cottages. You can find details below.