South West Scotland 2021: Part Ten
13 September 2021
Having driven until late and stopping in the dead of night, the parking I managed to find at Castle Semple was a complete unknown to me before I woke up. When I eventually rose and looked out of the window, I found myself beside a loch, with another van parked up a couple of spaces to my right. Loads of ducks, geese and swans gathered noisily by the waters edge and vehicles were arriving with both dog walkers and parents dropping off older children for what was apparently going to be a water sports day. This area looked like it was going to be pretty interesting!
Today I hoped to capture a picture of Kenmure ‘castle’, only on further investigation, there was no castle as such, just a small tower (mislabelled on the Web, although corrected today). This was actually called Kenmure Hill Temple, and although built in late 1700’s, no one seems to know its actual purpose. It may have been an actual temple, a folly or a hunting lodge for the gamekeeper to keep watch over the white deer they had here at the time. However it’s also been suggested that it might have been a nursery for sick children, or a ladies room for taking tea and enjoying the view. Basically, with so many suggestions bouncing around, it could have been pretty much anything, or a place used over time for a variety of uses. Who knows eh?! These days its an empty ruin/folly for tourists and photographers like me to hike to instead so I’m not complaining!
River and I took the long walk to it, with River stopping, as she always does, at every puddle for a mud bath. When we approached the last bit of the hill, the sun beamed down on it, and really picked the tower out on the lonely landscape. I grabbed a couple of shots from where I stood (see header), then continued up the hill, finally stopping at the top for lunch – without re checking the sky. When I was nearly finished, I suddenly noticed the looming cloud about to engulf the sun. I quickly grabbed my camera and managed one shot of the temple in sunlight before it dimmed and the view went flat (Gagh!!! Why did I eat first?!!) Fortunately it looked like it might be temporary as I saw a big patch of blue behind and to the side of me, so I decided to just wait it out, hoping…. Sadly, the blue came 3 quarters of the way to the sun’s position, then changed direction, the cloud winning out and growing instead. Clearly there would be no more pretty light today. I explored the top nonetheless, and had a good look around the structure both inside and out, noting a probable fireplace up on what seemed to be a first floor area. It was quite intriguing, and blessed with a wonderful view regardless of what the weather decided to do.
As I came back to my camera bag I spotted River rolling around in, and thoroughly enjoying, a huge fresh cow pat next to me… She was covered! I yelled at her to stop, and with a happy grin she came back to me, tail wagging – but I could smell her well before she got close. This wasn’t good, and it was clear that this young lady was definitely going to need a wash down!
After it was clear the cloud was building and not receding, I decided on a different route back, this one via the old church that gives the name of the area here, Castle Semple Collegiate church. The church was interesting to visit, although I found it hard to photograph. Part of its curiosity was not simply that it was a derelict building, but that it has gravestones INSIDE the nave. The outside was a small grassy area, without any further tombstones, and sadly, to one end, I found barriers around parts of the building due to dangerous masonry in the windows. The church was founded in 1504, but beyond this fact, there is very little information available on it. I have no idea when it fell out of use. The roof was apparently removed sometime in the 1800’s so I assume it was well before that. I didn’t get my main camera out where I failed to see any pleasant viewpoints, but I did snap a few images on my phone just for memories sake. River and I went back to the main path, and continued the walk back to the visitor centre.
I have no idea what caught her attention, but on the route River kept diving nose first into several gaps/holes in the tall grass. A dog came past and for the first time she didn’t seem worried by it where she was so absorbed in whatever she was sniffing here. Instead she dived nose first into yet another leafy area. I called her over to tell her what a good girl she had been for not barking, and she came back straight away, with a leaf over one eye. She didn’t even seem to notice it as she looked up at me with the happiest expression. I laughed, took some photos, and we eventually moved on. When we got back to the lochs edge, I gave her as best a rinse as I could, but she turned green with the staining from the cow pat. I wasn’t altogether sure this was an improvement at all, and when other people walked passed, I had no option but to smile apologetically about my stinky green dog.
I decided that as we were here, I would check out the waterfall nearby. I wasn’t full of high hopes given the low water situation during this trip so far however. On the other hand, it did occur to me that as I had a bar of 100% natural ingredient shampoo soap in the van, maybe the running river water might help wash my stinky dog a little better. Even though I wasn’t expecting too much, when I turned up at the fall, I was SOOO disappointed!! This was as much a dribble as Blairskaith had been, and although I tried to take a few photos, it was really quite pathetic. I KNOW it can look so much better, so I decided that I would mark this waterfall as one to come back to. I sat instead at the waters edge, and gave River a proper wash. She was most disgruntled that all that ‘lovely scent’ she had worked so hard to get into her coat, was now gone, but there was no way I was going to let her anywhere near the van smelling the way she did!!
Finished here for now, we then left to have a little drive past nearby Barr Castle to see if there was any parking to explore here. There was none, so disappointed, I continued driving round to the other side of the Loch to see if it was a possible reflection location. Nope. There wasn’t a good reflection view either. This left me a little frustrated and disappointed so I continued round to the RSPB bird place at Lochwinnoch, parked up and went for a short walk to try a bit of bird watching instead. My app told me there were a large number of birds here.. But could I see any?!! Clearly I was too inexperienced at this so I gave up and went back to Castle Semple. Interestingly, the loop I had driven took me through a small town by the name of Beith. This was my grandmothers maiden name, and through her is my blood link to Scotland. I regret not pulling over and having a look here, although the family, as far as I am aware, came from Ayrshire rather than here. It might have been interesting to see the town though.
As soon as I pulled up back at the car park, it started raining and it didn’t stop all night. Looking at the map as I waited, I could see there was a walking route to Barr Castle from here. Maybe I could do this one tomorrow. For now, I could do little but settle for the evening listening to the rain pattering on the roof. It was such a relaxing sound, sleep came easily.
UPDATE. I did indeed return to this location after attending Emily’s Graduation in December and boy, oh boy, was this now worth it, and MUCH more what I had originally hoped for! I was able to find the park up quickly, and the walk to the falls told me straight away that there was a major difference here. I could hear the thunder clearly from the road, well before I descended down through the trees to the waters edge. When I arrived I was greeted with the awesome sight of water crashing over the edge to the rocks below and and flowing away with an incredibly strong current. No way was I able to stand anywhere near where I had washed River just a couple of months earlier! What an amazing revisit, and so worth retrying. I was over the moon capturing the fall this time!