106. Gretna to Powfoot

Today would be my first steps in walking the coastline of Scotland. I had purposefully ‘leap-frogged’ the section from Chester to Gretna because I wanted to make a start on the Scottish coastline with the chance of having better weather plus having more hours of daylight to complete my walks in. So the emphasis over the summer of 2016 will be to concentrate on Scotland in a series of two or three day trips. Whenever I just fancy a single days walking I will continue walking north from near to Chester which, over the Winter months will become my primary objective.

The Bridge over the River Sark from the Scottish side
The Old Toll Bar – first and last house in Scotland

For my first section I intended to start on the English/Scottish border, which is the bridge over the River Sark close to Gretna. Before I could do this I had to drive to and park in the small hamlet of Powfoot further up the coast. I then had to walk half a mile up to the main road, to the B721 from where I was able to catch the 7:30 #79 bus to Gretna. The small red sandstone bridge over the River Sark is quite inconspicuous as the border between Scotland and England. Anyway, photo record completed I set off on a footpath along the River Sark back into Gretna.

I head through Gretna towards the Old Graitney Road which has light traffic on it. After passing over Kirtle Water I can now head for the coast. I turn down a quiet road towards Rigfoot and continue to the farm at Redkirk. Here I follow a green lane to Baurch where I turn towards the coast. I say “coast”, but the tide is out when I arrive at the shoreline. The morning is bathed in glorious sunshine, but with a fresh breeze. The breeze and sun is at my back as I head west. I intend to stay close to the shoreline for as long as possible all the way to Powfoot. The shoreline path is perfectly walkable, but is dotted with thousands of small gullies holding tidal water. Its just a case iof watching where you put your foot.

The Solway shoreline
Walking alongside the “Devils Porridge”
Obsolete warning signs at Devils Porridge

After passing Browhouses I join the perimeter of the huge ex-MOD site at Eastriggs. HM Factory Gretna was a huge industrial complex stretching for 9 miles! Renowned for making the “Devils Porridge” or cordite during World war 1, used as propellent for shells, the site now houses industrial units. The perimeter fence is still intact and in good condition. I follow the fence for awhile. I round Torduff Point and continue along the shoreline. The morning haze has begun to clear and I make out the Cumbrian coastline with Skiddaw prominent and the small hamlets of Port Carlisle and Bowness-on-Solway across the Eden Estuary. I pass the homesteads of Dornockbrow, Battlehill, Whinnyrig before coming to a small man built promontory at Seafield. The raised dyke used to have a railway running along its top, but now just has a large discharge pipe. I pass over the dyke and down onto a large flat area of salt marsh called the Merse. I walk along a small levee towards Waterfoot, which many years ago had a dock and discharged goods under the watchful eye of excise man Robert Burns.

The Merse looking towards Annan
Crossing the River Annan

I now had to get over the River Annan which meant following a single track road into Annan and passing under a railway bridge. I now joined up again with National Cycle route No.7 which I would be with for a while. I was able to cross the Annan by an excellent footbridge. As I emerged from the footbridge I got into a long conversation with a chap walking his dog. We must have spoken for about 30 minutes on this and that, after which I met another chap on a bike who had cycled down from Inverness along the No. 7 route, we also spoke awhile.

I eventually got back to walking and set off through Newbie, noting the large boiler works of Cochran. I rejoined the coast at Newbie Mains and could see the small hamlet of Powfoot in the distance.


There was further evidence of the HM Factory Gretna on the shoreline with large areas of debris scattered about. I noticed some of the bricks were cream and had the name Timmis and Son Stourbridge  stamped on them. I later found out that Stourbridge (West Midlands) was a major source of Fireclay bricks, anyway I salvaged one, even though it weighed a ton, but I only had a short distance to go before I was back at the car. It took exactly 6 hours to cover the 16 miles, but expect 45 minutes of that was spent in chatter along the way.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:


Distance today =  16 miles
Total distance =   1671 miles




3 thoughts on “106. Gretna to Powfoot”

  1. This is very helpful. I’ve been studying the OS maps and the absence of public footpaths in Scotland is giving me a real headache! I wondered if you could walk along the shore beside the old munitions factory. David Cotton said it was hard going (back in 2002), but looks like you didn’t have a problem. He had difficulty crossing the little waterway between Dornockbrow and Dornock Cottage, but you don’t mention it as a problem. Do you think I’ll be able to do this stretch? (I’m only going as far as Annan.)


  2. Hi Ruth, well done for getting to Scotland. There is a footbridge to cross that small waterway between Dronockbrow & Cottage. I always check out the route using Google Maps the satellite vesion and you can still see the footbridge. As I said previously, in Scotland there are generally far more footpaths on the ground than on the maps. Those on the maps are usually a small feint dotted line! This section is very easy and a good introduction to walking the Scottish Coast. BTW when you go around the farm at Seafield and up the embankment, you are actually walking onto the old Annan railway that ran across the Solway close to Bowness.


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