Loch Trool

Only a couple of days left in Wigtown, and we opted for a walk in Galloway National Park. The car park next to the visitors centre was pay and display. The meters weren’t working, but you could pay with an App, or phone them. No reception and the visitors centre didn’t open for another half an hour.

Helen picked up a leaflet and found an alternative walk where we didn’t need to pay for parking. The small car park was filled with camper vans who had obviously stayed overnight, despite the no overnight parking signs.

Our revised walk was 6 miles around Loch Trool, although the walk meandered up and around. Two miles in we stopped at a viewpoint called Bruce’s Stone. The location of one of Robert The Bruce’s earliest victories over the English.

We followed the green route around the top of the Loch as the sun came out. Nelly was off her lead for almost all of this walk. She’s a tired old girl at the moment.

The walk wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t too tough even though there were a few up and down sections. One of the best walks we’ve done in the area.

Back in Wigtown I bought a book about Robert the Bruce, as I now almost nothing about him. In the bookshop the owner and one of his regular customers chatted about Bruce’s history and joked that I didn’t need to buy the book now. Another good day.

St Ninian

On the coast, a couple of miles south of the village of Whithorn there lies St Ninian’s cave. The cave was used in the film The Wicker Man, the original one, I don’t know if the remake used the same cave.

Driving through Whithorn we spotted an old church which had been converted into a petrol station. It looked bizarre to say the least.

We parked up and enjoyed a one mile walk through a Glen and onto the beach. St Ninian’s cave is a lot smaller than it used to be due to a number of rock falls. There was a barrier warning of danger. Nelly ignored it.

My lovely wife picked up a few pebbles from the beach as inspiration for her pottery.

Back at the car we drove to the Isle of Whithorn to visit St Ninian’s Chapel, which was also cordoned off being unsafe. Pleasant little village.

Another good day travelling around the Machars.


The owners of the cottage we’re staying have a folder filled with suggested local walks. One of them was for a 6 mile circular route starting and finishing in the small coastal village of Portpatrick. I had also bought a small walking guide book which had the same walk.

From the harbour the walk began by climbing a steep flight of steps, with amazing views back across the village.

As we walked alongside the golf course we spotted an incredible half buried house at the top of the cliff. We recognised it from an episode of Grand Design.

The path we were on was a small part of the 200+ mile Southern Upland Way. As with most coastal paths it was fairly lumpy as we climbed cliffs and dropped back down to small coves. Nelly likes running on beaches.

At one of the beaches there were two small joined octagonal buildings. They were where the first communications cable between Scotland and Ireland came ashore, built over 150 years ago.

We continued along the walk until we came across an old lighthouse. It was decommissioned in 2005 and is now a private residence. We would like to live in a lighthouse.

Unfortunately, from this point the route returned to Portpatrick along a road. It wasn’t a busy road, but there wasn’t anything worth seeing. In hindsight we should have retraced our steps.

Despite that, the village of Portpatrick was a delight to see, and the first half of the walk was one of the best we’d ever done.

Kilsture Forest

Sunday morning in Wigtown and it is chucking it down. The three of us head a few miles down the road for a walk through Kilsture Forest.

There are two different marked walks. The longer one was 3 miles, and was called the red deer trail. It was marked in white on the direction posts.

We followed the trail through the woods. Nelly was off the lead for most of it, until we came upon a woman struggling with a young Great Dane, who really wanted to say hello.

Kilsture Forest isn’t very large but we added in an extra couple of miles by exploring other smaller trails, often having to backtrack.

We returned to Wigtown and had lunch in the only open cafe. It wasn’t very good. We won’t be going there again. We did also look around a couple of the smaller bookshops. We are very much liking Wigtown.

Agnew Parkrun

Making the most of being on holiday by taking part in a tourist parkrun. The nearest event to Wigtown is Agnew parkrun in Stranraer, about 40 minutes drive away. And, because Scottish parkruns don’t start until 9.30, we didn’t need to set off too early.

Easy journey, found the free carpark, had a walk around and used the loos. Very pleasant little park with a miniature railway which was having new track being laid, a children’s play area and a small lake with a pirate ship on the island.

The course is three winding loops. Helen hadn’t run for a few weeks, so was taking it easy with old Nelly.

As we set off, four runners raced away from me. However, each lap I slowly reeled in two of them, managing to finish in 3rd place, over 4 minutes behind 1st and 2nd.

There was some confusion at the finish line as the volunteer handing out the barcodes didn’t seem to realise that he needed to hand out finishers barcodes. The barcode scanner was also confused about scanning both the finishing barcode and my barcode. I think it was sorted out a little later as the results were accurate.

Very pleasant and friendly event. Only 55 finishers, but they are hoping to attract 100 people for their 100th event in two weeks time.

Agnew parkrun was my 59th different event and my first one in Scotland. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.


A much needed holiday. My lovely wife, Helen, and our silly pooch, Nelly, are staying in a lovely little cottage in Wigtown. Scotland’s book Town.

Less than three hours from Lancaster, we passed the Devil’s Poridge Exhibition on the way. The aforementioned exhibition is all about the largest munitions factory in the world, which made cordite during World War I. Huge vats of lumpy grey cordite were mixed by thousands of women, and was given the name, the Devil’s Poridge by Arthur Conan Doyle.

When we arrived in Wigtown we realised that the spring festival was on. We booked tickets for a talk about the Scottish persecution of witches, and the ongoing battle to have them pardoned. Really interesting.

We went for a walk with Nelly and the stone where a “witch” was tied to and allowed to drown as the tide came in.

We walked through the graveyard and the ruins of an 8th century church. It felt like the start of a horror film, grey skies, ruined church in an old churchyard with crows squawking noisily.

There was a tent in the main square for a charity blind date with a difference. Books wrapped in paper with a cryptic description. Make a donation and take home a random book. I unwrapped my “date” to find The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Pendziwol.

We perused The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop, owned and run by Shaun Bythell, who has written a number of humorous books about his life running a second hand bookshop.

This morning it is raining heavily. A short walk with Nelly, bookshops, cake and coffee sounds like a good relaxing day to me.

Offspring by Jack Ketchum

If you’re a fan of horror novels, you might have heard of Jack Ketchum. He was an American horror fiction writer born in 1946 and passed away in 2018. Ketchum has written several novels, including The Girl Next Door, The Lost, and Off Season. Offspring, published in 1991, is a sequel to Off Season, which was released in 1980.

Offspring continues the story of the feral cannibals introduced in Off Season. The book follows a family who vacation in a remote island off the coast of Maine. The family soon finds themselves hunted by a group of savage cannibalistic humans who have lived on the island for generations. The family must fight to survive against the brutal attacks of the cannibals.

Ketchum’s writing style is graphic and visceral, making the reader feel the terror of the characters. I would say that his style is similar to Richard Laymon. The pacing of the story is fast and intense, keeping the reader engaged and on edge throughout the book. The characters are mostly well-developed, and the relationships between them are explored in-depth.

One of the most significant strengths of Offspring is its ability to evoke a sense of primal fear. Ketchum successfully creates a world where the rules of civilization no longer apply, and the reader is left to confront their most basic instincts. The book does not shy away from graphic violence and gore, but it’s not just gratuitous; it serves a purpose in advancing the story and enhancing the horror.

However, there are a few negatives to the book. Some of the scenes in Offspring are hard to stomach and might not be suitable for all readers. The story also lacks a clear resolution, leaving some loose ends untied. While this is understandable in a horror novel, it might leave some readers feeling unsatisfied.

Overall, I would give Offspring a score of three out of five. The book is not for the faint of heart, but it delivers on its promise of horror. In conclusion, Offspring is a worthy addition to the horror genre and a solid entry in Jack Ketchum’s bibliography. While it may not be a perfect novel, it succeeds in delivering a visceral and terrifying story that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.

Lancaster Parkrun Via AI

It seems these days you can’t open a newspaper App with stumbling across something or other all about AI, or Artificial Intelligence. ChatGPT is the most well known, part owned by Microsoft, but all of the big tech firms are introducing them, including the mighty Google.

Anyway, I decided to have a play with ChatGPT and see what an article describing Lancaster parkrun and parkun in general, written by AI would look like. It was an interesting experiment, and on the whole the results weren’t too bad, although the AI article did suggest that Lancaster parkrun ascends Pepper Pot Tower, which it doesn’t. Pepper Pot is located in Silverdale a few miles north of Lancaster.

Below is most of the AI written article. I have edited it, corrected it and hopefully made it more readable, one of the oft written negatives about AI. On the whole, I was very impressed. More importantly, can I somehow convince AI to write my work reports?

AI Article

Parkrun is a global phenomenon that has taken the UK by storm in recent years. It’s a free, weekly 5km timed run that takes place in parks and open spaces across the country, bringing people of all ages and abilities together to enjoy exercise and community spirit. One of the most popular parkruns in the UK is Lancaster parkrun, located in the picturesque Williamson Park in the North West of England.

Williamson Park is a stunning 54-acre green space that boasts sweeping views of Lancaster and Morecambe Bay. It’s the perfect setting for a 5km run, with a mix of flat and hilly terrain that provides a challenging yet rewarding course for participants. Lancaster parkrun takes place every Saturday at 9 am, with runners and walkers of all abilities gathering at the start line to begin their weekly 5km journey.

The parkrun ethos is all about inclusivity and community, with participants encouraged to take part at their own pace and support one another along the way. This is reflected in the friendly and welcoming atmosphere at Lancaster parkrun, where volunteers and regular runners alike are always on hand to offer words of encouragement and support.

One of the things that sets Lancaster parkrun apart is the stunning scenery that surrounds the course. The route takes runners through the park’s beautiful gardens and woodland, past the Ashton Memorial and up the steep incline of Fenham Carr. From the top of the Memorial, runners can take in panoramic views of Lancaster and the surrounding countryside, making for a truly unforgettable parkrun experience.

Of course, parkrun isn’t just about the physical benefits of exercise – it’s also about the mental health benefits of being part of a community. The sense of camaraderie and support that comes with taking part in Lancaster parkrun is second to none, with participants of all ages and abilities coming together to celebrate their achievements and support one another through the ups and downs of life.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring things about Lancaster parkrun is the way in which it brings people together from all walks of life. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a complete beginner, there’s a place for you at parkrun. It’s not about being the fastest or fittest – it’s about showing up, taking part and enjoying the sense of community that comes with being part of something bigger than yourself.

In conclusion, Lancaster parkrun is a shining example of the positive impact that community exercise initiatives can have on people’s lives. From the stunning scenery to the supportive atmosphere, there are so many reasons to take part in this weekly event. Whether you’re looking to improve your fitness, meet new people or simply enjoy a beautiful run in the great outdoors, Lancaster parkrun has something for everyone. So why not lace up your trainers, head down to Williamson Park on a Saturday morning and discover the joys of parkrun for yourself?

Before and After by Andrew Shanahan

Once again I’ve been slack with writing reviews of the books that I’ve read, with over 30 not yet reviewed. For this reason, my reviews might be even shorter than they usually are.

Before and After, and Flesh and Blood, are a two book series written by an author who I had never heard of before. I stumbled upon a list of ten post-apocalypse books from less well known authors, and this was one of them.

Ben Stone, the main character, is house bound. He’s always been a large person, but due to a series of circumstances, including the death of his mother, he ends up almost eating himself to death, resulting in him weighing 600lbs (or 42 stone). He hasn’t left his third floor flat for three years. His health has deteriorated and he needs emergency surgery. This involves removing the outside wall of his flat, a crane, firemen and specialist paramedics. Ben is strapped to a stretcher ready to be lifted out of his flat when something happens. We don’t really know what it is that has happened, as the whole book is written from Ben’s perspective. Sirens go off and all of the emergency personnel rush off, leaving Ben strapped to the stretcher.

One man is left behind in the flat with Ben. He becomes violent and tries to kill Ben.

The book has alternating chapters, with one set in the present and the next set in Ben’s past. Each chapter lists Ben’s weight, gradually going up as the past chapters reach the present, and the weight going down in the present chapters as Ben loses weight.

The violent tendencies of the infected people is never truly explained, or why Ben isn’t infected seeing as it appears that everyone else in the whole world is infected. What is the waking slumber that the infected exhibit, which allows them to remain alive even though they don’t appear to be eating or drinking anything. Why do they hate the uninfected?

Eventually, Ben realises that he has no option but to leave the flat, which in a roundabout kind of way, is when the second book begins. Ben needs medicine, which means he has to somehow get to one of the large hospitals in the city. There is a twist, which is revealed early on in the book, which I won’t give away, but slowly some of the questions from the first book are answered.

I gave both books four out of five, which is a little generous, but three stars would have been harsh.

Four More Wainwright’s

Another Sunday and another adventure with my lovely wife, Helen, although this particular adventure was back in February. I haven’t found the time to write about it, even though it was bordering on epic.

We drove over the top of Kirkstone Pass and parked in the small hamlet of Hartsop. Our walk headed almost directly up as we climbed towards the summit of Hartsop Dodd. We climbed 400m in the space of less than a mile. Even Nelly thought that the first climb went on a bit too long.

From the summit there was a small downhill section before a long gentle climb into the clouds to reach the top of Caudale Moor, which is also known as Stony Cove Pike, depending on which guide book or map you’re looking at.

From there we had a short steep scramble down before a short steep climb up to the top of Thornthwaite Crag. We bumped into three hikers who were doing exactly the same route as us, but in the other direction. (We all walked into the carpark at the end at the same time.)

By this time the clouds were really low, with visibility down to not very much, although it was easy to know when we’d reached the top.

It was an easy and gentle slope down as we walked towards our fourth and final Wainwright of the day, Gray Crag. As we descended we left the clouds behind, giving us a stunning view through the valley and across the southern tip of Ullswater.

The final descent was almost as steep as our first climb, but this time the wind had picked up, nearly blowing us over a couple of times. A little lower down the path became quite wet and I managed to slip onto my bum, sliding a few meters down the hill dragging Nelly with me, much to the amusement of Helen. With my back, bum and legs covered in mud we made our way back to the car with Helen chuckling most of the way. I even went into Tesco on the way home looking like that to buy a chicken and some roast potatoes.

The full route took us four hours, even though it was only a little bit over six miles. In better conditions it is probably one of the best walks in the Lakes, and one where there probably won’t be too many other people. The carpark isn’t very large so I would suggest getting there early.