Catriona McPherson: The joys of Galloway



Where is it?

It’s got to be Galloway. And, in this instance, Joni Mitchell was dead wrong. I lived there for 10 years and knew exactly what I had while I still had it.

I can’t claim to have made the most of every day – there were whole weeks of staring out glumly at the plotching rain – but I made the most of every season.

Strolling through the bluebell woods at Carstramon; running into the sea at Knock, blessing the Gulf Stream; drunk on light in the beech avenue between Laurieston and Gatehouse of Fleet when the leaves turned.

And my favourite of all, up a hill on a bright, bitter day in winter, with a flask and a piece, not another soul in sight.

Why do you go there?

For the cliffs, beaches, forests, hills, rivers, couthie wee towns and empty moors. For belties and blackfaces grudgingly agreeing to share the footpaths. For suddenly finding art in the middle of nowhere without anything so crass as a plaque.

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To stand at the site of Alexander Murray’s birthplace and think about him, a shepherd’s son, waiting for the tinker to come round with new books twice a year.

Then think about him later in his life as a professor at Edinburgh, wonder what he would have done if he hadn’t died in his thirties. He and Burns both.

Most of all I go to Galloway for the peace. I’m sure business owners would love a crush to rival the Trossachs. Selfishly, I treasure the quiet.

How did you discover it?

We moved to the area in 1996, first to Durisdeer, then west a bit to Dalry, and west again to New Galloway, where we stayed for a decade.

Author Catriona McPherson

Overshot a bit on the last westwards leg, mind you. Wigtown would have been lovely, but we actually ended up in California.

What do you enjoy most?

There’s wonderful wild swimming in secluded places. The High Bridge of Ken, the Grey Mare’s Tail and the Holy Linn near St John’s Town of Dalry are three of the best.

How often do you go?

Every summer when I’m back in Scotland on research trips (damn you, 2020.) One of these years I want to stay at a cottage in Dunskey Glen for a month and call it a writing retreat.

The baking on offer at the cafe in the walled garden might mean I’d need two seats on the flight home, though.

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Sum it up in five words.

Leave the world and enter.

What travel spot is on your post-lockdown wish list?

My parents happen to live in a picturesque wee town – South Queensferry – so I could claim I want to view the bridges, have a drink at the Hawes Inn, walk through the Rosebery Estates, eat at Scotts … but really, it’s tea and biscuits at my mammy’s I’m after. Once the jetlag lets up, I’ll drive down to Galloway.

The Mirror Dance by Catriona McPherson is published by Hodder & Stoughton, out now, priced £21.99


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