"Welcome to Wigtownshire", said the smiling postie I met on the hill road from Bargrennan, "famous for two things, rain and midges." Erm, thanks.
It didn't take me long to see what he meant: I have never been so wet. The soft Wigtownshire rain makes a nonsense of the old saw 'Once you're wet, you can't get any wetter.' OH YES YOU CAN! The rain came in on pulsating grey sheets from the Atlantic, thoroughly defeating my waterproof (haha) jacket and trousers, boots, panniers - everything.
By the time we were coming to the busy main road near Kirkcowan, I swear we were starting to rot gently. Smiley postie had warned out to 'watch out for the boat on the main road' (eh?) but it was so wet I wouldn't have been surprised to see a flotilla of yachts tacking up the road. (Turned out he meant the road gets very busy when the Stranraer ferry unloads, but still...)
Luckily for us we had the safest of safe houses waiting: Annie Walker - galloping granny, endurance rider and eternal mother hen (as well as the most creative user of baler twine I have met thus far!)
Within half an hour, both the ponies and I were stripped of our wet things and steaming gently towards comfortably dry (and eating). Thank heavens we weren't supposed to be camping that night.
I shouldn't have been so surprised: one glance at the map of the Machars gives the game away immediately - all those fells, moors and mosses and the large number of lochs does hint at high precipitation!
As always in damp country, track finding (and following) is best not left to chance and local knowledge is essential for information about marked tracks which run into blind bogs - lots of that! Local tales of drowned cattle and missing tractors abound (eek).
Much of the area is forested, so the forestry tracks are generally a better, safer option. The area is also criss-crossed with little-used tarmacked side roads (often with grass growing up the middle.) Much of the forestry actually makes for pleasant riding: the trees are often well back from the road and attractively fringed with birch and wildflowers, so you don't get that feeling of being a rat in a maze which can happen in heavily forested areas.
The region is rich in history: one of the earliest known inhabited areas and Whithorn itself is considered the cradle of Christianity on mainland Scotland. Here today, as in other areas I have visited, local talk is of falling stock numbers, disappearing dairy herds, and the unworkability of the proposed electronic tagging scheme for sheep. I saw many abandoned and derelict farmhouses and cottages, the indigenous population replaced with several vast caravan and holiday parks...is this to be the final crop for Wigtownshire?
PS Smiley postie - should you ever read this - your summary of Wigtownshire needs to include the guinea-a-minute most novel cattlegrid gates yet encountered: either you untie the piece of baler twine and the whole edifice collapses around you with a splintering crash - or it gets the prize for the most creative use of building materials for any gate - anywhere!