FIR mair as 20 years ah hae went walkin in Upper Nithsdale wi a hauntle o local worthies. These guys gang a daunder in the local kintraside evri third Sunday, nae maitter the waither, be’t goustie sou-westers, birstlin sunshine, hail, rain or snaw! Amang aa the mony an varied airts we hae explored locally, a canty place that is aye-an-oan re-veesited in these walks is the pink saundstane castle o Drumlanrig, nearhaund Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, jist aff o the Main A76. Seen frae a distance the castle luiks lik a muckle lump o marzipan, commandin the valley as ye drive by.

The WETS (Walks Evri Third Sunday) gang must ken evri dyke-back, hillock, stane or buss in this great estate. An a muckle estate it is! Mair as 90,000 acres o braw parks, fairms an wuidlaunds. Biggit in the late 1600’s Drumlanrig hus a “fairy tale” souch aboot it; gin Brigadoon cam tae life then this wid be it! Ah raicently read Alain-Fournier’s great French novel Le Grand Meaulnes, anent a lost estate that a young fellah fuins whilst explorin his airt, an Drumlanrig wid be a perfeck model fir this!

Fir ordinar we park a caur near a brig oan the estate that crosses the river Nith, tho ither times we micht tak a lang detour alang the Queen’s Drive, alang the bank o the river, a braw daunder in itsel. Then we set aff tae mak shair aa the Duke’s “policies” are in guid order! Scotland is a pretty amazin an unique place – cuid ye imagine fir a meenit parkin yer caur at some big hoose in Englandshire an daunderin aboot – nae dout “the major” wid gang widd, wavin his shotgun at ye! But here in Scotland we can daunder whaure’er we like – tho mindin the kintra-code, an shuttin gates ahint us.

We daunder doun the Nith a bit an hae a rake roond aboot the auld motte an bailey ruins o Tibbers Castle, a 12th-century fortification that wid hae bin weel kent tae Sir William Wallace. Thair a well, cuivert wi a grate, at Tibbers an we drapt a wee chuckie stane throu this tae try an wark oot hou deep it wis, we thocht 20/30 ft! Tho thair nae muckle tae see at Tibbers it’s aye fascinatin tae walk in the fuitsteps o Scotia’s heroic pantheon o the past.

Past the muckle walled gairden, kindae forleitit these days, then up by the gairdener’s cottage, a kindae proto Hansel an Gretel biggin, wi its ornate wuiden eaves, then oan, up intae the wuids. The wuids hae a byordnar walin o Scottish flora an fauna. The trees must hae bin plantit in thon Capability Brown era whan the East India Company an Hudson’s Bay Company wir cairtin aathing they cuid cairt back tae the hub o the empire! Cheek bi jowl ye hae giant Sequoias (frae North America), Monkey Puzzles (frae South America), a rerr Ginko Bi-loba (frae China), masses o Rhododendrons (frae India) – an gnarly auld Scots Pines, still haudin their ain agin these fremmit invaders!

Throu this Jurassic Park o auncient trees we mak oor wey up tae the braw viewpynt wi its muckle saundstane bink that wis pitten there bi the tenants an staff o the estate tae merk Lord Eskdale’s comin o age in 2005. Framed perfectly forenent the bink the castle sits commandin the valley; Durisdeer an the Lowther Hills raxin awa ahint it. Whiles sittin contemplatin this aefauld view a bauld wee robin redbreist hopped oan tae the bink. A bauld wee fellae he wis – wha’d obviously lairnt that walkers meant a free lunch fir him! An he wis richt, a brak a bit aff ma piece an laid it oot fir him. The wee craitur wisnae sweir an suin he wis peckin awa at his scran. He wis e’en cockapentie enow tae pose fir a photie!

Thair a hauntle o wee lochans in the estate as weel. These are nae dout stockt wi rainbow or broun troot; in simmer months ye can staund an watch fly fishers castin a flee mangst the ripples whaur michty fish hae betrayed their presence. Starburn an Slatehouse lochs, the verra nems hae a romantic souch aboot thaim. The hale estate hus a weel managed air, tho ye seldom see ony sign ava o the warkers wha toil eidently ahint the scenes tae keep it aa sae trig an bonnie.

Neist stoap wi ane o the “heather huts”. These are aefauld cute wee biggins, agane straicht oot o Grimm’s fairy tales or Lord o the Rings. Summer Hooses; constructit around a hunner year syne, aiblins tae amuse previous heirs o the Buccleuch dynasty? Ane o thaim hus raicently bin aa restored, an it luiks richt perjink wi its slate ruif an galvanised gutters, it’s intricate wallie ceiling an wa’s woven frae tree barks an branches. A thing o strange beauty an wunner. Lik the Duke’s bink afore, an aqually peaceful place tae sit in contemplation an hear the gentie souch o the wuin throu the trees, the lilt o the birdsang – an naethin else. As gin somebody hud pressed the warld’s pause button.

We daundert oan doun ane o the mony wee burns that flow throu the estate, bringin us oot bi the adventure playground – a braw addeetion fir weans (o aa ages!) an struggled tae resist a hurl oan the zip-wire slide! Roond the side o the castle, past anither fawmous tree; the Drumlanrig Sycamore, aiblins the biggest o its kind in the UK! Then throu the parklands in front o the castle throu mair muckle Beech trees – some o thaim raicently felled, their rings dumbly tellin the auld story o Drumlanrig. Nae lang syne they foun the remains o an auld Roman Fort neist tae the Castle; Tony Robinson’s Time Team investigated. Daunderin; a braw wey tae explore Scotland’s auncient past, her vieve present, an tae muse upon her assured future!