Circular Forest Walk
Distance – 2½km / 1¾ miles
Time – 1 hour 15 mins
Difficulty – Easy / Moderate
Surface – beaten earth with some sections of boardwalk
Parking : is available at Balloch Bridge on the Old Military Road, by the Wildlife Ponds.
Route : The Oak Trail leads directly from the Garrochar Wildlife Ponds and is characterised by a wonderful variety of broadleaf trees, including Oak, Rowan, Birch, Ash, Beech and Sycamore.
To start the trail cross the Old Military Road directly opposite the Roundhouse and cross the recently built Darach Bridge over the Balloch Burn with its rounded banisters designed by the Roundhouse builder Alex Rigg. After crossing the bridge the path starts to wind through an avenue of newly planted lime trees, surrounded by mature birch trees, wild cherry, ash and other ancient broadleaf woodland. As the path bends to the right views start to open up over the wall on your left hand side and beech trees become the predominant species. A line of alternating oak and beech trees along the length of the wall originally marked the boundaries of land ownership.
An oak plinth marks a change in the nature of the woodland from predominantly beech to oak, while views open up beyond an ancient beech tree towards the Cairnsmore and Merrick hills. Once again the benches are hewn from large slabs of oak by Alan, Iain & Charlie, Shennanton Saw Mill, Kirkcowan. Honeysuckle commonly grows on the dyke and skylarks can frequently be spotted over the open fields beyond. Looking the other direction into the woodland one can spot some redwood trees deep in the forest and in winter you can see Larg Hill through the trees in the distance.
A couple of hundred metres on the path forks amongst the silver birch. Taking the upper trail you continue through the birches before dropping down to the right and rejoining the lower path and bearing left. An avenue of Beech Trees forms an arch which leads north east to the kissing gate on Glenquicken Road.
There is the option at this stage to continue the walk directly back to Creetown by exiting the kissing gate, turning left for 50m and then left again to take the minor road downhill to Creetown’s village square. This route could be combined with all of the other sections of trail to form a wonderful circular route through the length of the forest and back along the road. The more open aspect of this route enables you to enjoy views in all directions. Down to your left you overlook Balloch Wood, with Larg Hill beyond. Back right are views of the Galloway Hills while fantastic views of the Cree Valley and Estuary, Wigtown Bay and on a clear day as far as the Isle of Man, open up ahead.
Remaining within Balloch Wood: to complete the Oak Trail circular route, retrace your steps back through the beech tree avenue, whose floor is covered with clover in summer.
At the fork select the lower, left hand, path back along sections of narrow path and boardwalk towards Garrochar Wildlife Ponds. A few hundred metres along this trail the path passes an unscheduled monument on the right hand side whose origin is still to be discovered.
Also keep an eye out for Roe Deer who inhabit this section of woodland. The lower path bends right and rejoins the upper path amongst the birch trees, where you turn left and you retrace your steps back to the Darach Bridge.
A picnic area beside the Balloch Burn provides the perfect place to take a break under the watchful eye of a circle of young rowan trees.