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Coo Palace

Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Walk 1a - The Knockbrex Estate walking and hiking route

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Walk Instructions

Start: Coo Palace
Footwear: Trainers in dry weather, boots or wellingtons in wet weather
Terrain: Minor roads, farmland and rocky coast

This walk lets you explore the Knockbrex Estate and see other examples of buildings associated with James Brown who was responsible for the building of the Coo Palace. It also takes in some interesting coastal scenery and visits an Iron Age fort. The Borgue coast is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is home to a variety of bird species. You may see roe deer, hares, otters and grey seals in the area. The walk can be split into two sections, suitable for a half-day or summer evening excursion. There are also optional detours to visit viewpoints at Kirkandrews and Knockbrex Hill.

1. Exit the Coo Palace via the small gate on the east side, go down the walled track and cross the road into the field opposite. Follow a track across the field to a gate that gives access to the coast path. Turn right and look for a bridge that crosses a small stream. Cross the bridge and go through the metal gate in the fence on the far side. Follow the fence towards the coast then turn right to follow the coastline just above the high tide mark. The path is not well defined but you can pick your way along the shore until you come to another metal gate in a dry-stone wall. This section of the walk is a good place to see spring flowers, including violets, primroses, campion, thrift, and orchids. A little way beyond the gate you will reach a shelly beach area. Head inland slightly and you will meet a path coming down from the road. An alternative start to this walk, avoiding the rough path along the shore, follows the road from the Coo Palace then comes down this path. Follow the path leftwards across a grassy meadow then through a wooded area to a gate. Go through the gate and continue along the path through some gorse and blackthorn bushes to emerge at a grassy area close to the sea.

2. You will now see the remains of the Knockbrex bathing house, another of James Brown’s quirky buildings. In front of the bathing house is a fine sandy beach that extends out to Barlocco Island at low tide. There is an old slipway and a “smugglers’ cave” at the north end of the beach. Follow the good track up from the beach through bushes and woodland to emerge at an impressive stone seat that gives a panoramic view over Ardwall Island, Wigtown Bay and the Galloway Hills to the north. From the seat, follow a waymarked footpath directly down a steep slope towards the sea, turning right to contour above rocks and emerge onto the pasture just above the shoreline. Look out for a memorial to two of the Knockbrex estate’s dogs just above the rocky shore. The path is waymarked across the pasture heading past the old harbour towards Knockbrex House.

3. Knockbrex House probably dates from the 16th century, but it has been extensively changed over the years. James Brown bought the Knockbrex estate in 1894. He extended and re-modelled the house and gardens at Knockbrex as well as creating numerous other buildings in his distinctive style around the estate. Cross the causeway in front of Knockbrex House, go through the gate, then follow the footpath signs along the fence line just above the shore until you reach the surfaced road at a gate and footpath sign. At this point you can extend the walk along the road for a few hundred metres to a large, grassy area overlooking Isle Mouth Bay.

4. From Isle Mouth Bay you can access Ardwall Island at low tide but make sure that you check the tide times before attempting the crossing. The best route follows a line of rocky outcrops from the right-hand end of the beach. Ardwall Island is the site of a Christian chapel that was in use from the 6th to the 12th century and the island was also the location of smuggling activities in more recent times. You can also walk up a good, short path from Isle Mouth Bay to a viewpoint with a dry-stone wall seat on top of Knockbrex Hill. This is a good place to get a view over Wigtown Bay and the Islands of Fleet.

5. To return to the Coo Palace, follow the minor road back towards Borgue. You will pass another of James Brown’s eccentric buildings, known as ‘Knockbrex Castle’ or the toy fort. This was originally constructed in the early 1900s as a garage for his collection of cars. It is thought to be based on the style of Warwick Castle Turn right at the road junction beyond Knockbrex Castle and you can follow the minor road for about a mile back to the Coo Palace.

6. Alternatively, you can turn left up a track just after the entrance to Knockbrex House then follow a path looping through Doon Wood to emerge out onto the road about half-way back towards the Coo Palace. This is a good place to see bluebells in spring.

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Disclaimer: This route was correct at time of writing. However, alterations can happen if development or boundary changes occur, and there is no guarantee of permanent access. These walks have been published for use by site visitors on the understanding that neither HPB Management Limited nor any other person connected with Holiday Property Bond is responsible for the safety or wellbeing of those following the routes as described. It is walkers' own responsibility to be adequately prepared and equipped for the ‎level of walk and the weather conditions and to assess the safety and accessibility of the walk.

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