John Corrie from his The Annals of Glencairn, 1910.
360 degree view of the byre at Cairnhead
Cairnhead Forest lies at the upper end of Glencairn Parish in Dumfries & Galloway in south-west Scotland among the Southern Uplands some six miles up Dalwhat Glen north-west of Moniaive. Part of the Southern Upland Way runs close to its northern border. The landscape around it is characterised by large, smooth-domed hills, with steep-sided valleys and broader glens. This is an area much loved by its residents and by the as yet relatively small number of hillwalkers who have discovered it.
There is a special wild character to this place. The glen itself has a pronounced U-shape with steep sides rising over 300 metres to create a dramatic landscape with long scenic views south. Scattered through it are isolated farmsteads and houses (some of them abandoned), drystone dykes act as field boundaries along the flat glen floor and drystone sheepfolds are also common features. In the heart of the glen, sited on a platform of land which acts as a ready-made viewing platform for picturesque views of the glen, is the old steading of Cairnhead, where the first of Andy Goldsworthy’s arches to be constructed has been installed half in, half out of a disused byre.
The hillsides in this 1347-hectare forest are mainly covered with conifers planted commercially by Forestry Commission Scotland, but there are also pockets of broad-leaved woodland and even a few remnants of ancient juniper forest. About a third of the glen remains unplanted, with picturesque pasture, burn-sides and rocky outcrops. The broad valley bottom is grazed, with Dalwhat Water meandering along it, fed by numerous burns coursing down the hills. Surrounding this natural amphitheatre are a number of summits, including those on which Andy Goldsworthy’s Striding Arches now stand.