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The Need to Fly

The Need to Fly

By Dominic Smith





Why do we enjoy flight simulation? What draws us to this magical and highly unique experience? Is it the thought of being in control of a large airliner at 36,000 feet, skimming through the valleys in a fighter, or perhaps soaring mountain ridges in a glider?


Whatever it is, flight simulation manages to capture an audience that is both young and old, male and female, and reaches across the globe in its enthusiasm.


For myself, the experience is not so much about flying per se (even though that is an important element), rather it's more about the ability to escape.


In today's fast and challenging world, it's often quite difficult to remove oneself from the constant bombardment of daily worries, and whilst we might (at times) think we are being individually picked on, it's just something we all have to deal with as human beings.


This is where the ability to escape comes into play...


In much the same way as real aviation, when you are up there amongst the clouds, it's just you and your machine, and nothing can touch you. You really are as free as a bird, even more so if like myself you enjoy the wonders of GA flying. In many cases you'll find it's a back to basics approach, and that means flying aids and equipment are quite often limited. That's not to say that the flying experience is any less challenging or rewarding...far from it, it's just a more of a hands on approach.


Let me give me you a little background...


I love solitude, always have done, and ever since I can remember I have enjoyed my own company more than others. However, before any of you dare mutter it...I'm not a social cripple, as many who know me will testify; I can be the life and soul of a party!


Many a time as a young boy, my day was spent with my trusty dog Boot (what a guy), and for hours we would just walk in the Scottish mountains together. Come rain or shine (quite frequently the former), we ventured out and it was always quality time.


Now the years have moved on and I am quite a bit older, and sadly my loyal friend is no longer by my side to keep me company, but what I do have are my virtual wings, and together once again, we explore the area I once frequented as a boy.


If you've never had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country of Scotland, then you are dearly missing out. It is a truly wonderful place to visit, and one that can mesmerize the heart in a second. Scotland is an incredible place to explore, and one that will leave its mark on you for all time. Its purity is in both the land and the sky, and that is what draws me to it. No other country I have had the pleasure of visiting has managed to do that so far, but then again, I am bound to be biassed as a Scot!


Anyway, I digress!


Most of my virtual flying time is concentrated around a beautiful area of southern Scotland known as Dumfries and Galloway, or more specifically, the Galloway Forest Park.


My departure point is usually West Freugh, a former Royal Air Force station situated in west Galloway, or across the border in England at Carlisle Airport, which has an active GA scene. West Freugh on the other hand would normally be off limits to the likes of myself, however, due to the wonders of flight simulation, you can bypass any security it might have!


The weather in this part of world can be notoriously bad (summer this year is on a Wednesday), with low clouds, coupled with strong gusts being the norm. Due to this, some of the mountains to the east can prove quite a challenge, and in real life often fatal.





Choosing West Freugh, your first port of call is Merrick, the highest mountain in the Southern Uplands of southern Scotland at 843 m (2,766 ft).


Before you arrive at Merrick though, there is the wonderful site of Loch Trool to observe, home of the Battle of Loch Trool in 1307.





























Much of the surrounding area of the loch is carpeted by thick forest, but it's quite possible to do a leisurely circular walk (as many do), and is something I can highly recommend - just remember to bring plenty of sandwiches and coffee!


















As you head north over the loch, Merrick will be easy to spot, especially with its prominent ridges and high summit. In an aircraft at just 3000 feet and with good visibility, the view is always going to be good, but even if you've reached the summit on foot, the vista is equally as impressive. If the weather is on your side (lots of praying needed), you can see for miles - in fact, it's not uncommon to be able to see the snow capped mountains of the southern Highlands over 100 miles away!


























Travelling south east from Merrick, you'll first pass Loch Enoch and then both Loch Neldricken and Loch Valley, until finally you'll come across the picturesque setting of Loch Dee.


















Here you will find sandy shores and water so clear it'll put Volvic to shame...but that's between you and me!






From there, an easterly turn brings Clatteringshaws Loch into view, a freshwater reservoir created by damming the River Dee in the 1930s. Situated just off the A712 road leading to New Galloway, Clatteringshaws is a popular attraction with large groups of tourists and as such, an area I try and avoid in the high season. In the winter months though, it is lovely and quiet and a location you can really enjoy.














With that done, a quick turn to the south west will point you towards Cairnsmore of Fleet, another of Galloway's mountains and one that offers truly magnificent views over the Cree Estuary and the Solway.














With the estuary behind you, it's now a leisurely descent back to West Freugh and hopefully a hot cup of coffee and some biscuits!















I hope you enjoyed this little flight around Dumfries and Galloway, as it's one I do quite often. Being able to visit an area you are familiar with or have fond memories of, is one of the most rewarding things you can do in a flight simulator, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that feeling. As technology improves I can only see the experience improving and that is something I really look forward to.






Software used for this article:


X-Plane 11 by Laminar Research


Photographic scenery of Scotland created by myself with Ortho4XP


HD Mesh v4 by Andras Fabian


SimHeaven's X-Europe


Default Cessna 172 with Stuart McGregor's wonderful livery


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