Walked 400 miles across Scotland only to get locked in a public library

Walking into Kirkcudbright as part of Hay's Way Walking into Kirkcudbright as part of Hay's Way
Walking into Kirkcudbright as part of Hay's Way | Katharine Hay
I wasn’t even locked in the bit where the books were.

I don’t often find myself in a situation where I am eyeing up a disabled toilet’s window as a possible escape route.

That happened after spending a peaceful few hours getting some work done in Kirkcudbright Library in Dumfries and Galloway.

Minutes earlier, I gave a nod and a ‘thank you’ to the man on reception as I was leaving the building’s main room. But just before heading out the front door, I went to use the toilet before making my way to the town’s campsite for the night.

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I had all my clothes washed by the local laundrette during the day and took the opportunity, while I had some privacy, to change into a clean outfit.

Blissfully unaware of the locking up going on around me, I spent a bit of time relishing the handling of clean clothes having spent the day walking around in just waterproofs.

But in that time, reception was packed up and all the doors locked. It was a bank holiday Monday, so I understand staff were keen to get out the door, but perhaps a little too keen for they failed to check if anyone was still in.

After trying all the doors I could find, I called out ‘hello’ several times. I was met with an eerie silence. And then all the lights went off. I tried the main front door again, and rattled it while knocking on it a couple of times on the off chance someone might be outside and hear the slight dilemma I was in. Nothing.

I saw a phone number on a billboard which was listed to use ‘in case of emergency.’ It was certainly a backup option, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath with it being a bank holiday on a Monday and being in a small, rural town. I didn’t really think of myself as an emergency anyway. It would have actually been quite nice to spend the night in there - a break from camping and guaranteed a dry night away from the rain, thunder and lightning Dumfries and Galloway has been eager to show me on my walks lately. I noted there was a local section with books on the history of the area which I would have happily got lost in while curled up in the library’s snug. The only thing was the door to where the books and comfy chairs were was also locked.

Sitting in the lobby with my headphones in and listening to music, contemplating expensing The Scotsman for causing damage to property while breaking down a door or a window, I got up and investigated escape options.

The disabled toilet had two windows which both opened. After climbing onto the windowsill to double check my waist and shoulder width would fit through the gap, I hopped down to retrieve my rucksack and camera bag from the hallway. Humming along to the music in my ears and with a slight spring in my step after finding my escape plan I started to gather up my things. While I was taking a short video of me trying to open the doors, I was startled by a noise behind me. A concerned-looking woman with cleaning products on her stood in the doorway. The unexpected greeting caused me to freeze mid-action. Clad in black with a black cap on and tugging at the locked library door for the video all looked a bit wrong.

Noticing her perplexed look as I fumbled about gathering my things, I reassured her that I was trying to break out, not break in before being escorted out.

The funny thing was a day or two later, arriving in the neighbouring village of Gatehouse of Fleet, I checked out the local library as a space to work for the morning and saw the very same man who had locked me in by accident sitting at reception.



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