The Awful Hand trip being ill-fated and causing pains, strains, disease and discomfort across the United Kingdom (these things hardly ever work out on the first attempt) I determined to go camping and bag a few Marilyns that had been on my list-of-Marilyns-to-bag-in-Galloway list for a while.
The first victim to the ticking pencil was on Friday afternoon – one Hightown Hill, an 820 foot lump of grass with cows on it somewhere slightly to the left of Dumfries. I was going to bag a hill next to it but didn’t because a) I couldn’t remember where it was and b) I didn’t have the map with it on and c) I couldn’t think of a third excuse. This went well and a walk of just under two miles set me up for a celebratory pint of Black Sheep in the Ken Bridge Hotel where I was camping.
The KB Hotel was occupied mainly by hunters and fishers, the hunters being in camouflage and (whisper this) I noticed that over the three days, whilst I wetted out two pairs of boots and covered them in muck, their shoes were always shiny. I took this to mean that, despite all pretence, they actually hadn’t been anywhere at all…..
And so, soon afterwards, it was Saturday. I took the knipemobile over to Glen Trool and parked near the old Caldons campsite where the caldons used to camp. I followed the Southern Upland Way and a cycle route in a roughly Easterly direction, passing through the battlesite of Glentrool where, after watching a spider for a bit, Robert de Brus and 300 rock-hurling Ayrshirites and a few cavalry trounced a force of 1500 English troops under de Clifford – the Lord of Skipton castle no less.
I continued to the watershed and turned off over grassless cow-churned mud and, higher, to heather and tussocks, and higher to beautiful slabs of granite to the summit of Craig Lee, perched on a little tor. Then followed what can only be described as a joyful romp over the twists and rocky turns of the Rig of the Jarkness. What is a Jarkness, and how much do they eat…? This ridge is pure delight, with rocky tors and slabs and little tarns and ends with an unpleasant steep pile of tussocks to a ford and a sloppy path down to Bruce’s Stone. I completed with a road walk back to the start, although there seems to be shoreline alternatives.
On returning to the Ken Bridge Hotel, I celebrated with a little guinness and some scotch and drifted off into Kylieland in short order.
Soon, it was Sunday and the two cock robins who I’d been feeding each time they whistled finally had me trained to showfield standard. I left them a snack on a tree stump and went off in search of a parking spot close enough to Craignell to make a short day, for I heard that rain was on its way for the afternoon and would “set in”.
I parked by the Black Loch, between a wild goat park and a deer range and, not finding the “stepping stones” marked on my map, took a turn around the Loch with it’s strange conical sculpture thingy. I had to cross the burn to get to the “Old Edinburgh Road” which used to go to Old Edinburgh and I followed this to an obscure turn-off into the deep forest. This went further than it said on my map, which is what I wanted. At it’s end, I could see open hillside some way above, but I chose the wrong forest ride and ended up floundering in huge tussocks with deep water in between and, eventually, after an hour or so of toil, came to a dead-end of impenetrable sitka spruce. I decided to call the whole thing off in favour of a paddle and a picnic next to a waterfall I’d spotted. I retraced awkwardly and a bit grumpily through the same floundering-ground.
Then, I thought I’d just investigate the other ride. This was steep, but easy under foot and I was soon out on the hillside, albeit onto outrageously steep heather. I battled up this, grateful that I’d forgotten to take my beta-blockers and wondering how the air ambulance would find me.
Craignell is steep and rough but the top is a great place to be providing it hasn’t just started raining. So I bailed out for a celebratory pint back at Ken Bridge. Some sheepfarmers were in tonight. No idea what they were talking about, though I did catch the word “Gimmer”…
Then the hunters came in. Boots still shiny. What had they been doing all day?
Today I came home. I had soaked two pairs of boots and three pairs of socks so there was little motivation to put them on again. And I’d eaten all the bacon and the robins are resting smug, feet up, little robin slippers on, being too fat to fly just now.
Cracking hills, though.
As far as the leaky boots are concerned – I can feel something in the air which will sort out the problem – hopefuly before the weekend cos I’m off to Wales.