The Lowther Hills are Howgill(ish) hills lying roughly and a bit emptily between the M74 and the A76, approximately between Moffat and Sanquhar. There’s forestry, grouse moors and steep-sided rounded grassy hills. Nothing too exciting, except for those who get excited by empty places.
So, we went to Sanquhar. It was grey and drizzly and driech, so we didn’t get too far on the first afternoon, specially since the rain was getting it’s act together. We camped a few miles up (or down?) the Southern Upland Way by a small beck – the Bog Burn. We had a rain-spatterred but otherwise quiet and peaceful night.
In the morning (Wednesday) , we continued through the drizzle and hill-fog along the Southern Upland Way which had been partially and a bit irritatingly diverted for “Lambing”. On the way, me and LTD did short diversions for the bagging of handy Tumps. By the time we were approaching Wanlockhead, the mere seven or eight miles we’d walked was beginning to feel like a lot more.
So we had tea outside the visitor centre – because they wouldn’t let the dog inside..
We camped high on the slopes of Lowther Hill, on a grassy little platform by the path from the Enterkin Burn. It was a cosy and pleasant spot, apart from the slight tilt which had me and LTD in a lump at the bottom of the tent on a couple of occasions. LTD suggested that I belay myself to something but couldn’t suggest how this might be acheived.
Thursday was the day for the bagging of Steygail, a Hump, sub-Marilyn and all-round shapely hillock on the other side of Lowther Hill. We used the service road to get up to the top by the radar station and launched off over lovely, grassy hills to discover that Steygail was defended by grass at a general angle that grass shouldn’t be and that there was just a bit less than 500 feet of “up” to get “up”. This proved to be a challenge, what with the big pack.
And then, once up, there was the simple matter of an 1100 foot thigh-destroying descent to a pickernick table where me and LTD brewed coffee in antici……………pation of Dawn’s arrival. I suspect quite strongly that Dawn didn’t really enjoy this bit.. !
Onwards and sideways because it wasn’t too far to a nice camping spot, particularly if we gloss over the huge, deep and steep ravine that was in the way. However, with much effort, a wet bum on my part and a small laceration ro a pinky, plus much groaning, moaning and heaving, we found ourselves on the correct side of this cavernous slit.
The camp by the Auchenlowe Burn, on what appeared to be small dwelling platforms, was specially nice. And the sun came out.
Friday was a bit brighter and we wandered more easily down Glenim and across the Mennock Pass to follow the intake wall (at a distance) across the fell to rejoin the Southern Upland Way back into Sanquhar.
My previous visit to this area, back in April 2009 had ended in a desperate evacuation in a blizzard following a stormy night in the depths of Glendyne and it was interesting to discover that had I followed the burn downhill a bit, I would have come across a fine and sheltered flat camping spot with an easier exit than I’d had that breezy April night. Dhuhh…
We had four hours to wait in Sanquhar and, on the advice of a local butcher, who came out of his shop to talk to Lucky, we spent the time in the lounge bar of the Glendyne Hotel which had more room for dogs and rucksacks than the cosy but crowded public bar. And then there was the opportunity to rehydrate after al that hot weather [koff]
There’s a direct train to Sanquhar from Newcastle, making it specially quick to get there. And the Lowthers provide some really exceptional and quiet hillwalking and backpacking. I should go more often. Once every seven years is probably not enough.
LTD liked it too.