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Monday, 26 September 2011

Galloway Tour of Tussocks, Bogs and Forests

round loch of glenhead rig of jarkness

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.

loch trool craig lee summit

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…..

battle of glen trool

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.

summit to loch trool

rig of the jarkness

dungeon hill peeping over a tarn

lamachans and curleywee

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.

glen trool

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”.

it'll never fly

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.

galloway 028

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.



Alan R said...

Oh Bugger,
Do you not think i felt guilty enough without making me feel sorry that you had to drink all that beer on your Jack Jones. Hope there was somebody on the campsite who appreciated your Kylie singing.

We need to put a marker down for next year and i will hang myself up in a wardrobe until then so that i cannot catch anything except moth pestilence.

It looks a cracking area Mike and the weather looks decent. New boots eh!

tookiebunten said...

Great post of an area I love to walk in and yes us Ayrshire boys to love to hurl staines aboot :)

James Boulter said...

Ohh I do like them hills, its been a while since I lost a boot amongst the tussocks. Have the midges gone to bed up there yet?

Mike Knipe said...

Alan - I need new boots, and it looks like TNF and UKhillwalking have come to my rescue (even though reading gear reviews glazes my eyes, I'll write them for mammon - honestly, obviously) - Next spring for more backpacking walkies, I think.
Tookiebunten - Thanks for the comment - I need to revisit the Dungeon Range in particular. I went some years ago on a round including the Merrick and it would be good to go back. There's the Deil's Bowling Green up there. Does that mean the Deil himself is from Ayrshire?
James - didn't spot any loose boots. The midgies weren't about either even though it was warm and damp. I'll be back here soon, though.

Jules said...

Looks like a super area! Not one I know (as you can tell) but one which looks worthy of exploration.

Thanks for sharing.

Louise said...

Would love to have plodded up those hills behind you, 'specially now your trousers are less holy. Ah well, another time, when normality has resumed around here!

Martin Rye said...

FIne collection of photos Mike. I keep saying I am going there to backpack and I am sure I will. Have fun in Wales.

Sarah said...

Hope the boots are shaping up OK!

Mike Knipe said...

No boots on the horizon at the moment, Sarah. I expect the delivery man called when we were out!

Anonymous said...

Ah, so /that's/ where I didn't go for a walk. Looks good, so count me in for next time.