The Merrick – Mullwarchar – Dungeon Hill – Craignaw
The weekend forecast after our hill holidays looked pretty grim right across Scotland, but Ally and I were desperate to get out again after such a good week. The only window of opportunity was southern Scotland which had a pretty decent forecast – the rest of the country was torrential rain, weather warnings and high winds. However, this presented an opportunity to go to Galloway. We had never been to any of the Galloway hills before and in fact we had only been to this area once before, to the excellent Wigtown book festival.
As usual, we left in the van straight after work on Friday and made the five hour drive plus stop for tea down to Glen Trool where we camped for the night. We had found an interesting looking route from the new SMC Grahams & Donalds book which is a circuit that takes in the Corbett, The Merrick, which is the highest point in Southern Scotland, and several of the surrounding Grahams of the Dungeon of Buchan range.
The walk started from the carpark situated at the end of Loch Trool and up the good path to The Merrick. This was immediately very beautiful, alongside waterfalls and views opening up across the glen straight away as we climbed. It is very like the Lake District in fact.
We arrived at the non-MBA Culsharg bothy, which looked in great nick from the outside.
The inside though was a different story – very rough and made worse by several bags of rubbish piled up that visitors had left behind. I hoped they were returning for them after their walk, but doubted it.
The walk was steep in parts but on a great path and we were soon at the top of Benyellary.
We walked along the brilliantly named Neive of the Spit. Like the Lake District, every feature has a name, and here there are very anglicised place names with no Gaelic which is very different from the Highlands (Murder Hole anyone?). This part reminded me a lot of the walk we did earlier in the year up High Street in the Lake District – I think that bit is called the Straights of Riggindale. It was very windy along this part as the wind rushed right up the corrie but it was a short pull up to the summit of The Merrick. It is a lovely viewpoint and we sat and had a cuppie and took it in.
Well, that was the easy part of the walk over. The next part was 6 hours of rough, pathless terrain. The other side of The Merrick showed a different character, and is very rocky and lumpy. We descended down Redstone Rig to beautiful Loch Enoch, where the SMC description pointed out its ‘loch in loch’, which was a tiny lochan on one of the loch’s islands. I had an urge to swim in the loch in the loch – it is now on my long list of things to do, but today was not the day! It was hard going, descending down. The typical Galloway terrain is made up of thick, knee-length grass that looks lovely and gentle but obscures a myriad of potholes, tussocks and other ankle-breaking menaces of rough ground. Not easy to skip down, at least not for us.
The loch side was very pleasant and Ally suddenly announced he wasn’t bothered about climbing Mullwarchar, preferring to linger by the shore.
I can’t say I blame him – it was very inviting and I was very tempted myself, but I was tempted even more by the description of Mullwarchar being the remotest hill in Southern Scotland. Yes please! I arranged to meet him back by the shore and made my way up the rocky slopes until I found the summit. There was indeed a very remote feel from up here and fine views down to Loch Macaterick and Loch Doon.
Again, descending was not quick and I had to be careful. I could not see Ally anywhere amongst the complex landscape of rocks and had to shout for him. I eventually saw him waving from some boulders.
We then made our way up over increasingly bouldery terrain to the aptly named Dungeon Hill – which did look like a rocky dungeon. It is really different terrain here, quite unlike the Highlands. Although I compare it to the Lake District, it still has its own completely distinct rocky character.
We cut round the side of Craignairny to the cairn on the bealach before picking through the boulders up Craignaw, passing the Deil’s Bowling Green, which is a flattish area of rock scattered with boulders.
From here it looked like a simple descent down to the end of Loch Neldricken to pick up the path on the other side. Well, that was a mission. The ground was increasingly rough and I fell several times in potholes and the like. It is really rough terrain, and especially when you can’t see the ground beneath you.
I thought crossing the burn and reaching the path might give some relief, but the path was an absolute shocker. Boggy, mucky, obscured by shoulder length ferns and bracken and covered in more potholes, every step was accompanied by a loud swear word from both of us.
That over and done with we walked the last stretch on good track back to the van for a recovery cuppie. We had decided on a pub along Glen Trool for a nice drink afterwards, but after trying to find a parking space, only to find one free after a car left, reversing towards it and the car behind us nick it, me shaking my fists at them and mouthing ‘what you doing?’ and then seeing them blatantly shrug and waddle into the pub, we decided to just move on rather than confront them. Ach, sometimes it’s just easier to be passive-aggressive from the comfort of your van! 🙂