Lindsay Boyd's Trip Reports

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Section 0 - The Galloway and Border Hills

Daer Reservoir
Daer Reservoir
Croft Head
Croft Head
Broad Law
Broad Law
Merrick
Merrick

This section refers to the hills south of the Central Belt, or the Midland Valley as it is referred to in the SMC handbooks, and north of the Scotland - England border. They include the hills of Galloway in the south-west and the Border Hills to the south-east of Scotland including Corbetts, Grahams and New Donalds that I have climbed in this area since 2003. The Sub 2000 Marilyns climbed in the west of this area can be viewed here while those in the east can be seen here.


Section 0 Index

Corbetts
(these are also New Doandls)
Grahams
(these are also New Doanlds)
New Donalds
Broad Law Andrewhinney Hill Alhang
Cairnsmore of Carsphairn Ballencleuch Law Alwhat
Corserine Blackcraig Hill Bell Craig
Hart Fell Blackhope Scar Beninner
Merrick Cairnsmore of Fleet Benyellary
Shalloch on Minnoch Capel Fell Birkscairn Hill
White Coomb Cauldcleuch Head Black Law
  Craignaw Blacklorg Hill
  Croft Head Bodesbeck Law
  Culter Fell Bow
  Dun Rig Bowbeat Hill
  Ettrick Pen Caerloch Dhu
  Gathersnow Hill Cairnsgarroch
  Green Lowther Cape Law
Lamachan Hill Cardon Hill
  Millfore Carlin's Cairn
  Mullwharchar Carrifran Gans
  Queensberry Chapelgill Hill
  Tinto Clockmore
  Windlestraw Law Cold Moss
  Windy Standard Comb Law
    Coomb Dod
    Coomb Hill
    Corran of Portmark
    Cramalt Craig
    Curleywee
    Deer Law
    Din Law
    Dollar Law
    Drumelzier Law
    Dundreich
    Dungeon Hill
    Dun Law
    Earncraig Hill
    East Mount Lowther
    Erie Hill
    Gana Hill
    Garelet Dod
    Glenrath Heights
    Greenside Law
    Herman Law
    Hillshaw Head
    Hopetoun Craig
    Hudderstone
    Hunt Law
    Kirriereoch Hill
    Knee of Cairnsmore
    Lairds Cleuch Rig
    Larg Hill
    Loch Fell
    Lochcraig Head
    Lousie Wood Law
    Lowther Hill
    Meaul
    Meikledodd Hill
    Meikle Millyea
    Meikle Mulltaggart
    Middle Hill
    Mid Rig
    Milldown
    Molls Cleuch Dod
    Moorbrock Hill
    Pykestone Hill
    Rodger Law
    Saddle Yoke
    Scaw'd Law
    Smidhope Hill
    Stob Law
    Swatte Fell
    Talla Cleuch Head
    Tarfessock
    The Scrape
    Under Saddle Yoke
    Wedder Law
    West Knowe
    Whitehope Heights
    Whitehope Law
    Wind Fell
    Windy Gyle


Section 0 - Trip Reports

Birkscairn Hill, Dun Rig and Glenrath Heights

26 September 2015

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 73. Time taken - 6.75 hours. Distance - 21.5 kilometres. Ascent - 930 metres.

We planned to climb the Graham and New Donald, Dun Rig, on a circuit of Glen Sax so parked in the lay-by at the top end of Glen Road, Peebles, Scottish Borders, before continuing along the road then a track signposted Gypsy Glen and the Old Drove Road. This led to a footbridge over Haystoun Burn, through a wooded area and a couple of gates, to reach a junction of paths. My walking companion took the lower path along Kailzie Old Drove Road and towards Kirkhope Law while I took the high route to Craig Head. From this summit there were views back to Peebles and the route planned.

After an easy descent south-east I rejoined the Old Drove Road at another gate and once through it a steady climb with a few minor dips took me to the west of Kailzie Hill where I caught up with my fellow bagger. Together we continued to Kirkhope Law where we took a break. From there we saw what appeared to be a white Land Rover drive from Glen Sax onto Birkscairn Hill.

The walk then continued with a short descent south-west then an ascent of the Graham Top and New Donald, Birkscairn Hill. On reaching its summit we discovered the Land Rover belonged to Moffat Mountain Rescue and the two members of the team and several marshals were there as part of the ‘Two Breweries Hill Race’ run from Innerleithen to Broughton.

We left this summit, descended to the col with Stake Law, and then climbed this deleted Donald Top. Beyond the ground was rather boggy with several peat hags before the going improved as we climbed to Dun Rig’s Trig Point. As shown on the map this wasn’t the highest point so we located what we thought was the summit, two metres higher than the trig.

The walk continued south-west as we worked our way through more wet and boggy ground round the head of Glen Sax before turning north to climb Middle Hill on Glenrath Heights, a Graham Top and New Donald. Here we took another break and through binoculars could see runners climb nearby Stob Law.

From Middle Hill we continued to Hundleshope Law, another deleted Donald Top, where again the trig wasn’t the highest point. Here we parted company, my walking partner descended the north-east ridge to the gully of the Waddenshope Burn, while I headed north over Preston Law, then descended to the col with Newby Kipps before climbing to its rocky summit.

The descent east was fairly steep but lower down there were sheep tracks to follow through the bracken. I reached and crossed the Waddenshope Burn, rejoined my companion, and walked down an estate track to Glen Sax. Here a vehicle track, tarred lower down, led north on the west side of the Haystoun Burn, passed a few habitations, to Glen Road and my car.

previous ascent Glenrath Heights

Birkscairn Hill New Donald second ascent 661 metres
Dun Rig Graham/New Donald seond ascent 744 metres
Glenrath Heights New Donald second ascent 732 metres

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Green Lowther and Lowther Hill

16 November 2013

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 78. Time taken - 2.5hours. Distance - 11.75 kilometres. Ascent - 425 metres.

Accompanied by a Graham Bagging friend I drove to Wanlockhead on the B797 which I accessed from the roundabout at Abington Service Station on the M74. There appeared to be several parking possibilities but I opted to leave my car on an area of rough ground just south of the locked gate at the start of this walk.

We set off round the side of the locked gate and walked up the tarred road which led all the way to the summit of Green Lowther. Not long after setting out along this road we took a diversion following a so called path to take in the Sub Highland Five, Stake Hill, rejoining the road further south. The road was then followed to the Radar Station on Lowther Hill where the highest point of this New Donald and Graham Top appeared to be at the west side of the dome.

A long fairly straight stretch of road now led towards Green Lowther but here there was a head wind making what would normally be an easy stroll a bit of an effort. We passed a group of four folks going in the opposite direction. Another short diversion took us round the telecommunications tower on Green Trough, a Sub Graham Top, although I couldn’t make up my mind on its highest point. On rejoining the road a short climb took us to the Green Lowther with its summit trig point located between telecommunications towers.

The return was by the upward route missing out the summit of Lowther Hill and Stake Hill.

previous ascent

Lowther Hill New Donald second ascent 725 metres
Green Lowther Graham/New Donald second ascent 732 metres

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Tinto

15 December 2012

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 72. Time taken - 2.5 hours. Distance - 6.5 hours. Ascent - 470 metres.

On my previous ascent of Tinto I tackled it from the north so on this visit I decided to approach from a different direction. I settled on a southerly approach as it also meant it was closer to the starting point for the Sub 2000 metres Marilyn, Dungavel Hill, which I was considering climbing afterwards.

The start of the walk was the hamlet of Wiston, on the B7055 road which runs between the A70 and A73. Parking was a bit limited but I managed to find a suitable spot beside the entrance to Wiston Lodge. We walked towards the Lodge then along the track to the west of the buildings, which unfortunately appeared a bit run down. The track, signposted Tinto, was followed passed a cottage and to the end of the lane. Here a stile was crossed and we entered what would normally be a muddy field. Fortunately as a result of the recent cold spell most of the ground was still frozen.

The route followed the edge of the field which was bordered by a forest. Another stile then a gate was crossed before we reached the open hillside where there was a vast improvement in the underfoot conditions. Unfortunately Tinto was in cloud although nearby hilltops were clear. Some height was gained before the path headed to the east of Pap Craig where there were various paths including the zigzag one shown on the map. A bit to our right was a stock fence which could be an aid in bad weather.

Higher up some small pockets of snow were encountered but most could be avoided. We entered the cloud but the route over some scree and short heather was still obvious. There appeared to be a path running between a set of fences but it was covered in ice. One of these fences was eventually crossed by means of a stile and this led to the very large cairn where a lot of the boulders were covered in ice. A new topograph marking the high point on Tinto had been installed but unfortunately it was of no advantage to us on this occasion as visibility was poor.

At the summit it was quite bitter with a strong wind blowing so we didn’t linger and returned to the car by the upward route.

Tinto Graham and New Donald second ascent 711 metres

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Blackhope Scar, Bowbeat Hill and Dundreich

13 October 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 73 Time - 5.5 hours Distance 18.5 kilometres Ascent 605 metres

Low cloud was forecasted for vast parts of the country with the exception of the Eastern Borders so we headed for the Moorfoot Hills with the intention of climbing Blackhope Scar. The starting point was the rough parking area at Gladhouse Reservoir as signs approaching the reservoir requested no parking on the verges or beyond.

We walked along the public road to Moorfoot Farm, passed through the farmyard, and walked south on a vehicle track to Gladhouse Cottage. Just beyond this cottage we crossed the bridge over the River South Esk and continued along its east side, following a vehicle track, to Clinty Cleuch, as the cloud covering the tops gradually lifted. The track up Clinty Cleuch, which deteriorated higher up, wound its way to the col between The Kipps and Blackhope Scar. A fence was then followed south over some wet and boggy ground to the summit of Blackhope Scar, classed as a Graham and New Donald. The trig point even had an adjacent area of bog but the highest point was apparently fifteen metres to the south-west although there was no obvious sign that this ground was any higher.

With the cloud lifting off the tops we decided to continue to Bowbeat Hill, which was covered in wind turbines. A couple of fences were followed to the col between it and Blackhope Scar before crossing some heathery ground. However that was short lived as we soon reached the roads linking the wind turbines. One of these roads passed close to the summit of Bowbeat Hill and at the high point we left this road and climbed the few metres to the summit, which wasn’t obvious so we visited a couple of rises.

After lunch looking down the glen of the River South Esk to Gladhouse Reservoir we rejoined the turbine track and followed it almost to the col with Dundreich, where it came to an end. Here the terrain was again wet and rough but improved as we made the final ascent to the summit trig point and cairn of Dundreich.

A fence was then followed north-east over Jeffries Cairn before descending to Gladhouse Cottage and the track and road back to the reservoir.

previous ascent Blackhope Scar

previous ascent Bowbeat Hill and Dundreich

Blackhope Scar Graham/New Donald second ascent 651 metres
Bowbeat Hill New Donald second ascent 626 metres
Dundreich New Donald third ascent 622 metres

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Windy Gyle

19 August 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 74. Time taken - 7.25 hours. Distance - 22 kilometres. Ascent - 790 metres.

Windy Gyle was to be my final New Donald and three friends were prepared to join me for this walk along the Scottish/English Border.

To reach the start of this walk we drove to Kelso then onto Town Yetholm before taking the unclassified road to Cocklawfoot. An area of grass just before the crossing of the Kelsocleuch Burn made for a suitable parking area. It was a bright morning with loads of game birds running around as we set off along the track to Kelsocleuch, where a road sign banned motor cars and motor cycles between 1 April and 31 May, the lambing season. Not something I had seen before but the route didn’t appear suitable for the ordinary car.

On reaching Kelsocleuch there was a slight error in getting round the farm. We ended up going beyond the buildings before accessing the field when in fact the route was along the side of the stone dyke just before the farmhouse, across a stile and into the field. It isn’t signposted and didn’t make a lot of difference but the farmer would probably prefer walkers stick to the route via the stile. A couple of fields were crossed before we reached a forest, where lots of the trees had been cut down. A path followed a gap in the forest and led to Kelsocleuch Rig and onto Windy Rig.

The ascent of Windy Rig took us onto the Pennine Way, which at this point ran along the Scottish/English Border marked by a post and wire fence. We stayed on the north side of the fence and climbed to the summit of Windy Gyle, which is wholly within Scotland. The summit consisted of a cairn, known as Russell’s Cairn, and a trig point. I received congratulations from my fellow walkers before we were joined on the summit by a couple of Geordies who obligingly took a group photograph to mark the occasion.

We left the summit and walked the few metres to the Border and crossed a stile into England where we followed the fence and Pennine Way north-east over stone slabs. These slabs ran for miles as they crossed the heathery hillside and were a bit of a trudge for my first walking experience on English soil.

The top of Clennell Street, an ancient drove road, was reached where there was a similar road sign as at the start. Beyond a short and easy ascent took us to the trig point on King’s Seat. Still continuing along the stone slabs on the English side of the border we passed over Crookedsike Head before ascending the West Top of Cairn Hill, a Donald Top, which meant I had also completed Percy Donald’s list of Tops.

The border was left as we headed deeper into English territory to climb Cairn Hill, where work was in progress to lay more slabs. From here we climbed my first ever English Hill, The Cheviot, an ancient extinct volcano and classed as a Nuttall and Hewitt. Stone slabs led to the summit trig point which was positioned on top of breeze blocks. The surrounding area was an extensive peat bog and was quite deep in places as my walking poles sunk into the black mass. I thought it was probably one of the worst summit areas I had ever come across.

Views from the summit were a bit hazy although I could make out a beach on the North Sea coast. A jet flew low over the summit and repeated this several times, although it could have been more than one jet. It was good of my companions to arrange a fly pass for my final, New Donald, Donald, Donald Top and first Nuttal and Hewitt. A pity they couldn’t afford the Red Arrows.

We returned to Cairn Hill West Top and walked along a wooden slatted path to Auchope Cairn with views across Hen Hole to the west ridge of The Cheviot. After a short break we descended the west ridge of Auchope Cairn to the Mountain Refuge Hut before returning across the border into Scotland and down Auchope Rig. Various trails then took us to Cocklawfoot and the end of an interesting and successful day in the Borders.

Windy Gyle New Donald first ascent 619 metres

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Cairnsgarroch, Meaul, Bow and Corran of Portmark

31 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 77. Time taken - 5.75 hours. Distance - 18.5 kilometres. Ascent - 790 metres.

The start for the ascent of these four New Donalds was the Green Well of Scotland which is just north of Carsphairn, on the A713 Dalmellington to Dalry Road. I parked on an old section of road on the south-west side of the bridge over the Water of Deugh.

I crossed this bridge and walked up the road passed Holm of Daltallochan to Garryhorn. I had read that the terrain on the descent from Cairnsgarroch to Garryhorn was a bit of a nightmare so I decided to tackle this first and walk the route in a clockwise direction. I therefore left the vehicle track that continued to the disused lead mines, crossed the Garryhorn Burn and headed for the small hill Craighit. The vegetation was long and after recent rain wet, but sheep tracks assisted my progress until I discovered some All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) tracks. These led to a junction of fences at the south-west side of Craighit avoiding the actual summit.

Once beyond the fence the terrain was rather awkward with tussocky grass and rush which made for slow progress as I tried to find the easiest ascent route. Higher up the gradient eased with short vegetation and the trace of a path. I reached Cairnsgarroch’s summit cairn as the cloud lowered.

I took a break here but the rain started so I headed off down the west ridge following a stone dyke and at the col with Meaul this also included a fence. I climbed Meaul following the dyke and fence, which prior to the summit trig point, branched off to the right.

There was no point in remaining at this trig point, as due to the low cloud there was nothing to see, so I set off for Bow. Not long after leaving Meaul I came to the fence I had followed earlier. There was now an ATV track running along its west side. The rain was intermittent and there was a brief break in the cloud when I could see Cairnsgarroch and Loch Doon.

In the low cloud I continued to follow the fence and ATV track and ascended Bow and then Corran of Portmark. From here I descended the north ridge as did the ATV track, which later headed off west. On reaching the bealach with Black Craig there was no trace of the path shown on my map. I therefore ascended to the col south of Knockower through some terrible vegetation including lots of tussoky ground. This took a while and if I walked this round again I would descend by the east ridge of Corran of Portmark.

From the col there was an ATV track, north of the non existent path, which led to the old lead mines where I had lunch. Afterwards I continued to Garryhorn then back to the main road as the cloud was lifting.

Cairnsgarroch New Donald first ascent 659 metres
Meaul New Donald first ascent 695 metres
Bow New Donald first ascent 613 metres
Corran of Portmark New Donald first ascent 623 metres

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Black Law and Deer Law

30 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 73. Time taken - 4 hours. Distance - 15.5 kilometres. Ascent - 670 metres.

The forecast was for rain later in the day so I decided on an early start to climb these two New Donalds and the Sub Donalds, Blackhouse Heights (also known as Black Cleuch Head) and Conscleuch Head.

I parked in the car park at the Megget Reservoir and Dam, which was accessed from the unclassified St Mary’s Loch to Tweedsmuir Road. I then walked west along this road to just before the farm at Craigierig where the signposted ‘Right of Way’ led north to Manor Valley.

This ‘Right of Way’ was followed along a vehicle track, which was in good condition. It was a steady climb with the New Donalds, Black Law and Deer Law appearing to my right. The track headed over the east ridge of Greenside Law before descending sixty metres to Foulbrig. Here, beyond a gate, the track deteriorated considerably and was now wet and boggy requiring some deviation to avoid pools of water.

I continued along the track, which was a bit drier now, and regained some of the lost height before heading for Black Law. Underfoot the going was reasonable although there were some boggy sections. I reached a fence and followed it to Black Law’s South West Top before continuing to its higher North East Top, which was marked by a few stones.

The Sub Donald Blackhouse Heights was my next hill with a fence running all the way to its summit. There was no cairn here and the highest point appeared to be in the vicinity of a gate in the fence. I found walking easier on the west side of this fence as there were lots of ruts on the other side.

I took a break here before returning to Black Law’s South West Top. From here I descended south, still following a fence, and climbed Conscleuch Head, my final Sub Donald. There was no marker here so I continued, with a short drop and easy climb, to Deer Law where a standing stone, west of the fence line, marked the summit.

I descended south along an All Terrain Vehicle track, which kept to the west side of a small knoll. When the track changed direction and headed east I left it and climbed to the top of Broomy Law where I had views of St Mary’s Loch and Megget Reservoir.

From Broomy Law I descended south-west, following some sheep tracks through bracken, before joining the vehicle track on the north side of the Glengaber Burn. This track was descended to the road, east of the house at Glengaber, then a short uphill road walk back to my car, before it rained.

Black Law New Donald first ascent 698 metres
Deer Law New Donald first ascent 629 metres

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Whitehope Heights and Hart Fell

29 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 78. Time taken - 5.25 hours. Distance - 15.5 kilometres. Ascent - 875 metres.

I drove to Moffat and just north of the town centre I located the road to Ericstane, which I followed to the farm. However there was no parking here so I drove the short distance back to opposite Newton Farm where I left my vehicle on a large tarred area. I walked back to Ericstane Farm where I spoke to a chap shearing sheep. He directed me round the farm which meant keeping to the right and thought that where I parked my car would be okay until the new owners took over.

Once round Ericstane Farm I followed the track towards Corehead but had to leave the road briefly to allow a shepherd and his sheep to pass. At Corehead more sheep had been gathered, obviously for shearing, and a few poorly painted signs indicated the route round the property and towards the Devil’s Beef Tub. Beyond Corehead I found a path that led towards the Devil’s Beef Tub but not the one shown on my map which gained height. It may no longer exist or lower down was just concealed by bracken.

I later left this path, which could easily have been a sheep track, and commenced the ascent through the bracken covering the south face of Great Hill. Above me, on the opposite side of the glen, was the A701 Moffat to Edinburgh Road. There was a van lying at the foot of the Beef Tub which I was told had come off this road and rolled down the hillside. Higher up I found a narrow path that led to the col between Peat Knowe and Great Hill. I was now on the Annandale Way.

It was then an easy ascent to the summit of Great Hill although the Annandale Way didn’t go to the top but by-passed it on the north side. I took a break here looking down to the Devil’s Beef Tub and across to the main road. It was obviously raining further west but for the first time that week it stayed dry all day.

I rejoined the Annandale Way and followed the fence line east to the col with Chalk Rig Edge and saw a couple of chaps away in the distance, the first folks I had seen on the hills all week except for shepherds. The path and fence continued over Chalk Rig Edge to the col with Whitehope Heights where the Annandale Way headed south. A large cairn with a plaque marked this point.

The fence line and path continued towards Whitehope Heights with the initial climb from the col being quite steep and in places rocky, over Spout Craig. However the gradient soon eased and it was a stroll to the summit of Whitehope Heights, marked by a few stones. From this New Donald I walked out to Whitehope Knowe before descending around ninety metres to the col with Hart Fell.

The ascent of Hart Fell now commenced with a steep climb but as height was gained the gradient eased until once again it was an easy stroll, still following the fence line. Near the summit the fence changed direction but it still led to the summit trig point. Here I met the two chaps I had seen earlier. I had my lunch here before taking a few photos including some wasps that I had unknowingly been sitting beside.

I left the summit of Hart Fell and headed south with views of Upper Saddle Yoke and Saddle Yoke, which I had visited a few days earlier. The route then followed a vehicle track as it descended to Arthur’s Seat and to the north of Hartfell Spa. At a gate the vehicle track disappeared so I made my way across a couple of fields to Newton Farm Cottage and followed the farm track to my car.

previous ascent Hart Fell

Whitehope Heights New Donald first ascent 637 metres
Hart Fell Corbett/New Donald third ascent 808 metres

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Nickies Knowe and Talla Cleuch Head

28 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 72. Time taken - 2.5 hours. Distance - 9 kilometres. Ascent - 625 metres.

This afternoon’s walk was to tidy up another couple of hills that I hadn’t managed to climb in other outings.

I drove along the unclassified St Mary’s Loch to Tweedsmuir Road and parked beside the Megget Stone where there was parking for a single vehicle. I then set off over some wet and boggy ground, where I lost a bit of height, before commencing the ascent of the north-west ridge of Nickies Knowe, shown on my map as Wood Brae. From here a fence was followed all the way to the summit of the Sub Donald, which was marked by a few stones.

The morning’s low cloud had lifted and I had views of the surrounding mountains. I returned to my car by the upward route for a late lunch.

After lunch I followed a fence in a north-westerly direction along a worn path, which is the south ascent route for Broad Law. This took me onto Fans Law where the path became wet and boggy in places. Below Cairn Law I left the Broad Law path, crossed a fence, and headed west above the Coldteeth Gorge where I had views of Talla Linnfoots and its Reservoir.

I descended slightly to the col below Talla Cleuch Head before an easy ascent to the summit of this New Donald following a fence line. The highest point was not marked but appeared to be beyond the turn in the fence.

After a few minutes at the top taking in the views I returned to my car by the ascent route.

The time taken, shown above, does not include the lunch break back at my car.

Talla Cleuch Head New Donald first ascent 690 metres

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Andrewhinney Hill, Bell Craig and Mid Rig

28 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 79. Time taken - 3 hours. Distance - 8 kilometres. Ascent - 610 metres.

On my previous visit to this range of hills I had inadvertently missed out the New Donald, Mid Rig, which is not named on the 50:000 map. It was therefore time to rectify this so I parked in the car park beside the Tailburn Bridge, on the A708 Selkirk to Moffat Road, for a fee of £2.

For the third consecutive day there was low cloud and some light drizzle as I set off north-east along the A708. After a few metres I left this road and made a direct ascent of the steep north-west face of Andrewhinney Hill. Higher up the gradient eased but visibility was impaired due to low cloud. The fence that runs along the length of this hill range was reached and a few minutes later the summit cairn.

I descended Andrewhinney Hill’s south-west ridge to its col with Bell Craig where it was a bit wet and boggy. It was then an easy climb to the summit of Bell Craig where the highest point appeared to be a junction of fences. This was followed by a descent to the col between Bell Craig and Mid Rig as the cloud began to lift.

An easy climb took me to the top of Mid Rig but there appeared to be no marker at the summit. There was a cairn nearby which was slightly lower and a good view point so I took a break here as the cloud continued to lift.

After my break I returned to the west side of Bell Craig and made a steep diagonal descent of Mirk Side crossing a few gullies en-route. I made use of sheep paths where possible but it was still an awkward drop with a burn to cross before I could reach my car.

previous visit Andrewhinney Hill and Bell Craig

Andrewhinney Hill Graham/New Donald second ascent 677 metres
Bell Craig New Donald second ascent 623 metres
Mid Rig New Donald first ascent 616 metres

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Saddle Yoke, Under Saddle Yoke, Firthhope Rig, Lochcraig Head, White Coomb and Carrifran Gans

27 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 78 & 79. Time taken - 7.25 hours. Distance - 21.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1250 metres.

This walk started at Capplegill on the A708 Selkirk to Moffat Road. I parked on the grass to the east of the house at Blackhope. Although there appeared to be plenty of space this was not strictly true as there was a garage and access to a field that required to be kept clear.

For the second consecutive day I set off in low cloud and light rain. I walked through a field containing sheep following the vehicle track that led to Black Hope. Once beyond the field I commenced the ascent of Saddle Yoke trying to avoid as much of the bracken as possible. The shepherd was now gathering his sheep from the field I had just crossed. The initial ascent was quite steep but higher up the gradient eased before a short steep climb to the summit. A large cairn didn’t appear to be the highest point and a few stones marked what I considered to be the top. The drizzle was now just an occasional shower with a higher cloud base. I took a short break here watching some vehicle activity in Carrifran Glen.

Next there was a short descent and re-ascent to the New Donald, Under Saddle Yoke. This was followed by a descent over some rough vegetation towards the col with the 685 knoll above Raven Craig. There was a fence to the east which would assist navigation in poor visibility but this wasn’t a problem today so I settled for a route to the east of the col and then an ascent of the knoll.

The next obstacle was the appropriately named Rotten Bottom which I had crossed a few months ago. I wasn’t looking forward to this section of the walk as it was a mixture of peat hags and bog. However it wasn’t as bad as expected and after some meandering, to find the best route, I reached drier ground. It was then a steep climb which later eased as I approached the summit cairn of the Sub Donald, Firthhope Rig.

From Firthhope Rig I headed out over Donald’s Cleuch Head to Firthybrig Head before descending to Talla Nick. I climbed Lochcraig Head where there was a cairn above the crags of Loch Craig. However this was not the highest point which appeared to be around 100 meters to the north where there were a further two cairns, one on either side of the fence. I returned to above Loch Craig and had lunch with views down to Loch Skene and across to White Coomb.

After lunch I returned to Firthhope Rig and ascended White Coomb before descending its south-west ridge to a col where there was a small lochan. It was then a short easy ascent to the summit of Carrifran Gans, my final hill for the day. There were good views across the steep sided glen to Priest and Raven Craigs, Saddle Yoke, Under Saddle Yoke and Hart Fell beyond.

The descent of Carrifran Gans was down its steep south ridge where there was a faint path. Lower down the vegetation was quite long and had been allowed to grow unhindered by grazing animals. Trees had been planted and the bracken was rampant. Eventually after slashing my way through the bracken with my walking poles I reached the road just north-east of the house at Carrifran and noted that the reclaimed area was called ‘Carrifran Wildwood’.

It was then walk of just under two and a half kilometers along the main road to the start at Capplegill.

previous ascent Lochcraig Head and White Coomb

Saddle Yoke New Donald first ascent 735 metres
Under Saddle Yoke New Donald first ascent 745 metres
Lochcraig Head New Donald second ascent 800 metres
White Coomb Corbett/New Donald third ascent 821 metres
Carrifran Gans New Donald first ascent 757 metres

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Hunt Law, Broad Law and Great Knock

26 July 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 72. Time taken - 5.25 hours. Distance - 18.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1095 metres.

I drove south on the A701 Edinburgh to Moffat Road and just after the Crook Inn I parked on a rough area of ground on the east side of the road. Beyond was the bridge over the River Tweed which led to Hearthstane.

There was light drizzle and low cloud when I set off over the bridge and on approaching the farm buildings at Hearthstane warning signs advised me to take care as there was no alternative but to walk through the farmyard. Once clear of the buildings I walked along a vehicle track which passed through a field where a bull watched my progress. The track led to a forest and at a junction of tracks I took a left. I followed this vehicle track north with some easy walking as there was little or no height gain.

The drizzle was now a bit heavier and on leaving the forest I descended to a ford. The water of the Polmood Burn was fairly low so there was no problem with its crossing. I walked up the track on the north side of the burn to an old sheep shank where I heard voices and saw through the cloud sheep were being taken off the hill. I spoke to one of the shepherds and he told me that they were being taken in for shearing but he agreed that the rain wasn’t the forecast.

Not long after speaking to the shepherd I left the track and climbed to the col between Birkside Law and Hunt Law where I entered the cloud. Here a grouse and her young took flight. I continued to the summit of Hunt Law where I wandered around to satisfy myself that there was no cairn.

I descended to the col with Cramalt Craig crossing a new track that cut across the hillside. I climbed towards Cramalt Craig, upsetting a golden plover, and on reaching a fence followed it over some wet and boggy ground to the col with Broad Law. Visibility was quite poor as I made the ascent of Broad Law, initially steeply but the gradient later eased before I spotted a mast in the mist. The fence continued to the summit, passing another mast, an electric pole and slightly off the fence line the Broadlaw Beacon. The summit was marked by a trig point.

I returned to the Beacon where I tried to get some shelter from the rain for lunch. Afterwards I headed down Broad Law’s north-west ridge to the small knoll, Brown Knowe, before continuing in the same direction to a second knoll, Great Knock, which is a Sub-Donald.

It was still cloudy although the rain was lighter as I descended west to locate the vehicle track on the east side of Glenheurie Forest. Just before reaching the trees I came out of the cloud, found the track and followed it to the main vehicle track which led to the Broad Law masts. I descended this track to Hearthstane and then to my car as the cloud was lifting from the summit tops.

previous ascent Broad Law

Hunt Law New Donald first ascent 639 metres
Broad Law Corbett/New Donald third ascent 840 metres

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Glenholm Circuit

6 June 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 72. Time taken - 6.5 hours. Distance - 16 kilometres. Ascent - 1045 metres.

I wished to climb the New Donalds, Chapelgill Hill and Cardon Hill. I was to be joined by Shona and a couple of her friends who were taking part in a walking challenge the following weekend, and wanted a longer day. The plan was therefore to climb the above hills on a circuit of Glenholm.

On the drive south on the A701 we encountered heavy rain and poor visibility but the weather forecast had indicated a 70% chance of cloud free hills so we were optimistic that conditions would improve. South of the village of Broughton we took the single track road to Glenholm and parked on the grass near Glenkirk, where a sign indicated no parking beyond this point.

The rain had ceased but the hills were covered in cloud as we set off along the vehicle track on the north side of Glenkirk and onto the open hillside. The ascent of Chapelgill Hill commenced and part way up a small bird flew out of the vegetation. On closer inspection I found a Skylark’s nest which contained four eggs. I took a couple of photographs before continuing the climb. Later we entered the cloud and made our way to the summit cairn.

The cloud never lifted as predicted so map and compass work, timing and pacing was the order of the day and my fellow walkers were quite enthusiastic about practising these skills. We continued to the knoll, Birnies Bowrock, which is on the boundary between the Border and Strathclyde Regions, before heading out to the second New Donald, Cardon Hill.

We returned to Birnies Bowrock and followed the regional boundary, marked by a fence, over King Bank Head to the Graham and New Donald, Culter Fell. There was still no improvement in the weather and on occasions the cloud was quite thick. From Culter Fell we headed south over Moss Law to Holm Nick where there was an All Terrain Vehicle track, which we followed as it made for easier progress onto Gathersnow Hill, rather than following the fence.

At this Graham and New Donald we had lunch before following the Regional Boundary to Glenwhappen Rig. We left the Regional Boundary here and headed for Coomb Hill, another New Donald, before navigating to Broomy Law and Glenlood Hill. On the descent of the latter hill we emerged out of the cloud and dropped fairly steeply to Glenkirk, where my car was parked.

previous ascent Culter Fell, Gathersnow Hill and Coomb Hill

Chapelgill Hill New Donald first ascent 696 metres
Cardon Hill New Donald first ascent 675 metres
Culter Fell Graham/New Donald second ascent 748 metres
Gathersnow Hill Graham/New Donald second ascent 688 metres
Coomb Hill New Donald second ascent 640 metres

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Circuit of Games Hope

5 June 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 72, 78 & 79. Time taken - 7.25 hours. Distance - 20.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1095 metres.

The plan was to climb the New Donalds and Sub Donalds that surround Games Hope, starting from the east end of Talla Reservoir, which was reached along a single track road from the A701 at Tweedsmuir. There was limited parking at the side of the road in the vicinity of Talla Linnfoots.

It was a sunny and warm morning when Fraser, Shona and I crossed the wooden bridge over Games Hope Burn and commenced the ascent of the Sub Donald, Garelet Hill. It was a steep climb and warm work as we zig zagged to the summit trig point where there was a welcome light breeze. From Garelet Hill there was a slight drop before an easy ascent to the New Donald, Lairds Cleuch Rig, which was only four metres higher than its neighbouring Sub Donald.

We continued south with an easy descent of around fifty metres followed by a gradual ascent of sixty metres to the second New Donald of the day, Erie Hill. The next New Donald was also directly south but the steep south face of Erie Hill prevented a direct approach. We walked east then descended to a col, climbed Common Law and Speir Gairs before reaching the summit of Garelet Dod.

The next New Donald was Din Law and involved crossing a small knoll before passing Gameshope Loch to its west. Another easy ascent took us to the top of Din Law and from here we commenced the crossing of the head of Games Hope, firstly with an ascent of the New Donald, Cape Law where we had lunch relaxing in the sun.

After lunch we walked along Cape Law’s south-east ridge before a descent to the aptly named Rotten Bottom where the underfoot conditions consisted of bog and peat hags. This involved some meandering as we sought the easiest route. Once on the other side it was a fairly steep climb to the Sub Donald, Firthhope Rig, which we had all climbed before on a circular route of the Corbett and New Donald, White Coomb.

From Firthhope Rig we walked to Donald’s Cleuch Head before descending to the col with Great Hill where we dumped our sacks. Here a Black Face lamb came running up to us bleating. It appeared lost or abandoned and rather weak and at the col was a bit exposed. We hadn’t seen any sheep since earlier in the day and made a search for its mother without success. However there were sheep across the glen to the north so we left the lamb on that side of the hill and it headed off towards them. Hopefully it survived.

We popped up Great Hill and returned to the col and collected our sacks. From there we climbed to Firthybrig Head and then onto the New Donald, Molls Cleuch Dod where we encountered the first rain shower of the day. We had considered walking out and back to the Sub Donald, Nickies Knowe but it was a bit too far away. From Molls Cleuch Dod we continued to the Sub Donald Carlavin Hill before descending to Talla Water. Here we walked along the vehicle track to the tarred road and down it to the start.

Lairds Cleuch Rig New Donald first ascent 684 metres
Erie Hill New Donald first ascent 690 metres
Garelet Dod New Donald first ascent 698 metres
Din Law New Donald first ascent 667 metres
Cape Law New Donald first ascent 722 metres
Molls Cleuch Dod New Donald first ascent 785 metres

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Meikledodd Hill

23 May 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 77. Time taken - 3.5 hours. Distance - 12.5 kilometres. Ascent - 445 metres.

In 2007 I climbed Blackcraig Hill and Blacklorg Hill and two years later ascended Alwhat and Alhang with Windy Standard. For some reason I missed out Meikledodd Hill which lies between Blacklorg Hill and Alwhat. This was a bit disappointing as it meant a separate journey to bag this New Donald. However after a hard day on the Aonach Eagach ridge I was looking for an easier day and decided this was the chance to add Meikledodd Hill to my list of completed New Donalds.

Access to the area was relatively easy. I took the road south from New Cumnock and drove down Glen Afton to the end of the public road to look for somewhere suitable to park. At the end of this road, south of the Water Works, I was surprised to find a wee car park hidden in the tress and not signposted. There were a couple of cars already there and as I arrived a group of Ramblers set off and I saw them later headed towards Windy Standard.

I left the car park and walked up the road to Afton Reservoir and climbed onto the dam before walking to its east corner where there was a footpath sign, the first indication walkers were welcome and that there was a marked trail. I headed through the trees and followed the path, which was more of a mark in the grass as it is obviously used infrequently, onto the col between Cannock Hill and Craigbraneoch Rig. The path then followed the line of a fence to the summit cairn of Cannock Hill, a good view point.

The path continued along the fence line as it descended and ran along the wide col with Blacklorg Hill before heading steeply up its west face. It was at this point that I left the path, crossed the fence and made a direct approach to the col to the south of Blacklorg Hill where another fence led to the summit of Meikledodd Hill. In my opinion the highest point was a tuft of grass to the east of the fence line.

It was sunny with a warm wind and I sat there partaking of my lunch with views of Alwhat and the distant Lowther Hills. Afterwards I returned by the route of ascent, as far as just below Cannock Hill, where I walked round the summit. A skylark flew out of the grass and on checking the area I spotted its nest which contained two eggs. I managed to take a couple of photographs of the nest and eggs.

On returning to the col with Craigbraneoch Rig I followed the mark in the grass and ascended this hill. Near the summit another footpath sign led down to Afton Reservoir. However I continued to the summit of this hill where I had a good view of Glen Afton. I thereafter made my descent to the Reservoir and back to my car.

Meikledodd Hill New Donald first ascent 643 metres

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Hillshaw Head and Coomb Dod

15 May 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger - 72. Time taken - 4.5 hours. Distance - 16 kilometres. Ascent - 640 metres

The village of Crawford is situated just off the M74 south of Abington Service Station. On entering Crawford there was a sign for Camps Reservoir which I followed as far as the sign saying ‘No Unauthorised Access,’ where there was a limited amount of verge parking. Beyond the sign there were a few houses and a tarred road which gave vehicular access to the Reservoir and beyond, obviously for authorised vehicles only.

I walked to the reservoir and followed the road across the dam. There were a few gulls flying around and I spotted one of their nests, containing three eggs, on a brick perch. I continued along a vehicle track on the north and west sides of Camps Reservoir to the farm at Grains, which I was surprised to find occupied.

At the farm I left the track and commenced an ascent of Backwater Rig, which was initially steep. Here I encountered the first shower of rain and it was windier than I had expected. The shower soon passed and the gradient eased as I followed vehicle and animal tracks to the summit of Backwater Rig.

I headed across to Clark Grain, a small gorge, where there was shelter from the wind for a cup of coffee. Thereafter the going was quite tough through long heather as I made my way to the col between Hillshaw Head and Coomb Dod. Here there was a fence which I followed to the summit of Hillshaw Head, marked by a few stones, metal posts and a wooded pole. There were views of Gathersnow Hill and Culter Fell which I had climbed in November 2007.

The descent was back to the col then a short climb, still following the fence line, to the weathered trig point on Coomb Dod. It was now raining again and rather cold in the wind so I didn’t linger here. I continued along a line of fence posts to the 573 Knoll, and over more rough ground to Culter Cleuch Shank, Scotts Dod and Fairburn Rig, latterly following a vehicle track. I then descended steeply south from Fairburn Rig along the edge of Kneesend Wood where I had lunch watching the farmer checking on his sheep and lambs.

After lunch I completed the descent to Campshead Farm and followed the vehicle track round the south side of Camps Reservoir, passed a fishing hut, and back to my car.

Hillshaw Head New Donald first ascent 652 metres
Coomb Dod New Donald first ascent 635 metres

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Clockmore, Cramalt Craig, Dollar Law and Greenside Law

4 March 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 73. Time taken - 7.5 hours. Distance - 16 kilometres. Ascent - 780 metres.

This was my third and final day in the Borders. Frances, Shona and I decided to return to the Manor Hills, south-east of where we had been two days earlier. The starting point was the Megget Reservoir. An unclassified road runs along its north shore and was accessed from the A708 Selkirk to Moffat Road at Cappercleuch. This unclassified road was actually blocked further east due to snow. We parked in the car park signposted Megget Cramalt where there would have been ample space had it not been for some lying snow.

On our drive south it had been quite misty in places but by the time we reached the car park it had started to clear and was now a lovely sunny morning. We set off across the road to Cramalt Farm as we searched for a way to access the hillside to the north. We walked round the west side of the farm building and observed a gate ahead. However it would have been easier to walk round the other side of the steading. Once through the gate we followed some vehicle tracks which led to feeding troughs for the sheep. Rough vegetation was crossed before reaching another gate, in fact we had to pass through a couple of gates before accessing the open hillside. Then it was a steady climb through soft snow and heather to the summit of out first hill of the day, the New Donald, Clockmore. We had views across Megget Reservoir towards White Coomb and in these idyllic conditions decided to have a coffee break.

It was quite warm sitting in the snow with a blue sky above. What more could one wish for? However reluctantly we left Clockmore and descended north-west for around 40 metres before climbing over Pykestone Knowe and onto the south-east ridge of Cramalt Craig. The ascent of this New Donald appeared to take a lot longer than expected, probably due to the lying snow. Higher up we had views of the masts on the Corbett, Broad Law before turning north to head to the summit cairn on Cramalt Craig. There were some bootprints in the snow here which headed off in the direction of Broad Law and made for some interesting discussions as we surmised where they came from. We actually saw quite a few bootprints although we never saw their owners.

The fence, which we followed to Dun Law, had some interesting snow formations protruding from its posts although on occasions the fence was buried by the snow. Once over Dun Law it was onto the summit of the Sub-Donald, Fifescar Knowe with views across to Middle Hill and Taberon Law, which we had climbed two days ago. A short descent then an easy climb still following this fence but now also remnants of a stone dyke which was mainly buried by the snow led us to the summit trig point on Dollar Law. However with the sun and clear visibility we didn't need these aids.

Lunch was taken at the summit of Dollar Law again sitting in the sun taking in the surrounding white terrain. It was a bit chillier here due to a slight breeze but we were also 170 metres higher than on Clockmore where we had our coffee break. After lunch we returned to the col with Fifescar Knowe and followed bootprints which headed across the hillside towards Notman Law. The map showed a path here but it was obviously buried under the snow. We had views into Manor Glen and of large build ups of snow but fortunately they weren’t on our planned route. We came to another fence which was followed to the summit of Notman Law. From here we descended quite steeply before climbing over a small knoll which has two names Water Head and Shielhope Head.

A short descent from Water Head took us to a col where a fence was followed through some deep snow up the western spur of Greenside Law. The summit was located just to the north of the fence and appeared to be marked by a few stones covered by snow. We returned to the col and onto the south ridge of Water Head which we used as the descent route. Just beyond Rig Head we dropped down to the vehicle track on the east side of the Cramalt Burn and this gave for an easy stroll to the public road and back to the car park at the end of a stunning day in the Borders.

Clockmore New Donald first ascent 641 metres
Cramalt Craig New Donald first ascent 831 metres
Dollar Law New Donald first ascent 817 metres
Greenside Law New Donald first ascent 643 metres

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Dundreich and Bowbeat Hill

3 March 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 66 and 73. Time taken - 7.25 hours. Distance - 19 kilometres. Ascent - 500 metres.

On this trip to the Borders I was joined by Sue, who is not a Donald bagger but fancied a day out on the hills. The route to the start of the walk involved heading along the B6372 Penicuik to Gorebridge Road then the unclassified roads to Moorfoot Farm. At the frozen Gladhouse Reservoir, before the farm, a sign indicated there was no parking beyond this point. Here there was a large grass area but it was partially covered by snow but Sue managed to get her car off the road.

We then walked to Moorfoot Farm and found the track that headed south towards Dundreich and Bowbeat Hill. The track was covered in hard packed snow as a result of farm vehicles using this route but once beyond Gladhouse Cottage the walking became easier. The track crossed the River South Esk by a bridge, passed the ruin of Hirendean Castle, before continuing south. Further down the glen the snow had also been flattened by sheep and this assisted our progress. At the foot of the glen a vehicle had accessed the hillside and we decided to follow these tracks, although this wasn't the approach route planned by Sue. However the tracks made the ascent a bit easier although in places the vehicle had become a bit stuck and in the end had turned around.

We were now left to our own devices and the going was quite tough through the soft snow covered heather but took it in turn to break trail and head for the col between Bowbeat Hill and Dundreich. Beyond the col underfoot conditions weren't any better as we slowly made our way to the summit trig point on Dundreich. Here we had views of the Pentland Hills, Arthur’s Seat and the Firth of Forth.

We returned to the col with Bowbeat Hill and made our way towards a gate in a fence where there were signs relative to accessing the wind farm covering Bowbeat Hill. Beyond this gate we passed a concrete building with large snowdrifts behind it. We attempted a direct approach to the summit of Bowbeat Hill as the going was over some compacted snow but it soon changed to deep soft snow. Again we took turns to break the trail but abandoned this route and headed onto the snow covered vehicle tracks that linked the wind turbines. The walking was easier here despite some snowdrifts and we spotted a vehicle in the distance. It appeared to be trying to gain access to the hillside, possibly ploughing the vehicle track, but it later disappeared. As we approached the summit we came to a rather large snowdrift which looked like it could collapse onto the track so we left the track and climbed to the summit of Bowbeat Hill which appeared to be a post at a bend in the fence. There was no other obvious point although a cairn could have been buried by the snow.

We had our lunch at this point and decided to forget including Blackhope Scar on this trip as the snow had made for slow progress and the approach route to this New Donald didn't appear to be any better.

Once lunch was over we returned to the col, this time using the tracks between the turbines, then followed our bootprints to the col. From there we returned to Gladhouse Reservoir by the ascent route.

Dundreich New Donald second ascent 622 metres
Bowbeat Hill New Donald first ascent 626 metres

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The Scrape, Pykestone Hill, Middle Hill and Drumelzier Law

2 March 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 72 and 73. Time taken - 8.5 hours. Distance - 20 kilometres. Ascent - 915 metres.

It was a sunny and frosty morning as we headed south on the A701 from Edinburgh to beyond Broughton where we took a left and drove east on the B712 to Drumelzier. One of my friends had climbed these hills before so she was aware that parking was available beside the Old Mill at the south-east side of this hamlet. The car park would probably hold around 4 - 5 cars.

Once geared up we set off along a vehicle track which passed a farm building and then a sheep fold. There was some snow on the track but higher up a fare bit was lying around which forced us to leave the track at Den Knowes and head onto the ridge. Progress was a bit slow as the snow wasn't firm enough to hold our weight so we took turns to break the trail.

We headed towards the fence at Broad Moss, the col between Pykestone Hill and The Scrape, and followed this fence, which was buried in places, to the summit of The Scrape. A small cairn beside a junction of fences appeared to mark the highest point and from here we had great views towards the Firth of Forth and across Manor Valley to Stob Law and Glenrath Heights, which Shona and I had climbed in poor visibility back in October 2009. After spending some time identifying some of the Border Hills we returned to Broad Moss and followed the fence to the trig point and and cairn on Pykestone Hill.

The walk continued along the fence line to the col with the Sub Donald, Grey Weather Law where apparently there was a path named Thief's Road but it was buried by the snow as again were some of the fence posts. Just beyond this col we came to a pile of stones, marked as such on the map, where we stopped for lunch looking across to Dollar Law and Broad Law.

After lunch we climbed to the top of Grey Weather Law although the highest point wasn't obvious, but was probably a fence post. We continued south to Long Grain Knowe where the route changed direction as did the fence we were following. This took us to Middle Hill and as we approached its summit we met a couple of chaps who had climbed this New Donald from Stanhope. Again there was no obvious marker indicating the highest point.

The next hill, the Sub Donald, Taberon Law, was out on a limb. It involved a descent of around 100 metres in soft snow still following the fence until we reached the col where we left the fence and climbed to the top of Taberon Law. There was very little snow on this hill and we found a stone which probably marked its highest point. After a few minutes looking across the glen to Broad Law we returned to Middle Hill but it was a tough ascent through the soft snow.

From the top of Middle Hill we continued north-east before turning north and climbing Glenstivon Dod. Here the ground had very little snow cover but was icy and it was touch and go whether to stop and fit crampons or microspikes. However once over the highest point the ice broke away easily to give a good grip on the heather as we descended to the col with Drumelzier Law. The south-east side of Drumelzier Law had very little snow on it, except on the path and there was no ice, but initially it was a fairly steep climb before an easy walk to the cairn at the north-west end of the ridge. Here we could see down to the River Tweed, across to the Culter Hills and Tinto Hill.

It was now time to head back to the start which involved following a curved heather and snow covered ridge to the 514 and 491 knolls before descending Logan Head, Finglen Rig and onto the track used at the start. It was then a short walk back to the car after a very satisfying and sunny day in the Borders.

The Scrape New Donald first ascent 719 metres
Pykestone Hill New Donald first ascent 737 metres
Middle Hill New Donald first ascent 716 metres
Drumelzier Law New Donald first ascent 668 metres

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Stob Law and Glenrath Heights

23 October 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 73. Time taken - 3.5 hours. Distance - 10 kilometres. Ascent - 610 metres.

The evening before, we searched the maps for a short walk not too far from Edinburgh where I was staying, as the plan was for me to return home later in the day. We settled for the New Donalds, Stob Law and Glenrath Heights, which are located south of the town of Peebles. Getting to the start was hindered as the road we planned to take was closed so we had to find another route to access the Manor Valley from the A72.

At Glenrath Farm it appeared possible to park just off the public road so we continued to the farm and sought permission from the farmer’s wife who acknowledged the top of the farm road was the normal parking spot. However she told us we could drive down Glen Rath and park where we wished as long as we didn’t touch the farm animals. We therefore drove along the rough farm track and my walking companion was happy that she wasn’t on foot as we had to pass lots of cows and their calves. At a small copse of trees we parked at the side of the track and prepared to set off, including donning waterproofs as it was already raining lightly. From here we immediately commenced a steep climb up the south-west ridge of Glenrath Hill mainly following sheep tracks.

Higher up the gradient eased, the vegetation became shorter and the walking easier. We entered the cloud base and made our way to the summit cairn of Glenrath Hill before continuing to the top of Stob Law marked by a few stones. Thereafter we descended to the col with Broom Hill where we took a break. The fence was then followed to Middle Hill, which is the highest point on Glenrath Heights. The summit was either one of the fence posts or a few stones close by.

We had considered going onto Dun Rig, which I had already climbed, but the cloud was quite thick and my walking partner decided she wasn’t bothered and would prefer to climb it on a fine day. We navigated towards the 713 knoll, avoiding following the fences as they are not shown on the 50:000 map, and came to another fence surrounded by very wet and boggy ground. Here we headed west and in the mist came across some shooting butts at the top of the ridge. I was hoping to find the vehicle track I had seen on our ascent of Glenrath Hill. The track was found and it was followed as the ridge swung to the south. The cloud started to lift and we could see across to the Pentland Hills which appeared to be in the sun.

Lower down the descent was a bit steeper but we followed the track as it zig zagged to the house at Glenrathope. Getting round this property involved going through several gates before we reached the farm track in Glen Rath. The track was followed back to the car with one obstacle to pass, a cow and calf. We thought, the calf may be ill as they hadn't moved since our ascent of Glenrath Hill and and weren't with the other cattle. However we had seen a farm type vehicle going down the glen earlier.

Stob Law New Donald first ascent 676 metres
Glenrath Heights New Donald first ascent 732 metres

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Queensberry, Earncraig Hill and Gana Hill

22 October 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 78. Time taken - 7.25 hours. Distance - 19.5 kilometres. Ascent - 920 metres.

The starting point for these hills was the unclassified road beside Mitchellslacks Farm which was reached from the A76 at Thornhill along various minor roads to the east of this village. Fortunately I had a map reader to direct me to the start, which was a parking area for one vehicle beside the ‘Right of Way’ signs for Closeburnmill, Branrig and Beattock.

A short drop in the path took us to the farm track and the bridge over the Garroch Water. Within the farmyard there was a sign for the ‘Right of Way’ to Branrig and Beattock and another, probably constructed by the farmer, showing the route to Queensberry. We followed this latter route which took us through a couple of gates and along the track on the east side of the Capel Burn. South of The Law we followed another vehicle track, shown on the map as a path, to some sheep fanks where we passed through another gate and climbed Glengown Hill. We now had views of Wee Queensberry, Queensberry, Earncraig Hill and Gana Hill. Various animal tracks were followed and a Meadow Pipit was identified by Frances.

The going became a bit rougher and more awkward until we gained some height and reached some animal or walker's paths which we followed to the large summit cairn of Queensberry. Unfortunately the cloud had lowered so there was no view from the top.

We headed north from Queensberry and cut through some peat hags before climbing to the hill named Penbreck. Our next target, the New Donald, Earncraig Hill was just across a steep gully but easier walking was found by following the fence line north to a col where a second fence headed onto to Earncraig Hill’s north-east ridge. On the descent of Penbreck we spotted a chap also heading onto Earncraig Hill’s north-east ridge but we never saw him/her again. On reaching the summit Earncraig Hill we took shelter behind the stone dyke for lunch. We had views across to Shiel Dod, Wedder Law, Glenleith Fell, Scaw’d Law and Ballencleuch Law, which Shona and I had climbed earlier in the year. The group of hills to the east were identified as those around Hart Fell.

After lunch we descended the west ridge of Earncraig Hill to Daer Hass and climbed Gana Hill. We passed the true summit as it looked higher at a small pile of rocks further on but this wasn’t the case so we returned to the top where we had similar views as from Earncraig Hill.

There were a couple of vehicle tracks around Gana Hill which were not shown on my map. We selected the easterly one which descended the south ridge of Gana Hill towards Hard Hill. On the descent we saw a hare and a snipe. Below Hard Hill was a crow trap, which was not in use. Lower down there were several bird feeders and as we approached them loads of partridges flew off.

Unfortunately the track later swung round to the west and appeared to head for the farm at Locherben, which was in the opposite direction from where my car was parked, so we left this track and walked over some rough ground which led to the Capel Burn. I think we all got one or both feet wet in the stream crossing but once on the opposite side a fence was traversed before we reached a new vehicle track which rose slightly to the one used earlier that day.

It was then a short walk back to Mitchellslacks Farm and my vehicle.

Queensberry Graham/New Donald first ascent 697 metres
Earncraig Hill New Donald first ascent 611 metres
Gana Hill New Donald first ascent 668 metres

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Windy Standard, Alwhat and Alhang

21 October 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 77. Time taken - 6.5 hours. Distance - 15 kilometres. Ascent - 830 metres.

These hills are located in the south-west of Scotland and a fairly long way from my home at the opposite end of the country. Fortunately I was able to stay with friends in Edinburgh, one of whom was to join me on this walk. Even so it was still a journey of over two hours to reach the start, the access road to Nether Holm of Dalquhairn. This farm road was reached from near Smittons on the B729 Moniaive to St John’s of Dalry Road along a recently resurfaced road going north up the side of the Water of Ken. The road improvements stopped beside the farm track, where a new parking and picnic area had been constructed, so I left my car here.

We walked to the farm where we spoke to the farmer who directed us round his buildings and advised us that the power to the electric fences was off. The route took us to the right of the farm buildings, round the side of a copse of trees and onto open ground. This ground was of very poor quality containing a lot of rushes and wet areas with a few drainage channels which didn’t appear to be working very well. It took us a while to make our way over this rough ground as we headed for the col between Dod Hill and Mid Hill of Glenhead.

A fence, which we now followed, ran over the top of Mid Hill and on towards Windy Standard. It looked like the cloud would break as we headed up the south ridge of Windy Standard with views down to the Upper Holm Burn and the drumlin formations. There was a cool breeze on this ridge but the cloud didn't break up, instead it lowered and we were soon engulfed by it.

At a point which I had marked on my map we left the ridge and fence line and headed to Keoch Rig, which was an old Donald Top. I suppose I could have missed it out but in reasonable visibility it would have been an easy stroll. However with the thick cloud making for poor visibility we had to keep on a direct line. This involved walking through some very soft and long vegetation, crossing a fence in a boggy area, before heading for the summit. There was no cairn or mark at the top so satisfied that we had reached the highest point on Keoch Rig we headed back towards Windy Standard’s south ridge. A path which headed in the correct direction took us back to the fence which we followed towards Windy Standard.

Near the summit we heard a swishing noise which sounded initially like a plane but later realised it was a wind turbine. However due to the thick cloud we couldn’t see it, a bit spooky. A vehicle track was followed for a short distance passing the the outline of a wind turbine before leaving the track and heading to the summit trig point of Windy Standard.

Other than the trig point there was nothing to see so we descended fairly steeply to the forest edge and away from the noise of the wind turbines. The edge of the forest was followed to the col below Millaneoch Hill where we changed direction and descended to a second col. Well that was the plan but on this descent the cloud began to lift and we could see the route ahead. It was decided to miss out Alhang at this time and cut across to Alwhat. Again the ground was rough, boggy and contained lots of rushes so we wandered about to seek out what appeared to be the easiest and driest route. Once we were well up Alwhat the walking became easier and we reached a fence and followed it to a junction of fences, which appeared to be the highest point on the hill.

The descent was down the south-west ridge to the Source of the Afton Water, which Robert Burns wrote a poem about. From this col it was a steady climb to the summit of Alhang which was slightly to the east of the line of the fence. The top was marked by a few stones. A couple of the wind turbines on Windy Standard could now be seen as could Afton Reservoir and Moorbrock Hill which I had climbed earlier in the year.

We headed east then south, following a fence, as we descended to Mid Rig and then fairly steeply to Holm Burn where again we had to negotiate the poor quality vegetation, this time using some sheep tracks. Once over the burn it was back to the farm and then the car park at the Water of Ken.

Windy Standard Graham/New Donald first ascent 698 metres
Alwhat New Donald first ascent 628 metres
Alhang New Donald first ascent 642 metres

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Cold Moss

3 September 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 78. Time taken - 2.5 hours. Distance - 6.75 kilometres. Ascent - 485 metres.

We were returning home from a few days climbing in the Galloway Hills so despite the inclement weather we decided to climb the New Donald, Cold Moss, as it was a short walk following the Southern Upland Way. I had already climbed the other Lowther Hills.

The start of the walk was the A702 Elvanfoot to Thornhill Road just south of the house at Overfingland. There is a small parking area beside the signpost for the Southern Upland Way. We entered a field via a gate and were immediately confronted by bog. This surprised me as I was expecting the Southern Upland Way Path to be in reasonable condition. In fact the first few hundred metres were very wet and boggy. The earlier rain had eased and there were just a few spots blowing in the wind.

At the top of the field the path went over a stile and followed another fence towards Laght Hill bypassing the true summit to the north. From the West Top of Laght Hill we descended for around 80 metres to a col before a dyke and fence were followed onto Comb Head which led towards the summit of Cold Moss. Occasional breaks in the cloud revealed the Radar Station on Lowther Hill and the Transmitter Station on Green Lowther.

The highest point on Cold Moss was reached but there was no cairn marking the summit. The views weren’t great and it was still windy with spots of rain so we headed back to Overfingland by the route of ascent before heading home.

Cold Moss New Donald first ascent 628 metres

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Craignaw, Dungeon Hill, Mullwharchar, Merrick and Benyellary

2 September 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 77. Time taken - 9 hours. Distance - 20.5 kilometres. Ascent - 1340 metres.

The starting point was the same car park as for the previous day’s walk, the head of Glen Trool.

We again walked along the track passed the property at Buchan before taking the signposted path to the Gairland Burn and Loch Valley. The path which was wet and boggy passed through some wet bracken before heading for the burn. The further we walked along this path the worse it’s condition became making for slow progress.

The Gairland Burn was reached but was still in spate which wasn’t a good omen for the later crossing of the outflow from Loch Neldricken. However we had no requirement to cross the Gairland Burn as the wet and boggy path followed its east bank to Loch Valley. I had read earlier that the path deteriorated at this point but there was no discernable difference, it was all wet, boggy and in a poor condition.

It was only a short walk, on one of several paths that ran from Loch Valley to Loch Neldricken, to reach the outflow from Loch Neldricken to confirm that this stream was also in spate and impossible to cross at this point. We worked our way back down the stream and eventually found a spot where it was possible to cross without getting wet feet. Well my walking partner had already gone down a hole and had a boot full of water.

We successfully crossed the stream and commenced the climb of Craignaw which was now clear of the earlier cloud. The going was quite awkward for a while as it was across some tussoky grass and heather but higher up we found traces of paths, possibly animal, which we used to gain height. Higher up the Graham became quite rocky so we worked our way round or over these granite slabs and eventually reached at the summit cairn.

The descent north and north-west was rather tricky as we had to work our way round several granite crags, known as the Black Gairy, before finding a suitable gully to descent. In poor visibility finding this descent route would need extreme care. Once at the foot of the gully we followed a path to the cairn marked on the map stopping to take photographs of a peacock butterfly. The path, or should I say paths as there were at least a couple, led to the east side of Craignairny but as we wanted to include the New Donald, Dungeon Hill in this traverse, we left the path and made an ascent of this rocky New Donald. Three feral goats were spotted and ran off across the rocks.

Once at the summit cairn of Dungeon Hill we sought some shelter from the breeze to partake of lunch looking across to our next target Mullwharchar and the Corserine group of hills which we had climbed in October 2008. After lunch we made a beeline for the col south of Mullwharchar crossing some tussocky grass then following a path up the south side of this Graham. The path eventually disappeared but the going was relatively easy and we soon reached the summit cairn.

Earlier discussions had taken place regarding how to return to the car park in Glen Trool as the return to Loch Neldricken would involve a lot of rough walking, stream crossings in spate conditions, walking round lochs to reach the wet and boggy paths used on the outward route. To include an ascent of Merrick wasn’t a popular suggestion earlier in the day but it was now. We had climbed Merrick in March of this year and knew that there was a reasonable path back to the car park.

So Merrick it was, which meant a descent from Mullwharachar to the north end of Loch Enoch. The outflow from the loch, Eglin Lane, was also in spate but there were lots of boulders in the loch near the outflow which we used to cross. A boggy path was followed for a short distance before we left it and commenced the ascent of Merrick. Just after the start of this ascent I spotted a vole which disappeared into the undergrowth.

The ascent of Merrick was just a steady plod and took around an hour. On approaching the summit trig point a number of walkers left the top and headed in the direction of Benyellary. These were the first walkers we had seen in three days. At the summit we took a break looking across to Shalloch on Minnoch, which we had climbed in August 2008, and to Ailsa Craig and the mountains of Arran.

Rain clouds were gathering so we left Merrick and headed for the Neive of the Spit before climbing to the summit cairn of Benyellary. By this time the summit of Merrick had been engulfed by cloud. We followed the path down the south-west side of Benyellary and prior to reaching the forest the rain commenced and later became quite heavy as we followed the path, which was quite rough and wet in places, through the forest and back to the car park.

I'm not convinced this was the best return route but I have no plan to return in the near future to try out alternatives.

previous ascent Merrick and Benyellary

Criagnaw Graham/New Donald first ascent 645 metres
Dungeon Hill New Donald first ascent 620 metres
Mullwharchar Graham/New Donald first ascent 692 metres
Merrick Corbett/New Donald third ascent 843 metres
Benyellary New Donald second ascent 719 metres

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Lamachan Hill, Larg Hill, Curleywee and Millfore

1 September 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 77. Time taken - 9.5 hours. Distance - 25 kilometres. Ascent - 1475 metres.

The start of this walk was the car park at the head of Glen Trool, accessed from the A714 Newton Stewart to Girvan road near Bargrennan.

Before setting off we made a quick visit to Bruce’s Stone, which is situated adjacent to the car park. From this monument we had views of Loch Trool. Thereafter we walked along the vehicle track passed the property at Buchan and using the bridges crossed a couple of streams that were in spate as a result of the recent heavy rain. A path later lead along the side of the Glenhead Burn to a footbridge which is used as a crossing point for those doing the Southern Upland Way. We crossed this bridge and continued along the other side of the Glenhead Burn to a forest track, which is part of a cycle route. This section of track wasn’t shown on my map although the cycle route was.

The forest track took us away from the burn and joined another track, shown on my map, that headed south-east through the forest. The south side of the forest had been harvested as far as the Sheil Burn. On reaching this burn it was time to leave the track and climb the east side of the stream which was in spate making the Sheil Waterfall rather impressive. The going was initially quite difficult around some fallen trees and over rough ground but once beyond the forest edge the going changed to a mixture of bracken, tussocky grass and long heather slowing progress.

Higher up the vegetation was shorter and it made for easier walking. We managed to cross the Sheil Burn and made a direct ascent onto the north-west ridge of Lamachan Hill spotting a couple of deer on the north ridge. The earlier cloud had lifted slightly but on gaining the ridge it lowered again and there was a cold wind blowing. We reached the summit of Lamachan Hill marked by a couple of cairns and stone shelter beside an old stone dyke. Despite a few breaks in the cloud on the approach we had no views from this summit.

The next section of the hike involved a walk out and back to Larg Hill. We descended the south ridge of Lamachan Hill, following a few old metal fence posts, to a col where a well constructed stone dyke guided us almost to the summit. A short stroll led to a few boulders marking the top of Larg Hill. The cloud had lifted slightly and we could see Newton Stewart and Wigtown Bay as well as Lamachan Hill which was briefly clear of cloud.

We returned to Lamachan Hill which was back in the cloud and followed old metal fence posts to Bennanbrack. We avoided the crags by using a path on the north side which took us to the Nick of Curleywee where a fence was crossed. The ascent of Curleywee involved some grass, heather and rock similar to slate but thicker. The summit was reached but unfortunately we were still in the cloud although we did get a brief view of Loch Dee.

A cold wind was blowing so we sought shelter for a late lunch and a discussion on whether to descend over White Hill and return to the Southern Upland Way or to include the Graham/New Donald, Millfore in this outing. The decision was to continue to Millfore so we descended Curleywee’s south ridge and once out of the cloud we could see the col with Bennan Hill and the head of the pass between Loch Dee and Auchinleck. We headed for this pass avoiding some boulders and on reaching it we commenced the climb of Millfore initially using some trails, probably animal, and the occasional vehicle track to gain height.

On reaching Black Loch the rain commenced and we were back in the cloud. The next target was White Lochan of Drigmorn where visibility was poor and it was still raining. From this lochan we climbed onto the south-west ridge of Millfore where the cloud again started to break up and the rain ceased. It was now a short easy walk to the summit trig point and cairn on Millfore where we hung around for a while hoping that the cloud would clear completely but it didn’t.

While on the summit we discussed the easiest route back and decided to descend north-west across the Black Laggan burn, before a slight rise and a descent to the White Laggan Burn. As we approached the Black Laggan Burn the cloud lifted clear of Millfore which was unfortunate that it didn’t happen earlier. It was a bit boggy in the vicinity of this burn but not half as bad as it was around the White Laggan Burn.

Once beyond the White Laggan Burn we joined a path and headed for Loch Dee. The path was in a very poor state with lots of water and bog and led to the White Laggan Bothy, which we visited and found to be unoccupied. The wet and boggy conditions continued until we reached the vehicle track near Loch Dee. It was then a long walk back along this vehicle track to Sheil Burn and then the return to the car park by the route used earlier that day. During this stretch of the walk we encountered some very heavy rain together with some thunder and lightning.

Lamachan Hill Graham/New Donald first ascent 717 metres
Larg Hill New Donald first ascent 676 metres
Curleywee New Donald first ascent 674 metres
Millfore Graham/New Donald first ascent 656 metres

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Cairnsmore of Fleet, Meikle Mulltaggart and Knee of Cairnsmore

31 August 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 83. Time taken - 5.75 hours. Distance - 17.5 kilometres. Ascent - 950 metres.

The forecast was for more heavy rain in the Galloway area of Scotland so the thought of a very wet and cloudy day wasn’t that appealing but we had travelled to the south-west of Scotland to climb the Grahams so if we didn’t venture out it would mean a long return journey from my home at the opposite end of the country.

We drove east along the A75 from Newton Stewart looking for a signpost to Cairnsmore Estate but there wasn’t one. The landmark for the turn off is the bed and breakfast establishment at Muirfad. The single track road wound its way beyond Muirfad and there was now various signposts directing us to the walker's car park, which in fact was a stretch of road, closed off at the top, with a few parking places.

It was already raining as we set off up the estate road along the side of the Cairnsmore Burn to Cairsmore House where more signs directed us around the property, through some trees and onto another vehicle track before entering a field. The route across the field wasn’t that obvious but a diagonal route took as to a gate, concealed by trees and bushes, at the top end of the field where we entered the forest, known as Bardrochwood Moor.

The path through the forest was rather wet and muddy from the recent rain and crossed a vehicle track, where a granite seat had been erected as a monument to a local woman. It was rather warm climbing the forest path in waterproofs as we were sheltered from the wind. Higher up the rain eased and we came to the open hillside followed by a gate in a fence and beyond that an auld stane dyke.

There were no views and it was now windy with the cloud being blown across the hillside. The path zig zagged for a while before heading towards the summit of Cairnsmore of Fleet. A granite memorial, dedicated to airmen killed on the hill, was passed before we reached the summit trig point, an old shelter and large cairn. Visibility, as can be seen from the summit photographs, was rather poor.

The New Donald, Meikle Mulltaggart is located to the north-east of Cairnsmore of Fleet and I wanted to include it in the day’s outing. We took a bearing and followed it down Cairnsmore of Fleet’s north-east ridge later coming across some tracks and old fence posts. A newer fence, with a gate, was reached followed by the col, which appears to be called the 'Nick of the Saddle'. From the Nick of the Saddle we ascended Meikle Mulltaggart and on reaching the highest point made a search for a cairn but there was none. There were a few single boulders that appeared out of the cloud but no cairn.

Satisfied that we had reached the highest point on Meikle Mulltaggart we returned to Cairnsmore of Fleet as the weather deteriorated with heavy rain now falling. On the ridge we were exposed to the strong wind. From Cairnsmore of Fleet we headed down its south-east ridge and came across some more old fence posts which were probably the same line of posts that we had seen near the Nick of the Saddle but due to the poor visibility it was impossible to confirm this.

The col between Cairnsmore of Fleet and Knee of Cairnsmore was reached as well as another auld stane dyke. It was then an easy grassy ascent to the reasonable sized summit cairn marking the top of Knee of Cairnsmore. Again we had no views.

We would have preferred to descend to the vehicle track at Knocktim and follow the track down the Gaddoch Burn but as the burns and rivers were in spate and there was no guarantee that there was a bridge across the Gaddoch Burn we decided to return to the col. From this col we cut across some heather and grass to the path used on the ascent of Cairnsmore of Fleet as the rain continued to lash down on us.

Once back in the forest we were sheltered from the wind and the rain eased for a while as we headed for the car park. Once below the cloud we could see across to the River Cree. The Cairnsmore Burn, which had been high when we set out, was now in spate. The heavy rain continued for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Apparently it was the wettest August ever in the Galloway area.

Cairnsmore of Fleet Graham/New Donald first ascent 711 metres
Meikle Mulltaggart New Donald first ascent 612 metres
Knee of Cairnsmore New Donald first ascent 656 metres

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Lousie Wood Law

30 August 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 78. Time taken - 2.5 hours. Distance - 7 kilometres. Ascent - 350 metres.

We were on route to Galloway to spend a few days there climbing the Grahams and New Donalds so on the way south the plan was to bag a New Donald. I had decided on Lousie Wood Law as it was one of the Lowther Hills I still needed to climb and we could probably fit it in before the rain that was forecasted to arrive around lunchtime.

The start of the ascent of Lousie Wood Law was Elvanfoot, which is on the A702 Abington to Thornhill Road. It is claimed that Elvanfoot is the highest village in Scotland but Tomintoul is around 65 metres higher. Despite it being Sunday, I parked in the small car park beside the church as there didn't appear to be any activity there.

A fence was crossed before we walked below some electric power lines and commenced the ascent of the grassy slopes of Watchman Hill following, where possible, some vehicle tracks. From this knoll it was up the ridge, which appears to be called Dead Side according to my map, onto Coupland Gair and the east ridge of Lousie Wood Law. A gate was reached and once beyond it we followed a fence which led to a junction of fences then it was a short stroll to the top of Louise Wood Law which was marked by a trig point and cairn.

From the summit we had views of another of the Lowther Hills, Dun Law, which I had climbed in August last year, the village of Leadhills and across to Wellgrain Dod, Coom Dod and the Daer Reservoir. Culter Fell and the Moffat Hills could be seen in the distance but they were rather hazy. The clouds were gathering to the south so we set off back to Elvanfoot, by the ascent route, returning to the car as the rain started.

Lousie Wood Law New Donald first ascent 618 metres

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Cauldcleuch Head

12 May 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 79. Time taken - 3.75 hours. Distance - 10 kilometres. Ascent - 525 metres.

Cauldcleuch Head is the closest Graham to the Scotland/England Border and a long way from my home in Aberdeen. Fortunately I was staying with friends in Edinburgh so this made for a very doable day walk. The start was at Priesthaugh Farm reached along an unclassified road from either the town of Hawick or from the A7 Hawick to Carlisle Road.

We parked just east of the farm and walked south along a vehicle track. On the west side of the track new trees had been planted guarded by an electric fence. There were a few sheep and lambs around but not as many as I was expecting. After around a couple of kilometres we took the track to the property at Priesthaugh-hill but there was no bridge across the burn, just a ford. Fortunately the water was reasonably low so the crossing wasn’t a problem. We walked round the south side of the house, through a gap in the fence and wall onto the open hillside. The going was then a bit rough as we followed the fence beside the forest edge. A couple of roe deer ran off when they spotted us.

The vegetation later changed to heather and a bit of bog as we gained height and near the top another fence was reached and crossed before heading to the summit of Skelfhill Fell. It is not an area that I know so naming the surrounding hills required the map. An interesting hill to climb seemed to be Skelfhill Pen just across the Glen.

From the summit of Skelfhill Fell we followed the fence as it dropped to a col and then headed with a slight dogleg to Cauldcleuch Head. The terrain was of heather with plenty of wet and boggy sections which didn’t change when we reached the summit. There was no cairn and it appeared that the highest point was a junction of fences.

The views into England were rather hazy although we could spot the Solway Firth and the Lake District. However it was brighter to the north and we could see across the Forth Estuary to Fife and the way home.

The return was to Skelfhill Fell and down its north ridge, which appeared to be called Holywell Rig, where we tried to find some shelter from the cool breeze for lunch. After our snack we descended to fields containing sheep so kept close to the fences before reaching the house to the north of Priesthaugh. Some of these fences were electrified but they had plastic grips on sections of wire which allowed us to break the current and pass through. From this house we climbed onto the track we used in the morning with a short walk back to the car.

Cauldcleuch Head Graham/New Donald first ascent 619 metres

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Ballencleuch Law

11 May 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 78. Time taken - 6 hours. Distance - 22 kilometres. Ascent - 825 metres.

The Graham, Ballencleuch Law, which is also a New Donald, is located within the Lowther Hills. There is also a number of New Donalds and Sub Donalds in close proximity so it needed a bit of planning before we set out, to ensure we made the most of this trip and didn’t miss any of the hills on my lists.

The starting point was the end of the unclassified road at Kirkhope to the south of Daer Reservoir. This road is signposted from the A702 Elvanfoot to Thornhill Road. I parked at the side of the farm building as the cottage was unoccupied.

We set off south along the vehicle track on the west side of the Daer Water trying not to disturb the sheep and their young lambs too much. Once beyond another unoccupied property at Daerhead the track swung round to the west where according to the map a path ran up Thick Cleuch. However the track, not shown on the map, continued to swing round to the north-west and below the summit of the Sub-Donald, Shiel Dod. As we followed this track a vole was seen disappearing into a small hole in the grass.

The track did not go to the actual summit of Shiel Dod so we left it and headed for what appeared to be the highest point as there were no boulders or markers to indicate the top. Here we had views of the hills we planned for this walk as well as to the south, Gana Hill, Earncraig Hill and the Graham, Queensberry which hopefully we will climb later this year.

We rejoined the track which passed to the south of the New Donald, Wedder Law, and just before a gate we once again left the track and headed for the highest point on this hill. There was no cairn here either although there was evidence of an old fence.

Our next target was the second Sub-Donald of the day, Glenleith Fell so we returned to the track, which was still not shown on the map, and descended to the upper reaches of Glenleith Burn. Here there was a hut which we sheltered behind while we ate lunch. Afterwards we continued on the track before walking along a branch track which ran below the summit of Glenleith Fell. We left this second track and walked to the highest point which on this occasion was marked by a few stones.

The next section of the walk was over some heathery and slightly boggy ground where we disturbed a grouse and a hare. The route took us across the extension of the first vehicle track and then followed a fence to a gate. A second fence with a stone dyke was followed to the summit of Scaw’d Law. Again there was no indication of the highest point but we considered it to be one of the fence posts. There were views across to Lowther Hill, Green Lowther and our next hill, the Graham, Ballencleuch Law.

It was an easy descent from Scaw’d Law and a fairly gentle ascent to the top of Ballencleuch Law. This summit was marked by several wooden posts. The next hill was out on a limb so it meant a bit of a diversion. We tried to make a direct approach to Hirstane Rig but there were several peat hags in the area so we headed for the fence that crossed from the col between Ballencleuch Law and Rodger Law to Hirsttane Rig. Here there were a couple more hares. From Hirstane Rig the fence was followed initially on a decline before following it to Comb Law. Here there were a few Golden Plovers making a noise. Again there was no evidence of a cairn so we wandered round the highest point which was either at or close to a junction of fences.

Rather than return along the fence as planned we cut a few corners without loosing too much height and climbed onto the south-west ridge of Rodger Law and to its summit trig point. This was the final hill of the day so we descended the north-east ridge using an all terrain vehicle (ATV) track. Still near the summit and to our north there was a chap wandering about with some kind of board. The ATV track swung south-east to descend Catlaw Dod where we tried to avoid some sheep and lambs before entering a fenced area following the edge of the fence back to the car at Kirkhope. Here we saw the shepherd on an ATV and he just gave us a wave as he headed up onto the hill to check his flock.

Wedder Law New Donald first ascent 672 metres
Scaw'd Law New Donald first ascent 663 metres
Ballencleuch Law Graham/New Donald first ascent 689 metres
Comb Law New Donald first ascent 645 metres
Rodger Law New Donald first ascent 688 metres

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Herman Law, Trowgrain Middle, Andrewhinney Hill and Bell Craig

3 May 2009

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 79. Time taken - 3.5 hours. Distance - 10.5 kilometres. Ascent - 600 metres.

The Graham, Andrewhinney Hill, is located on the south side of the A708 Moffat to Selkirk Road opposite the Gray Mare’s Tail Waterfall Car Park. However I was interested in combining the ascent of this Graham with the adjoining New Donalds, Herman Law and Bell Craig, so I drove to Birkhill, further north-east on the A708. There was some limited parking just north of Birkhill with another car already there.

I set off back towards Birkhill and followed a ‘Public Footpath’ sign at the north side of the property. There were further signage but I presumed, incorrectly, that this would eventually lead to an obvious vehicle track cutting across the lower slopes of Trowgrain Middle. Once on this track I realised that it wasn't going to double back on itself so I left the track and cut across to the west ridge of Herman Law. I followed the fence with arrows positioned intermittently showing the route to take. It took me just over half an hour to reach the summit which was a junction of fences. There was a cold north wind blowing and a few minutes later I encountered a hail shower one of several that morning.

It was a short descent, following another fence to a peat hagged col with the Sub Donald, Trowgrain Middle, where a ewe had obviously died while lambing. An easy climb took me to the large cairn marking the top of Trowgrain Middle. As there was limited shelter in this area I took the opportunity to have a coffee behind the cairn sheltering from the wind and enjoying the views south. A chap passed me going in the opposite direction.

The next hill on my list was Mid Rig and it was easily located as all I had do was follow the fence. The high point in the fence appeared to be the summit of Mid Rig. There was very little descent before climbing to the Graham and New Donald, Andrewhinney Hill still following the fence. The summit was marked by a cairn and I had views across to White Coomb and Lochcraig Head.

I continued to follow the fence as it headed south-west and then climbed the New Donald Bell Craig before returning to near the summit of Andewhinney Hill disturbing a couple of grouse. The male tried to draw me away from the area while the female hid in the grass until the last moment. There was no evidence of a nest, well not that I could see. I was planning to traverse below the hills I had climbed earlier back to Birkhill. However there were lots of sheep and lambs around and some of the lambs were new so I decided to get off the hill by the most direct route so I headed for the main road discovering another ewe who had died during lambing.

The final section of the descent was rather steep and I eventually reached the main road and walked back to Birkhill. I made it back to my car just as a heavy shower soaked the area.

On later checking my mountain lists, Mid Rig located between Herman Law and Trowgrain Middle is not a New Donald as I suspected. The New Donald Mid Rig is located just beyond Bell Craig at NT180123. Unfortunately I didn't include it on this trip so will have to go back for this single New Donald as I have climbed the others on my list in the Ettrick Hills.

Herman Law New Donald first ascent 614 metres
Andrewhinney Hill Graham/New Donald first ascent 677 metres
Bell Craig New Donald first ascent 626 metres

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Benyellary and Merrick

29 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 77. Time taken - 5.5 hours. Distance - 13.5 kilometres. Ascent - 980 metres.

After an overnight stay in Newton Stewart we set off north on the A714 road towards Girvan. At Bargrennan we left this road and drove to Glentrool Village and along the single track road up Glen Trool to the car park at the end of the public road. There were already a few cars parked there but not as many as I expected as the clocks had gone forward and it was too early for those who prefer their beds to an early start.

This was my first visit to Glen Trool as on my previous ascent of Merrick I included the Corbett, Shalloch on Minnoch and the New Donalds, Tarfessock and Kirriereoch Hill. From the head of Glen Trool we followed the sign for Merrick and walked up the path on the west side of the Buchan Burn. Part of the way up this path, which had a few icy patches after an overnight frost, we came to a sign requesting the ‘High Path’ be used. This meant a slight ascent before heading through the forest until a felled area around the old house at Culsharg. The path had obviously been improved after the tree felling and it took us to Culsharg which was devoid of windows and doors but I suppose it did have a roof and could be used in an emergency.

The path crossed a forestry track and headed up through the trees on a steeper gradient until another felled area was reached. Here new trees were being planted and again sections of the path had been upgraded. Beyond the tree line we passed through a small wicket gate and on towards a stone dyke that ran from Bennan up the south-west ridge of Benyellary. The upgraded path ceased and it was now a worn walker’s path that led us to the summit of Benyellary.

At the summit of Benyellary we had views of the summit of Merrick as well as out to the Ayrshire Coast and Ailsa Craig. A short descent from Benyellary, along a narrowing ridge called the Neive of the Spit, was followed by a gradual climb through patches of soft snow to the summit trig point of Merrick. Here an icy strong wind was blowing so it was decided to make a quick descent of the south-east ridge in a hope to get out of the wind. Unfortunately it was still cold and windy as we headed down this ridge with its several patches of snow which were icy in places and a lot firmer that the previous day as indicated by old bootprints.

Lower down the ridge some crags had to be worked round and here we came across a couple of the Galloway MRT with a SARDA border collie, who were on exercise in the area and searching for some ‘missing walkers’. Unfortunately they were disappointed that we weren’t 'missing' but at least we were able to advise them that there was no sign of anyone on that ridge, although we had seen a couple of runners with dog head off towards Benyellary from Merrick.

We climbed onto the ridge called Rig of Loch Enoch, which was an interesting rough and in places rocky ridge with views across to the New Donalds, Dungeon Hill and Craignaw, which is also a Graham as well as Lochs Neldricken and Valley. We found shelter from the cold wind behind a rock for lunch in the sun. Afterwards we continued along the ‘Rig of Loch Enoch’ and met more MRT members, this time three searching for the ‘missing walkers’. They had found everyone bar two but they were also disappointed that we weren’t the final two missing walkers.

At the end of the undulating Rig of Loch Enoch we commenced the short climb to the summit of Buchan Hill. Here we had views to the south of Lamachan Hill and Millfore, Grahams and New Donalds, and Curleywee, which is just a New Donald. We continued to the south top of Buchan Hill and started the descent towards Loch Trool. This descent required working our way through and round lots of rocky outcrops until a path was reached and followed to the track on the north side of Loch Trool and the short walk back to the car before a five hour drive home. There may be a walker's path off Buchan Hill but we never found it.

previous ascent of Merrick

Benyellary New Donald first ascent 719 metres
Merrick Corbett/New Donald second ascent 843 metres

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Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

28 March 2009

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 77. Time taken – 6 hours. Distance - 14 kilometres. Ascent - 1086 metres.

The most common and easiest ascent of the Corbett and New Donald, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, is from the Green Well of Scotland on the A713 Dalmellington to Dalry Road. That was the route I used on my first ascent of this hill but today I planned to include the New Donalds, Moorbrock Hill and Beninner and the Sub Donald, Moorbrock Hill North Top. This meant starting the walk at Craigengillan on the west side of the Water of Ken. The access road to Craigengillan was reached from the B729 Moniaive to Carsphairn Road.

The unclassified road along the west side of the Water of Ken had recently been improved with the road resurfaced and with slightly raised embankments which were soft. There was no obvious place to park, other than at the bellmouth but that would have caused some obstruction to vehicles requiring access. I spoke to the occupier at Craigengillan and he allowed me to park within his property as long as I kept the gate shut, to prevent sheep entering his garden.

We followed the forest track northwards along the west side of the Polifferie Burn to a dilapidated bridge where the condition of the track deteriorated until an upgraded track came in from our right. This led to the house at Moorbrock, which was under renovation. We avoided passing the house, which was probably a mistake, and took off across the hillside to join a track on the west side of the Poltie Burn. At the top end of the forest and where the track took a sharp left we saw a fellow walker packing up after a break and continue on his way up the track. However we left the track here and continued to follow the burn, initially through quite thick and soft vegetation, before things improved. and we climbed onto the south ridge of Moorbrock Hill, north of the col.

There had been a few snow flurries off and on but the snow became slightly heavier although it wasn't a problem as it was now an easy walk on grassy terrain to the summit of Moorbrock Hill, marked by a boulder. On the ascent we saw a single grouse but the proliferation of wind turbines made for rather unpleasant viewing. The massive amount of forestation and wind farms doesn't do Galloway any favours.

It was a short distance from Moorbrock Hill to its North Top and then a steeper descent on soft grassy terrain to a gap in the forest. We had a late lunch beside the track sheltering from the cold wind and snow flurries. An Estate vehicle passed and the driver acknowledged our presence. After lunch a further descent took us to the east side of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and it was an easier climb than expected onto its wide north ridge. The summit trig point and cairn were reached but it was pretty chilly up there so it was a quick descent to the col with Beninner. Two walkers, who were probably the guys we had seen climbing Cairnsmore of Carsphairn's North Ridge were seen heading over Black Shoulder.

Beninner was a relatively easy ascent and from the cairn we had views west to the other Galloway Hills and south to Glen Kens. A direct descent of Beninner wasn't possible due to a rock face so we headed north before working our way below the rocks and down to the Poldores Burn. Once across this stream a short climb through a gap in the forest took us to a vehicle track which was followed to Moorbrock House, sticking to the tracks on this occasion, and Craigengillan where I had left my car.

previous ascent

Moorbrock Hill New Donald first ascent 650 metres
Cairnsmore of Carsphairn Corbett/New Donald second ascent 797 metres
Beninner New Donald first ascent 710 metres

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Rhinns of Kells

12 October 2008

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 77. Time taken – 6 hours. Distance - 20 kilometres. Ascent - 1190 metres.

I needed to climb the Corbett, Corserine, for the second time but I also wanted to include some of the New Donalds on the Rhinns of Kells. The southerly ones fitted in with a circular walk but Carlin’s Cairn, to the north of Corserine, was out on its own. It could be included in a circuit of the northern New Donalds of the Rhinns of Kells but again it would still involve an out and back walk.

My walk started at the car park accessed along the single track road that headed west from the A713 Dalmellington to Dalry Road at Polharrow Bridge. There were various warning signs including ‘No Overnight Parking’ and a sign stating that if vehicles were still there at 8pm its occupants would be reported missing to the Police. I doubt very much if the Police would entertain such reports without some other evidence.

I set off from the car park, crossed the bridge over the Polharrow Burn, which was a mistake, and followed a track round the west side of Forest Lodge, not on my map, and into the forest. I realised early on that this wasn’t the correct route and cut across some open ground, which was very wet and boggy with lots of tussocky grass, to the forest edge and down a fire break to the right track. It had taken me sometime to correct the error due to the underfoot conditions. It would have been far better if I had gone back to the south side of the bridge and used the proper forest track.

Once on the correct track I made good progress and came to a signposted route for a stile, well there were at least four signs, although on reaching the fence, it was only of standard height and it wasn’t a deer fence as I had expected. Once on the open hillside a walker’s path was followed towards the summit of Corserine. I had hoped to bypass Corserine’s summit and head direct to the col between Corserine and Carlin’s Cairn but the rocky terrain put me off that idea.

I followed the route towards Corserine but just before the summit I managed to swing round and descend to its col with Carlin’s Cairn. I then climbed to the substantial summit cairn marking the summit of Carlin's Cairn, which was only 7 metres lower than Corserine. Here I had views of Meaul, Bow, Coran of Portmark, Cairnsgarroch and Loch Doon before returning to Corserine, this time going to the summit trig point.

The views to Merrick and Shalloch on Minnoch in the west were rather poor due their summits being in the cloud so I headed down Corserine’s grassy south ridge and climbed the Sub Donald, Millfire. There was a vehicle track and a walker’s path leading to this hill and then onto the New Donald, Milldown. An old stone dyke was then followed to the Lochans of Auchniebut and onto the trig point of Meikle Millyea. In my opinion this wasn’t the highest point which appeared to be a cairn further south so I headed out there before returning to the trig point.

I descended Meikle Millyea's north-east ridge following a walker’s path beside another stone dyke. The path was very wet and boggy in sections and later seemed to split and disappear. Nearing the forest there was a choice of a gate or a stile so I headed for the stile but the going was rough. I eventually reached the stile which this time was over a deer fence. On the other side of the stile new tress had been planted so again the going was rough before I reached a forest track and headed for Burnhead. It was noticeable that all the forest tracks had names, maybe to assist workers although in November a car rally was to be held in the forest when it would be closed to the public.

I followed the track to and passed Burnhead and back to the car park where I had set out six hours earlier. Just before arriving at my car a red deer ran across the track in front of me. That would cause a problem during a car rally!

Carlin's Cairn New Donald first ascent 807 metres
Corserine Corbett/New Donald second ascent 814 metres
Milldown New Donald first ascent 738 metres
Meikle Millyea New Donald first ascent 746 metres

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Caerloch Dhu and Shalloch on Minnoch

24 August 2008

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 77. Time taken - 3.5 hours. Distance - 9 kilometres. Ascent - 480 metres.

This trip report wont take long as it was a rather uneventful walk through some rough, long and soft vegetation. My plan was to start at Stinchar Bridge, or just south of it, which is on the road from Straiton, through the Galloway Forest Park, to Newton Stewart. However due to overnight rain I decided to start higher up and avoid a stream crossing.

The starting point I selected was at Grid Ref NX376931, beside the edge of a forest. Some wet and boggy ground and a small stream had to be crossed before I climbed up the edge of the forest. Beyond this forest the vegetation meant for tough walking as I ascended the small hill called Shalloch, where I was surprised to find a cairn. A short descent to another boggy area, where a raven was hopping around (I wasn't sure whether it was injured or not) and more awkward walking onto Caerloch Dhu. This New Donald is also known as Shalloch on Minnoch North Top.

Here there was a cairn and a walker's path which I followed to a small lochan before climbing to Shalloch on Minnoch's trig point as low cloud engulfed me. Having climbed this Corbett before, I was aware that the true summit was further east so I headed out there as the cloud lifted. I reached the small cairn and sought shelter for a break. I then returned to the start by the upward route.

Caerloch Dhu New Donald first ascent 659 metres
Shalloch on Minnoch Corbett/New Donald second ascent 775 metres

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Lowther Hills

23 August 2008

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 78. Time taken - 4.25 hours. Distance - 16.5 kilometres. Ascent - 860 metres.

The proliferation of radar and radio masts on these hills made me wonder if in years to come this will be the position on the mountains of Highland Scotland if the green brigade get their way with wind farms. A private tarred access road, with white centre line markings led all the way from the old lead mine village of Wanlockhead to the summit of Lowther Hill and onto Green Lowther. The start was reached by leaving the M74 at Abington Service Station and following the signs for Abington village then the B797 to Wanlockhead.

I parked near the locked gate leading to the radar station and walked up the tarred road which higher up was joined by the Southern Upland Way. Around 500 metres further on I left this road and followed paths to the summit of East Mound Lowther which was topped with an Indicator. I returned down one of the paths where I saw another walker headed for the same hill. However our paths didn't cross as I rejoined the road higher up, beside the first radio mast. I walked up the tarred road to the summit of Lowther Hill with its large radar dome, but the highest point wasn't marked.

I strolled round the dome before I continued along the tarred road, with rabbits disappearing into drains or burrows, and onto Green Trough, with its radio installation, before finally climbing to the summit of Green Lowther. The summit trig point was found amongst the metal structures which cover the top of this hill. A few mountain hares hid under some of the metal containers.

There was no point in hanging around here so I descended the north-east ridge of Green Lowther following a fence, glad to get off the tarred road, although I have to admit that it did make for easy height gain. I followed the fence over Peden Head and onto Dungrain Law with a steeper climb to the summit of Dun Law. From here I descended to its bealach with Glen Ea's Hill. While taking a break I saw over a dozen walkers heading over Dungrain Law towards Dun Law. After my break I dropped down to Shortcleuch Water and then the ruin at Lowthers where around 100 pigeons flew from the building. The next section of paths were not obvious and I ended up on the Elvanfoot to Leadhills Road east of Leadhills, walked through Leadhills village and onto Wanlockhead watching the local narrow gauge train head in the same direction.

East Mount Lowther New Donald first ascent 631 metres
Lowther Hill New Donald first ascent 725 metres
Green Lowther Graham/New Donald first ascent 732 metres
Dun Law New Donald first ascent 677 metres

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Ettrick Hills

22 August 2008

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 79. Time taken – 8 hours. Distance - 25 kilometres. Ascent - 1620 metres.

To the east of Moffat Dale is a group of hills known as the Ettrick Hills comprising of a number of Donalds and Grahams. They can be climbed from the end of the public road that runs along the side of the Ettrick Water but I found this starting point rather awkward to reach. I decided to start at Selcoth on the A708 Moffat to Selkirk Road which passes through Moffat Dale. Parking on the A708 at this location wasn’t possible so I parked further north, at Moffat Water Village Hall Car Park, Rounstonefoot.

I walked back along the main road before going through the properties at Selcoth, which included a fish farm. At the far end of the properties a grassy track led across the hillside to the Steinstane Burn which I then followed through bracken, thistles and nettles. A few hares and a fox were spotted. The going was a bit awkward until height was gained and a fence was followed to the summit of Croft Head. The summit was at the junction of three fences and is now included as part of an alternative route of the Southern Upland Way. Unfortunately I wasn’t particularly enjoying the day as I was suffering from toothache. Fortunately I had some pain killers in my First Aid kit.

The descent of the north-east ridge of Croft Head was a bit steep and the path eroded in places. On the opposite side of Selcoth Burn was a large landslide with bare rock exposed. Nearby was an old stone sheep pen and the main Southern Upland Way path. From here it was a relatively steep grassy climb to the summit of West Knowe with no sign of a cairn. A fence was followed as it descended slightly before heading to the summit of Loch Fell where a number of fences met. Nearby was the summit trig point.

Next was a long walk out to Ettrick Pen following fences and taking in Wind Fell and Hopetoun Craig. Ettrick Pen was to be the most distant point from the start at Selcoth so it was now time to head back taking in some more hills en-route. I returned to the bealach between Hopetoun Craig and Wind Fell before traversing below Wind Fell and along the line of the forest to Ettrick Head where I re-crossed the Southern Upland Way. I then climbed to the summit of Capel Fell but again there was no evidence of any cairn at what appeared to me to be the highest point, which was beyond the junction of three fences.

I followed the fence that descended the north-east ridge of Capel Fell and climbed over the summits of Smidhope Hill and White Shank where there was a well built stane dyke . My next and final target was Bodesbeck Law but the going became a bit tough or maybe I was beginning to tire. I eventually reached its summit cairn with views across Moffat Dale to Hart Fell and White Coomb.

The descent was to the Bodesbeck Burn where I followed a track to Bodesbeck Farm, avoiding some cattle, and onto the main road. It was then just the case of walking back along the road to my car at Roundstonefoot.

Despite the discomfort of toothache I had managed to climb ten summits, one being a Sub-Donald, the others being New Donalds. However three of these New Donalds are also Grahams, a bonus for the effort I put in.

Croft Head Graham/New Donald first ascent 637 metres
West Knowe New Donald first ascent 672 metres
Loch Fell New Donald first ascent 688 metres
Wind Fell New Donald first ascent 665 metres
Hopetoun Craig New Donald first ascent 632 metres
Ettrick Pen Graham/New Donald first ascent 692 metres
Capel Fell Graham/New Donald first ascent 678 metres
Smidhope Hill New Donald first ascent 644 metres
Bodesbeck Law New Donald first ascent 665 metres

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Moorfoot Hills

31 December 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 4.25 hours. Distance - 13 kilometres. Ascent - 770 metres.

The last day of the year saw me down in the Borders area of Scotland, an area I am not really acquaint with. The plan was to try and bag the Graham Windlestraw Law to complete those in the Moorfoot Hills.

I drove north on the B709 Innerleithen to Gorebridge road for 8.5 kilometres to the farm at Blackhopebyre. It was obvious that the farmer didn't want walkers parking near the farm as there were a couple of signs advising against it. I returned along the B709 and found a suitable parking spot.

Instead of walking back along the road to the farm I crossed a fence and climbed steeply to the grassy vehicle track that led to Glentress Rig. On reaching the track the walking was relatively easy but later became quite wet and boggy especially on the more level section.

The track continued over Wallet Knowe and passed some shooting butts. The vehicle track ended at the highest butt and a walker's path continued along the side of a fence to the summit trig point of Windlestraw Law.

There were no views due to the low cloud and I followed another walker's path, running along the side of a fence to the Sub Donald Bareback Knowe. The map actually shows this name refers to the 505 point further west but according a booklet on New Donalds and Sub Donalds the 657 point has the same name.

In the cloud I descended to the 505 point and down towards the Glentress Burn. I had planned to return to my vehicle and move it higher up the glen if I fancied extending the day to include an ascent of the New Donald Whitehope Law on the opposite of the road. However I decided to make it a circular walk and continued down the Glentress Burn to the habitation at Glentress.

Here I crossed the B709 and the Glentress Water and commenced the ascent of Windside Hill. I found some suitable shelter for lunch but the cloud lowered with some light rain. After lunch I continued to the summit of Windside Hill before changing direction and climbing to the summit of Whitehope Law. The summit consisted of a few stones and a couple of planks of wood beside a fence.

Once again I had no views from the summit so I followed the fence north towards a bealach and descended, steeply in places, towards the B709 passing some sheep pens. It was then a short walk down the B709, passed Blackhopebyre Farm to my car and the end of my walks for 2007.

Windlestraw Law Graham/New Donald first ascent 659 metres
Whitehope Law New Donald first ascent 623 metres

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Carsphairn Hills

30 December 2007

Time taken - 4.5 hours. Distance - 12 kilometres. Ascent - 635 metres.

The start of this walk was Blackcraig Farm in Glen Afton, which is 5.5 kilometres south of the village of New Cumnock, Southern Uplands. There is no parking facilities in the immediate vicinity but limited parking can be found to the north or south of the farm road.

I found a suitable parking area before setting off along the farm road, over the Afton Water, and passed Blackcraig Farm. To the north of the farm there was a walker's route indicator which would be better placed nearer the farm, although the route is obvious.

Once through a gate the vehicle track headed uphill to the south of a small copse. The track later became a path which was wet and boggy in places. The cairn at Quintin Knowe was reached and by this time I was in the cloud. I went beyond the cairn to a fence which I followed towards the summit of Blackcraig Hill. There were several other indicator posts en-route although I wasn't sure why they were there as there was nothing on my map to indicate a specific walking route.

The fence didn't go to the summit so I left it and climbed to the trig point. There was nothing to see here due to the weather, so I descended south on a bearing to the bealach between Blackcraig Hill and Blacklorg Hill crossing a fence en-route. Near the bealach I saw three walkers who appeared to have climbed up from the Craig Burn.

At the bealach I climbed Blacklorg Hill. There was a fence away to the east but I didn't follow it till higher up as there were some peat hags nearby and I wanted to avoid them.

The summit cairn was reached, still in poor visibility, so I left the summit and followed another fence to the bealach with Cannock Hill. From here I descended to Craigdarroch Farm over some rough ground following the line of the Craig Burn. Lower down new plantations had been planted and the area was a mess of fences, some topped with barbed wire. I don't see the point in barbed wire fences other than to make their crossing awkward and to rip your clothing.

Once at Craigdarroch Farm I walked down the Glen road for 1.5 kilometres back to my car. The cloud had lifted slightly and for the first time I noted that there were some wind turbines to the north of Blackcraig Hill, which weren't shown on my map.

Blackcraig Hill Graham/New Donald first ascent 700 metres
Blacklorg Hill New Donald first ascent 681 metres

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Moorfoot Hills

1 December 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 3.5 hours. Distance - 13.5 kilometres. Ascent - 475 metres.

Blackhope Scar is one of the Moorfoot Hills located south of Edinburgh. I decided to climb this hill from Gladhouse Reservoir to its north. The reservoir was reached from the B6372 Penicuik to Gorebridge road then following the road signs to Gladhouse and Moorfoot, which relates to the nearby farm. Signs request vehicles be parked at the reservoir and not on the verges.

I walked along the tarred road to Moorfoot Farm then took the vehicle track which headed south to Gladhouse Cottage and the ruins of Hirendean Castle. Just beyond Gladhouse Cottage the track crossed the River South Esk by a bridge before continuing south on the east side of the river with the wind turbines on Bowbeat Hill in the distance. I continued along this track as far as a second vehicle track on the south side of The Kipps.

This second vehicle track, which was my planned route, rose towards the bealach between The Kipps and Blackhope Scar. Higher up the track became quite rough and eroded before it headed off towards The Kipps. I left the track and walked across heather and boggy terrain to a fence which I followed towards the summit of Blackhope Scar. The terrain did not improve as I gained height and in fact deteriorated near the summit as there were some peat hags to cross.

The summit was marked by a trig point at the junction of three lines of fences. It was rather windy here as it had been during most of the walk and the views weren't that great due to some cloud. The wind turbines on nearby Bowbeat Hill were now only around 1.5 kilometres away.

I left the summit of Blackhope Scar and descended steeply into Long Cleave and below the wind turbines. Here I was sheltered from the wind and followed animal tracks down to the vehicle track at the head of the Glen and the River South Esk. Here there was a red brick building containing some straw and I used the building for my lunch stop. Thereafter I followed the track north to Moorfoot Farm and the short walk to my car.

Blackhope Scar Graham/New Donald first ascent 651 metres

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Culter Hills

25 November 2007

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 6 hours. Distance - 20 kilometres. Ascent - 1030 metres.

The start of this walk was the end of the public road just south of Culter Allers Farm. This road was reached by driving south on a single track road from Culter which is located on the A702 road between Biggar and the Abington Service Station on the M74.

Just beyond the Farm there was a sign saying 'Private', whether or not it is I don't know, but it welcomed walkers as long as there were no more than four and that the owners aren't out shooting. I didn't think the wording of the sign was that friendly but I wasn't there to make friends with the owner or his staff. There was limited verge parking just before the sign.

We set off along the 'private road' towards Coulter Reservoir but after around 600 metres left this road and followed the vehicle track up the side of the Kings Beck. The track later petered out and we climbed fairly steeply onto the Tippet Knowe, a heathery ridge to the north-west of Culter Fell. Here there were traces of a path which we followed across some boggy ground passing a walker and a couple of hill runners who were going in the opposite direction.

We climbed to the summit trig point of Culter Fell where, despite the weather closing in, we had views across to Tinto Hill and south to our next set of hills. The descent from Culter Fell was down its south ridge following a line of fence posts, across some wet and boggy ground, before climbing over two minor tops, Moss Law and Holm Nick. By this time the summit of Culter Fell was cloud covered and it was like this mainly for the rest of the day.

At this point we had a choice of climbing directly onto Gathersnow Hill or firstly go out and climb the New Donald, Coomb Hill. We decided on the latter and initially followed an old vehicle track before it disappeared and we continued up the side of a fence. Higher up we crossed the fence and aimed for the bealach between Gathersnow Hill and Coomb Hill, before making the short ascent to Coomb Hill's summit cairn.

We returned to the bealach followed by an easy ascent to the summit of Gathersnow Hill, which was marked by a small cairn beside the boundary fence. It was too windy to stop here for lunch and as we had already planned to include Hudderstone on our round of Culter Glen we descended to the head of the Back Burn where we found some shelter for a late lunch.

The next section of the walk was over pathless terrain, including heather, bog and some peat hags and involved crossing a couple of fences as we sought the best and most direct route to Hudderstone. Eventually we reached its south-east ridge and followed a fence over Dod Hill and onto Hudderstone.

There was nothing marking Hudderstone's highest point and as light was failing we descended north, steeply at times, towards the stream Lea Gill. Animal tracks helped us to get through the heather and dead bracken before a more obvious animal path lead to a large shed containing sheep. Just beyond the shed a vehicle track led to the tarred road on the east side of Culter Water and in the dark this road was followed back to the start beside Culter Allers Farm.

Culter Fell Graham/New Donald first ascent 748 metres.
Coomb Hill New Donald first ascent 640 metres.
Gathersnow Hill Graham/New Donald first ascent 688 metres.
Hudderstone New Donald first ascent 626 metres.

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White Coomb

9 July 2006

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 4 hours. Distance - 17 kilometres. Ascent - 810 metres.

I headed for the Borders as it was supposed to be the drier part of the country but it was still raining when I set off from the Grey Mare's Tail Car park, on the Moffat to Selkirk road, where there is a Pay and Display machine run by the National Trust.

The first section of the path up the east side of the Tail Burn was steep and similar to climbing a massive staircase as it had been constructed using hundreds of stones. The waterfall to my left was spectacular after the overnight rain and I saw a goat and kid at its edge.

Once above the waterfall and where I had intended crossing the Tail Burn I abandoned that idea due to the flow of the water and continued along the path looking for a safer crossing point.

I reached the outflow of Loch Skeen before I found such a spot and once across the burn I decided that it would be easier to climb the ridge on the south-west side of Loch Skeen which had been my planned descent route from Lochcraig Head. At the highest point on this ridge I made another alteration to my plan and traversed above the crags at the head of Loch Skeen and climbed the Donald, Lochcraig Head first. It was still raining, a bit windy and there was no view when I reached the summit cairn.

I walked the few metres from the cairn to a dry stone dyke and followed it to Firthybrig Head, Donald's Cleuch Head, Firthhope Rig and onto White Coomb. The summit cairn is located a short distance from the dyke.

Due to the continuing heavy rain, which was now more showery, I decided the best route of descent was to avoid the burn crossing and return to the ridge above Loch Skeen. I crossed some rough and wet ground aiming for above the gorge of Midlaw Burn before reaching this ridge.

I followed the ridge back to the outflow of Loch Skeen as the rain ceased and the weather improved so it was a dryish walk back to the Grey Mare's Tail Car Park.

Lochcraig Head New Donald first ascent 801 metres
White Coomb Corbett & New Donald second ascent 821 metres

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Broad Law

11 March 2006

photos taken on walk

Time taken - 2.25 hours. Distance - 7.25 kilometres. Ascent - 400 metres.

I had time for a short walk in the Borders so I decided to climb Broad Law. Previously I had climbed this Corbett, from Hearthstane to the west but on this occasion I decided to climb it from the south. This route allowed me to start the walk at a height of 450 metres.

I drove along the narrow road from Tweedsmuir to St Mary's Loch and parked at Megget Stone. Two ladies, who had walked up the road from Talla Linnfoots appeared to be a bit uncertain where they were headed but set off south towards White Coomb, which was a long way off over several tops.

There was some wet snow lying as I headed off in the opposite direction and followed a fence that went up over Fans Law, Cairn Law and onto Broad Law. There is not much to report on this walk as above 550 metres I entered the cloud base and with some light snow blowing in the strong wind visibility was poor.

I followed the fence, as it headed in the correct direction, through some drifting snow until I reached the summit trig point. Visibility was now down to around twenty metres so there was no point in hanging about so I re-traced my steps back to the start.

Once below the cloud and heading back to my car I spotted two figures coming down the north side of Carlavin Hill. This turned out to be the two ladies I had seen earlier so when we later met up we discussed where we had been. They told me that they had been up Broad Law so when I told them that I had been on Broad Law they were a bit confused as they told me they had reached the cairn. When we parted company I am sure the ladies were still of the opinion they had climbed Broad Law.

Broad Law Corbett and New Donald second ascent 840 metres

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Hart Fell and Swatte Fell

4 December 2005

photos taken on walk

I had to go to the Borders so I took the opportunity to climb Hart Fell again. The first occasion I climbed it from Ericstane to the west so on this visit I decided to tackle it from Capplegill to its south. This would allow me to take in the Donald, (hills in the Scottish Lowlands over 2000feet) Swatte Fell.

I parked my car beside a cottage east of Capplegill and next to a field of bellowing Belted Galloway cows and their calves. This field I was planning to use on my return route. I walked back along the road towards Capplegill Farm and searched for a route onto the hillside beside the burn. There wasn't an obvious route as some trees and a barn obstructed a direct ascent. In the end I went through a small field, across a stane dyke and a couple of fences before eventually reaching the west side of the burn. I think it would probably be easier to go through the farm, although personally I try and avoid such routes.

Once on the open hillside it was a steep climb up the west side of a gully known as 'Hang Gill'. On reaching the top of the gully I crossed the burn and found a couple of gates as the fences were obviously electrified but fortunately the power was switched off. The terrain became a bit rough until I commenced the climb up the west side of Black Craig where there was a good viewpoint jutting out towards Black Hope. From here I spotted two fellow walkers on Saddle Yoke, on the other side of the glen and I later saw two goats on the crags.

The ridge changed direction here for a short distance before I reached the summit of Nether Coomb Craig, which is classed as a Donald Top. There were traces of a path here but I wished to leave the line of crags and head over to the summit of Swatte Fell, a Donald. It was in low cloud as I walked along the side of a couple of fences through some bog and snow. Eventually I reached the summit, which was marked by a small cairn.

I eventually rejoined the path near Upper Coomb Craig and climbed the second Donald Top of the day, Falcon Craig. From here it was a short descent to a bealach before the final climb to the Corbett, Hart Fell, which is also classed as a Donald. (Donalds include Corbetts as they are classed as anything above 2,500 feet so you get two ticks for all the Corbetts in the Border and Galloway Hills) From Hart Fell I crossed over to Hartfell Rig where I came across several hounds running across the hillside. There was no sign of anyone in charge of them and they were obviously trying to flush out foxes.

It was now getting a bit late so the ascent of Saddle Yoke was abandoned and instead I descended steeply down Whirly Gill towards Black Hope. The hounds were on the opposite side of the Glen pushing the frightened sheep high up into the crags. More hounds were on my side of the Cold Grain burn and also heading up onto Redhill Craig. There was still no sign of the hound owners but maybe that was because what they were doing was illegal and they had spotted me earlier.

On reaching Black Hope I walked down the east side of the burn before joining a vehicle track that took me to the start. It was almost dark as I reached the field with the Belted Galloway cows and I could see them on the thickly coated muddy track. To avoid the mud and the cattle I took a slight diversion round them but they didn't appear bothered by my presence. Once through the gate I was back at my car after an enjoyable walk, a pity that there were no views higher up due to the cloud base.

Swatte Fell New Donald first ascent 728 metres
Hart Fell Corbett & New Donald second ascent 808 metres

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Galloway

25 April 2004

My final Corbett in Galloway was Corserine, so accompanied by a couple of friends I drove to the start of the walk at Forrest Lodge near Polharrow Bridge. There we were met by a group of 'firewatchers' who were checking people in and out due to what they considered to be a high fire risk, despite the recent wet spell.

A stroll through the forest took us onto the open hillside as the early morning cloud cleared. A steady climb up grassy slopes and we were at the summit trig point of Corserine with some views for a change.

After a short break a descent along the south-west ridge took us back to the forest and the route to the start.

Corserine Corbett and New Donald first ascent 814 metres

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Galloway

25 January 2004

With a cold front spreading into the north of Scotland with wind and snow showers predicted, even at low levels, we decided to head south to the Galloway hills. The Corbett for today was the unusually named Cairnsmore of Carsphairn.

Leaving the car at the Green Well of Scotland we set off up a track which ran through a couple of fields ankle deep in mud. Fortunately the cattle were feeding in the cattle sheds while their calves waited outside. Once through the mud and across a swollen burn we gradually climbed up the track in fairly mild temperatures.

On reaching and crossing the Polsue Burn we headed up the side of a stane dyke into cloud and a covering of snow. The summit cairn and trig point were easily found being right beside the dyke.

A short break for lunch and we headed down the south ridge towards Black Shoulder where we encountered our one and only snow shower. Once it passed we were enroute for the small lochan but navigation wasn’t a problem as we had picked up another stane dyke which took us over Dunool to Willieanna. From here we dropped down to the track, which we used on the upward route, and a short walk back to the car. The only problem were the cows and their calves standing close to the muddy track enjoying the afternoon sun.

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn Corbett and New Donald first ascent 797 metres

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Galloway

16 August 2003

My first venture into Galloway took me to the Corbetts Shalloch on Minnoch and Merrick. The lower slopes are covered in forests and I am afraid the scenery was spoilt by the ugly scars where tree felling had taken place. The walking was difficult at times through long grass and bog weed. Thankfully the area hadn’t seen rain for several weeks so I managed to keep my feet dry. Those intending climbing Shalloch on Minnoch should be aware that contrary to some references the trig point does not appear to be the summit as the map shows a contour at 770 metres and the trig point is shown as 768 metres.

Shalloch on Minnoch Corbett and New Donald first ascent 775 metres
Tarfessock New Donald first ascent 697 metres
Kirriereoch Hill New Donald first ascent 786 metres
Merrick Corbett and New Donald first ascent 843 metres

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