I climbed Culter Fell a few years ago without realising there was a good 5 Donald round to be had. When planning a return to climb Chapelgill Hill, I spotted the intriguingly named Iron Age hill fort of Knowe Kniffling on the map. It had to be visited.
I planned a running route to do the round of the hills above the Holms Water. Unfortunately when looking on Google streetview I couldn't find any decent places to park the car near the hills. I resorted to leaving it in Broughton at the war memorial.
Heading south on the pavement alongside the A701, the traffic was pretty quiet - Friday morning. I turned right after a couple of km onto the singletrack road signposted to Glenholm and jogged along to the first track on the left for Wrae Hill looming above. Over a gate and followed a rough grassy track to the very flat summit on the LHS side of a wall.
There was a faint trod through the grass and heather which offered good running southwest towards Blakehope Head. The big dome and prominent cairn of Worm Hill were eyecatching to my left, looked quite a challenge.
From the summit of Blakehope Head, I could see most of my route for the rest of the day, all the way to Gathersnow Hill in the distance:
Middle Head was a bit marshy, and Benshaw Hill tussocky, but once over the new wooden fenceline that surrounds the wind farm on Cocklie Rig Head, the speed increased.
Onto the access track, I followed it for a km or so before returning to the grass and heather over Glenlood Hill. I found an ATV track that contoured round the north of the Broomy Law to the col below Coomb Hill. This was a steep pathless climb, aided by a fenceline I used to haul my carcass up. Finally I reached the tiny cairn on Gathersnow Hill for a break. A skylark twittered overhead and I looked at the view to the north. Tinto and Culter Fell the main points of interest.
The descent to Holm Nick was fast as I joined a good vehicle track, and then began the long climb to Culter Fell. Halfway up I met a lone walker on his descent. He was doing the "Walkhighlands round" of the five Donalds. Over Culter, I dropped down to the col before King Bank Head. I knew from superstar_tradesman's report this was going to be boggy/marshy/peathaggy* but there was another obvious ATV track that avoided most of the wet ground by passing to the east.
*delete as appropriate
After Chapelgill Hill, I dropped north-east off Cardon Hill, startled at the steep gradient. The path disappeared here and I bounced down the thickening vegetation to the col.
Knee deep heather followed, I was beyond running here, just trudged slowly towards Common Law aiming for some grassy patches on the west side which offered an easier ascent. The cairn was spattered with evidence of raptors. Looking back, Chapelgill Hill and Cardon Hill were fine:
There's a reasonable forestry track between the wall and trees at this point which I was able to run along to finally reach Knowe Kniffling. A bit of a disappointment with only faint traces of the ring ditches, but I could see why it had been chosen as a defensive site. Tinto and White Hill were in view.
I startled a group of 9 roe deer as I left the summit, never seen a group that big before, and then joined a better track for the descent towards Trebetha Hill. The map indicated the track would take me to the road directly, as did satellite imagery. But, when I reached the junction at 087346, a dog walker advised me to turn right and follow the unmarked track between the duck ponds to the north. No issue. Back to the tarmac, I jogged all the way back to Broughton in time for a visit to the Brewery.
WARNING! This route often is pathless, has steep ground and no toilet facilities. And no opportunities for water. Or food.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.