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Many a meikle on the Rhinns of Kells

Many a meikle on the Rhinns of Kells

Postby EmmaKTunskeen » Mon May 16, 2022 8:03 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Corserine

Donalds included on this walk: Carlin's Cairn, Corserine, Meaul, Meikle Millyea, Milldown

Date walked: 14/05/2022

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 27 km

Ascent: 1055m

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Walking The Awful Hand the other week, I'd expressed an interest in doing a traverse of the Rhinns of Kells. I'd not yet pored over the maps when Euan beat me to it and worked out a route based on Foggieclimber's 2012 WR here https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=25713.

I had a quick glance at it and saw some hellish "energy-sapping" references :crazy: Nevertheless, undaunted, Euan was keen to give it a go, so I left the route-planning to him and agreed on a south to north version, leaving one borrowed car at the Green Well of Scotland and taking us both in the other car to Craigencallie House.

Booted up, full of freshness (and porridge), and accompanied by willow warblers, blackcaps, chaffinch etc, we set off, heading down to the Black Water of Dee and the quarry beyond.

Image006 Quarry ahead

Image005 Willow warbler by Emma Kendon, on Flickr

[Note: As it turned out, we ducked out after Meaul (our 7th top on the Rhinns), but the descent from there was so hellish and energy-sapping, it probably made no difference. Perhaps we could have gone on to Bow and Coran of Portmark as originally planned, and swapped our 4km of tussock-n-bog-roulette descent for Foggyclimber's "1.5km of knee to waist-high grass and tussocks". We'll never know...]

Anyway, all that's for later - right now, we thought we were doing the lot :lol:

So far, we'd just trundled down the forestry road track to the river, which we then crossed and walked up the right-hand side of the quarry into the trees. On our way to the quarry we met two fellas who were having a sit-down, and didn't see them again. All four of us enjoyed a flyby by a pair of Canada geese contouring through the glen, before we left the guys to their sit-down and carried on up to the quarry.

Image008 Looking west to Craiglee and Craignaw over River Dee

Image010 Curleywee - Lamachan - Mulldonach from quarry

At the top of the quarry, we hit the boggy forestry section, which included ducking under an easy two-wire fence. I was cussing the ground beneath us a bit: it reminded me of the Ben Lui assault course approach from the Lochy side. Little did I know what fresh hell the day was to bring!

Image012 Boggy woodland below Darrou

Orange-tip butterflies and the call of a cuckoo were keeping us company through this bit until we emerged above the treeline (at which point the cuckoo who was just above us somewhere flew off, unseen, to some lower plantation.)

Image014 Orangetip in the woods

Image015 Violets in the woods

Once out of the trees, we had a cracking view of the Minigaff hills and the track we'd branched off from continuing its way to Loch Dee.

Image016 Curleywee and Minigaff friends from higher up

The walk up Darrou was the first long slog of tussocky ground, typical of these underrated hills. Hard-going, but I was really enjoying the views of hills we'd walked recently, from this new, peaceful angle.

Image017 Merrick behind Criaglee and Craignaw

Image020 Cairngarroch with Millfore behind over to Curleywee

Once at the top of Darrou, Euan said he hoped that terrain was the worst of it, a reasonable hope since we were on one of the least popular of some already less than popular hills. It wasn't the worst of it though - that came later.

For now, it was just a few hundred metres more of the same, up to Little Millyea and Meikle Millyea. Making our lives easier were little yellow flags to help guide a good route and avoid losing unnecessary height.

Image021 Onward to the Millyeas with Millfire beyond

Image027 Following the fell-runner flags

Image022 South to distant Cairnsmore of Fleet again

Image024 Loch Dee from up Little Millyea

Image025 Clatteringshaws Loch from up Little Millyea

The little yellow flags didn't bother with Little Millyea's summit cairn, but we did - top no.2 - and then we happily rejoined them for a well-thought-out route up to Meikle Millyea, past the usual erratics and some impressive unusual ones as well.

Image028 Cairn on Little Millyea

Image031 The giants lectern - my name for it

Rising up to the top of Meikle Millyea, top 3, (while pondering on mony a mickle making a muckle, a quandary I didn't sort out til this morning, affirming it really does make no sense), we had our first view over to the next few targets. And they looked further and bigger than we'd anticipated. (Basically, we'd been telling ourselves that was the hard work done and now it was a relatively easy meander up and down the range - which terrain-wise, it was. Ascent-wise, though, one of us was feeling a bunch of aches and pains, and beginning to think that maybe he'd route-planned more than he could chew...)

A wheatear posed to soften the blow...

Image037 Milldown - Corserine and wheatear

Image038 Wheatear - Corserine behind

Image039 Wheatear and fly

... and for now it was just a pleasure to be up here where neither of us had walked before.

Two years ago, I'd never thought I'd be spending so much time in the Galloway hills, but I'm really thrilled to have them on the (extended) doorstep. The views go without saying (on a clear day of course), but on top of that, I'm enjoying the discovery of getting to know the area from all its different angles, loving the lack of hoards, paths and - after Quinag, for all its beauty - road-racket. There was just birdsong up here. Lovely.

If these were in the Lakes, there'd be paths, people and litter. No litter here, no road sounds, just peace. (i.e. you can clearly hear your body falling apart :lol: )

Image041 Me at Meikle Millyea trig - Milldown and Corserine beyond

Just two folk appeared, having walked up from Forrest Lodge, the more usual route up, and they went straight down again. A good leg-stretch on a beautiful morning. We headed on down to the Lochans of Auchniebut, and then up to Milldown, our 4th top.

Image042 Lochans of Auchniebut between Millyeas and Milldown (looking back to Meikle Millyea).

Down near the lochans, we met the fifth of seven people we'd meet today, a lass with a fantastic long rainbow-dyed plait walking up on her own. I wondered where she'd come up from - perhaps also from Forrest Lodge - but she was walking as though she wanted to press on, so we swapped cheery greetings and pressed on too.

Image043 Milldown summit looking to Corserine

The eye-candy was still over to our west. Must come up here again in snowier times, I think,

Image046 Dungeon Hills with Awful Hand beyond

As we carried on from Milldown to Millfire, which I'm not counting as a top, the views to the east were getting better and better too.

Image047 Lochs Harrow - Minnoch- Dungeon towards Forrest Lodge

But you still can't really take your eyes off the ranges to the west.

Image048 Dungeon Hills and Awful Hand pano

Image049 Euan with Awful Hand and Dungeon ranges

At the Millfire cairn, Loch Dungeon came into its own. I think the memorial stone to 17-year-old shepherd Ralph Forlow, who lost his life in a blizzard in 1954, is too much under us to be in view from here.

Image051 Loch Dungeon from Millfire

Its carved words read:
Gie him his place
Amang the great
The men o war
Or kirk or state,
An add this message
Chiselled deep
The guid herd died
To save his sheep

A notable phenomenon of the area that I've yet to find successfully are rocking stones (though more prevalent in Ayrshire than in Galloway, I think). I've found some, but they don't rock any more, if they ever did. Here I found what I considered the opposite of a rocking stone, one that is balanced at both ends instead of in the middle.

Image053 The opposite of a rocking stone

Leaving Milldown and Millfire behind us, next was the slog up to Corserine's top - easy terrain :D .

Image055 Trudge up Corserine - Cairnsmore of Fleet beyond

And now we were getting high enough for a view of Loch Enoch.

Image056 Loch Enoch appears

Coming up to Corserine (top 5) was so different to our ascents so far because of its broad, flatly rounded plateau summit, with the five arms coming off it, like a jelly-mould (to quote Euan). Easy to wander off the wrong arm (as nxmjm found here: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=31531).

Eventually the top of its trig pops up over the horizon (on a day with visibility!), and the exceptionally pappy top of Carlin's Cairn along with it.

Image058 Corserine summit and pappy Carlins Cairn

Now I was on yet more familiar territory, looking down to the lochs I've got used to seeing from Shalloch on Minnoch.

Image061 Kirriereoch and SonM above Macaterick and Riecawr

It was at this summit (top 6) that Euan decided he wanted to see if we could come down somewhere after Carlin's Cairn, and abandon the last few hills, so we decided we'd stop up at the huge cairn for a cuppa and consult the map.

Image062 Last Rhinns with Craigrine on right

Image065 North to Craigrine from Carlins Cairn

Well, it wasn't going to be easy, and ringing in Euan's head was Foggyclimber's report of paths on the OS maps not existing in reality at the north end. So whatever we did was going to be challenging. We opted for walking up and over Meaul and following the wall down from there, knowing full well the ground would probably be a b*****d. But every choice was a b*****d, so you just have to pick one and go for it :roll:

The wander down from Carlin's Cairn I really enjoyed, because at last I was seeing the views that were wrapped in clag last time we were up, and the view down to Loch Doon was particularly lovely.

It was also getting hot every time the breeze dropped, so there was much on-ing and off-ing of sleeves, dunking a buff in any available water, staying hydrated and batting away the odd midge.

Image068 Loch Doon from Carlins Cairn descent

I was on the look out for goats, but there weren't any, and still my eyes kept being drawn towards Loch Enoch, its run-out burn now catching the light.

Image069 Pulskaig Burn from Loch Enoch - Mullwharchar to right

Meaul is a delightful spot in its own right, and another hill I've not been up before.

Looking back to the south:

Image074 Craigrine and Carlins Cairn from Meaul trig

And to the north:

Image076 Loch Doon and Coran of Portmark from Meaul

Image077 Meaul trig and Loch Doon

And as we headed down, we could see our wall, the thin black line falling off the saddle to the right:

Image079 Our wall on bealach

As we approached the wall, we had a view down the Garryhorn Burn towards Cairnsmore of Carsphairn beyond, my reference point for where the car was (as that's where we'd parked to walk up there a few months ago).

Image080 Between Bow and Cairnsgarroch to C of Carsphairn

There was a lot of tussocky downhill between us and it!

After a while, wall turned briefly to fence, and I looked back up the burn. We were in full tussock - where every step is on to a round lump about the size of the ball of your foot, covered in hairy grass so you can't quite negotiate its top.

Image081 Looking back up the Garryhorn Burn

As we descended, the wall/fence and the burn snaked back and forth across one another (and in fact from the sounds, somehow the wall seemed to be built on the burn). That meant we had a few little crossings to make, which meant stepping from one tussock, over the burn and trying to land square on another tussock on the other side, hence my terming it tussock-n-bog-roulette. "Energy-sapping", yep.

Image082 Tussocky hell down the Garryhorn Burn

Image083 Several burn crossings

Image084 Us making slow progress down

Like a sort of mirage in the desert, the Woodhead lead mines (with tracks, tracks...) lay ahead. And they did that thing of not really getting closer without a load more punishment first.

Image085 Woodhead lead mine remains and C of Carsphairn

Image086 Oh goodie - a footbridge

Like a slap round the wotsits, the footbridge, cheerily marked on the map and bold as brass before us, had nary a slat. I wandered past it to some stepping stones of sorts. I think by this point Euan just stomped through the water :D

As we came across some little trees, probably willow, I asked him if he knew what they were. Back came an uncharacteristic, "Right now, I don't really care" :lol: so I shut up and wondered things to myself.

Image087 Drinker moth caterpillar maybe

When at last the tracks were just up a bit to our left, I suggested we go and meet them, by clambering over a wall, and they were bliss.

Image088 Over wall to the mines track

On another day, we'd have explored the lead mine remains and what's left of the cottages, and school the owner built for the workers. Today though, our energy tussock-sapped, we just walked through, aiming mainly not to fall down any holes :lol: and taking in each ruined remain as we passed from the track.

Image090 Lead ore smelting works buildings

Image091 Chimney from lead mine closed 1873

And finally we reached Garryhorn Farm, and its little road up to the Green Well bridge, past fields of curlew - making alarm calls at a fox which looked as though it was after their eggs - and a few curious tups.

Image094 Broken tups horn

PS. The cuckoo from the morning was waiting for us on a fencepost as we drove, happy and sated, to Craigencallie House :D

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