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My One Visit to Cauldcleuch Head

My One Visit to Cauldcleuch Head

Postby The English Alpinist » Fri May 03, 2024 6:05 pm

Fionas included on this walk: Cauldcleuch Head

Donalds included on this walk: Cauldcleuch Head

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Greatmoor Hill

Date walked: 25/04/2024

Time taken: 4.5 hours

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 600m

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The approach to Cauldcleuch Head, which is out of shot to the left.

Cauldcleuch detail.jpg
I don't know if it's better than doing it from the south, but it's ok. 15K.

Judging by other reports, the consensus seems to be that Cauldcleuch Head is a Fiona of unattractiveness, not to be revisited. This was therefore to be my 'one', and done for the sake of it needing to be done. It sticks out there alone (although it doesn't know it's alone, as it's surrounded by assorted other hills, but it's alone in the sense of having bagging recognition), and can be done from at least 3 directions, all of them short. It was thus perfect to fit into an evening, after having the luxury of setting off late from England. Evening walks have a lot to be said for them, as they're usually quiet (but I'm guessing Cauldcleuch is usually quiet anyway), and the sun if there is any has that golden quality. There was indeed some for me, and probably for that reason I found this Fiona to be prettier than the other feedback suggests. The Head itself is a drab moorland spot, but the panorama is excellent. Not everything can be a mountain/Munro, so let's not begrudge Cauldcleuch Head too much. I decided to do it from Priesthaugh in the north, if for no other reason than it's usually done from the south, so I could get a bit of route-planning (albeit rather low key) practise in. I went up via Skelfhill Fell to avoid the possibility of going around in circles on forestry tracks which can tend to exist but don't (or do, when they're not supposed to). The fact I could see most of them with the naked eye from a distance did not even tempt me; it was tussocks and hags for me for the ascent, thanks.

The road to Priesthaugh.

Ascent via Skelfhill Fell, looking backward down Priesthaugh Glen.

On Skelfhill Fell (534 metres), rounding the forest boundary to Cauldcleuch.

Looking across to Skelfhill Pen (532m), looked even better in reality.

5a approach me.jpg
Striding purposefully towards Cauldcleuch Head (Langtae Hill and Millstone Edge to the right).

5b reach me.jpg
Arriving at the grandeur of Cauldcleuch Head; open spaces, don't knock it.

Cleuch6 view.jpg
On Cauldcleuch Head, 2,031 feet (619m), a zoom on some hill.

The walk up through the glen from Priesthaugh was pleasantry itself on a good track, but soon the ruggedness had to start. This was all on a small scale, however, so without too much cussing I rounded the summit of Skelfhill Fell on my way to Cauldcleuch. I noted the many other hills around, for example Skelfhill 'Pen' across from me. Many of these looked like more interesting little summits, in fact, with the conical tops being something of a feature in these parts. But they're under 2,000 feet, alas (or 600 metres for that matter). This makes a good case against 'bagging' endeavour - or perhaps it makes a good case for actually returning to this area, the beauty of it being that it's only just over the border. At Cauldcleuch Head, I had to choose between coming back the same way (but it seemed too early for that, and too uninteresting), or making a wider circle for myself. I chose that, but not only that, I decided to add Greatmoor Hill, as it seems quite popular and it did look fairly attractive from a distance. I wasn't entirely sure if there was a way down from it to the north, though, without backtracking in some way or taking that risk of forest firebreak (not forgetting an appalling experience coming down from the Callander Corbett, Ben Ledl). Getting to it was a bit of a slog, because the ground is not wonderful, but got there I did and I was glad I did. An excellent viewpoint, plus a trig and excellent cairn, so it felt like the de facto summit of the day. At 599 meters - surely over 600 if you stand on the rocks around the trig - it can definitely at least be regarded as an honorary Graham I suggest.

Yes let's do Greatmoor Hill (nice and green, 3km away).

Greatmoor is definitely a moor.

On Greatmoor Hill at 8 p.m. in April, there's worse places to be.

Greatmoor Hill, 599 metres. Honorary Graham, worth doing.

Now just have to get down from it.

Not the most pleasant ground, but hey it got me there.

Getting down from Greatmoor did prove to be easy enough, but perhaps only because the forest that might have been there was felled on the northern slope. From there it was easy tracks most of the way back, and enjoyment of the slowly sinking sun. I could not be bothered and didn't have time to visit any of the Iron Age 'settlements' that proliferate in these hills, however, but did see one (White Hill) from a distance: there was not much to see, but it's the thought of it that counts, treading in the footsteps of distant history in an unchanging (well, apart from forestry work) landscape. A nice little bonus was coming across a sign about a drove road and settlement: Peelbraehope and the 'Elliots'. This might spark off a bit of cultural reading for me, and I might report back with an edit when and if I've done it. A good day - an educating day - but tomorrow would be tougher with an aim to walk all 15 of the Ettrick Hills in one day and sleep at a bothy. By the way, I might visit Cauldcleuch Head again one day.

Edit: my researches took me to this:
What a superbly written report and admirable adventure, little did I know I had trodden in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots! She would have ridden past that very spot where the sign is.

cleuch13 ground.jpg
Forestry work, old drover's route, Iron Age settlement (spot it), what more can you ask?

A little history bonus.

cleuch15 grough.jpg
Ruggedness and cuteness around Priesthaugh.

This walk is followed by 'An Ettricks Compleation by Bothy'
User avatar
The English Alpinist
Mountain Walker
Posts: 356
Munros:64   Corbetts:11
Fionas:27   Donalds:28+16
Sub 2000:2   Hewitts:136
Joined: Oct 27, 2015
Location: Lancashire England.

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