6.2 miles 730m ascent 3h 27m
I wasn’t sure where to walk this weekend. I had originally planned to visit Loch Enoch and Craignaw, but didn’t fancy doing it in the rain, so Plan B was Hart Fell (shorter option). Somewhere in the planning stage, though, I switched to White Coomb. I didn’t fancy a long walk since the weather forecast was uncertain…different sites, different forecasts.
As it turned out most of the day was sunny, but with quite strong wind, particularly on the ridge. At one point I saw a sparrow flying backwards in the wind.
Grey Mare's Tail track up Bran Law
So I set off for the Grey Mare’s Tail (Moffat version), parked carefully, wondered at the relative lack of other cars, adjusted my rucksack belt to hold up my trousers, fired up the camera and headed for the path. I was careful not to look down, since I’m a scaredy cat with heights, but it only takes a few minutes to get up to the top of the waterfall then the path has only a mild gradient and there is no gaping valley to slip down. My reading had advised checking the burn where it meets a dyke coming down from Tarnberry, since I would be crossing it on the way back. It didn’t look too bad but I would be wary after heavy rain.
Grey Mare's Tail
It took about 40 minutes to reach the south bank of Loch Skeen and I took some time (and pictures) while deciding which set of stones to use in crossing the Tail Burn. Two walkers had caught up with me by now and must have been amused by my wimpish approach to this crossing. I seem to lack the necessary “just go for it” attitude and tend to faff about carefully studying each rock.
From the Loch a faint path leads up towards Mid Craig, which is itself quite a commanding piece of rock. The path is waterlogged in places but dries out once it becomes steeper, and it does get steep, occasioning the use of hands in places, as it zig-zags up Mid Craig. Here I took my first starburst, an orange one. The pair who watched me dancing across the burn seemed to be following the same path. I was expecting them to overtake me but once I got to the ridge and looked back they had disappeared.
White Coomb from Mid Craig
From the top of Mid Craig to the dyke between Firthybrig Head and Donald’s Cleuch Head there was no clear path but the ground was easy enough though full of tussocks (may the almighty damn them), and the usual hidden holes. There were several meandering paths, presumably made by sheep but most were heading in the wrong direction. Those going in the right direction usually veered off after a minute or two.
The walk was then just following the dyke. And follow the dyke I did, as it deteriorated from a waist high affair to an ankle high tumble of rocks. Either the wind up here can be pretty strong or the vandals are to be commended on their diligence. I must admit to being impressed that so much granite had been collected to build the wall up here in the first place.
White Coomb's wee cairn
By the time I reached White Coomb, which had taken just under two hours, the wind had really picked up. My attempts to snap myself with the delayed shutter on the camera were mostly ineffective, the camera blowing over most of the time. The cairn on the summit of White Coombe was a rather pancake like affair, but I suppose if dry stone dykes blow over it would be wasteful to build something taller. It was however a neat affair and even seemed to have its own moat (or trench since it wasn’t full of water.)
The views from the summit were excellent: Hart Fell, The Lowther hills, Broad Law, some hills I don’t know to the south and even the Eildon Hills.
I had intended eating my sandwich at White Coomb, but the wind would probably have whipped it from my hand so I decided to delay until a more sheltered spot presented itself. (I eventually ate it at home.) So back to following a dyke, down over Rough Craigs.
The descent was steep in places and muddy as well. Not a good mix with strong winds but I only fell once (unnoticed hole).
I had seen distant rain which drew closer as the walk wore on. Eventually the darkness closed in and the first fine drops of rain began to fall, followed quickly with heavier spots. Once I had the full wet weather gear on (never a straightforward task for me, especially in strong wind) the sun came out again. Some occasional gusts of rain did fall every few minutes. Not enough for waterproofs, but enough to convince me to stay covered (and hot).
Rough Craigs, not that bad but beware if its misty
Rough Craigs was a bit unpleasant with the wind gusting. It is a steep rocky section on the way down and reminded me of the scrambling on our Lake District jaunt. On a couple of occasions rocks I placed my weight on slipped away. I’m sure it’s worse climbing down these sections.
The route follows the dyke all the way back to the tail burn which I managed to cross without a swim. I had an audience for the crossing, a family of three generations, so decided it was time to cross with style. I found the best rocks and decided the crossing would have to be fluent. None of this stopping to regain composure on rocks in the middle. Next time I’ll manage it, but I did manage to get across without falling in, without putting boots in above their top and without flapping my arms like a falling trapeze artist.
Tail Burn crossing
Then back down the tiled way, me in full waterproofs and everyone else coming up in tee-shirts. One elderly lady asked if I had “come over the top”. I did wonder what this meant as I walked on. My brain was in monosyllabic mode, though, so I just said “yes”.
Almost back down
Back at the now full car park, the National Trust had a sign about “The Roaring Linn”, the Grey Mare’s Tail, hence the title of this entry.
I think she chatters rather than roars.
PS I woke next morning with quadriceps complaining about unaccustomed use. That's my excuse for more practice on hills.
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