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The Glenrath Hills: all four Donalds

The Glenrath Hills: all four Donalds

Postby nxmjm » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:19 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Dun Rig

Donalds included on this walk: Birkscairn Hill, Dun Rig, Glenrath Heights, Stob Law

Date walked: 16/02/2013

Time taken: 7 hours

Distance: 21.1 km

Ascent: 926m

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13.2 miles 6h 58m ascent 926m

Windy Neese-Dun Rig-Birkscairn Hill-Glenrath Heights-Stob Law

Last week I abandoned my expedition to these hills at Stob Law. http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=29006
If at first you don’t succeed…. try it anticlockwise.

Track to Glenrathope

The Manor Glen at Glenrath looked the same as it had previous week, though it was definitely less windy. I parked at the same spot (NT207342) and opened the car door to screeching as a small dog made short shrift of a bird nearby. An omen? Did this mean I would vanquish these hills? There were so many pheasants around that last week I had thought this should be called Pheasant Farm. I doubt a wee dog could catch one of those, so perhaps it was something else.

Windy Neese…give us a K

The first half hour was spent warming up along the track to Glenrathope. Back Burn was full to brimming with melt water from the previous week’s snow so the bridge at Glenrathope was a welcome finding. I skirted the farm buildings, where there is a large solar panel, and headed up the stony zig-zag on Windy Neese, the firm footing making the climb easier.

The views back down Glenrath glen were good and it was interesting to see the many different lines that burns had previously taken across this flat valley. I thought there was a path continuing south along Glenrathope Glen but couldn’t see how far it went. It isn’t visible on Google earth but the images are from 2007.

Glenrathope from Windy Neese

Once the gradient on Windy Neese eased the track became straighter, and swapped stone for bogginess, but the terrain and conditions became distinctly more unpleasant above 550m. By then I had climbed into mist; the track, which had become gradually fainter, ended at a line of grouse butts having led me into trackless deep heather interspersed with broad snow covered areas. Early on I had come across one of these snow covered areas with a hole revealing water beneath it, so I stuck to tramping through the heather where I could. I walked on for what seemed an eternity guided by my trusty compass. Time itself slowed down (my watch suggested half an hour had passed but it seemed much longer) and I might as well have been walking on a treadmill, since no matter how far I walked everything looked the same. Eventually after a very long half hour, a fence line appeared ahead out of the mist, the fence junction only a few metres away.

Windy Neese about 600m

I had expected to find a track running along by the fence but if there is one it was lost beneath the snow. There was more bogginess but once I was on the rising slopes of Dun Rig the ground changed for the better.


The deep heather and bog was replaced by firm ground covered in short mosses with numerous sprigs of cowberry. Amongst this mist covered white, green and brown was a single patch of orange, a scarlet cup lichen nestling in reindeer moss?

Dun Rig Summit, the trig is there in the centre

This was certainly a more pleasant walking experience than the deep heather, but all good things must come to an end. As the ascent ended I realised I had reached the top of Dun Rig. There, at what felt to be the highest point, was a stake driven into the ground. But there was supposed to be a trig pillar, where was it? Was I on a minor shoulder, the real summit hidden in mist? I decided to get the GPS out to check where I was but as I unslung the rucksack the swirling mists briefly thinned to reveal the trig pillar a few metres away, definitely lower than where I was standing. I have subsequently looked more carefully at the OS map and I see that the trig is not the top. The trig pillar has a small plaque with a phone number to ring if you find the pillar damaged. I don’t recall seeing one of these before.

Dun Rig trig

My plan was to decide whether to include Birkscairn Hill once I got to Dun Rig. So I had a wee snack, a cup of coffee and consulted my watch. Since I was bang on time, a Birkscairn Hill there-and-back seemed reasonable. As it turned out, the section between Dun Rig and Birkscairn proved to be the most difficult, and set my timings back a bit.

The fence descending from Dun Rig takes a turn to the left, which the unwary might mistakenly follow in poor visibility, but a line of rotting fence posts continues on towards Stake Law. These led through a coven of peat hags where the hollows were filled with snow. The snow had those special characteristics, such that with care one could stand on it but lifting one foot to take a step caused the snow beneath the other to collapse. I met a couple of walkers coming the opposite way just as I tumbled having sunk to my thigh in a snow drift. I lost my dignity but I then had their footprints to warn me of deeper sections.

Crossing the Drove Road

By Stake Law, the fence was reconstituted, the hags gave way to boggy heath and there were even boggy tracks to follow. In the middle of this wilderness (made more wild by the limited visibility of the mist) it was strange to see a sign post where the drove road crosses the Stake Law-Birkscairn Hill col. There was a stile there, and amidst the miles of bog this was a tempting seat for lunch (it could seat two). As it was, I had lunch sat on Birkscairn Hill’s large cairn. As I sat there looking about, in the mist, it seemed to me that the highest point was a little way NW of the cairn, so sandwich in hand I wandered across there. My phone, nestling in the rucksack recording the GPS log, didn’t capture this.

Birkscairn Hill

Heading back towards Dun Rig, the mist started to lift giving me my first views of Glensax valley and closer, a hare with a blue tinged white coat. I was now able to see the three cairns above Stake Law, which are set amongst a field of stones south of the fence (other possible seats).

Snow filled peat hollows

Dun Rig was still in cloud but it was certainly good to get back on the firmer ground of its western slopes. From the col between Dun Rig and the unnamed 713m spot height I decided that following the fence further up just to head back down was foolish. I would cut the corner and rejoin the fence lower down. In doing this I made the mistake of trying to cut too directly for the col. Coming out of the mist I could see a cleuch blocking my direct line and had to pick my way between hags along the 700m contour line.

Small cairn, Glenrath Heights

50m down and 80m up through boggy heather and occasional snow had me on the firm ground of a mist free Glenrath Heights, with views over to the Tweedmuir hills. I then followed the fence over the 600m col to Stob Law.

Stob Law from Glenrath Heights

On Stob Law I found the cairn I had visited last week and confirmed to myself that it was not the highest point. I realise now that I was right to abandon last week’s walk here. Stob Law is covered in a thin firm carpet of heather and moss that presumably has been burned off previously. Walking here had been tiring enough last week in the snow but had I carried on to Glenrath Heights, and the deeper heather of Windy Neese I’m sure it would have been very unpleasant.

Summit Stob Law

Coming off Stob Law this time I headed directly for Glenrath Farm, walking down by Hanging Cleuch burn. Closer to the farm I picked up a track that skirted the final field and returned me to the Glenrathope track.

Heading off Glenrath hill towards Glenrath Farm

RK_gpx _2013-02-16_0927.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Last edited by nxmjm on Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Posts: 97
Munros:1   Corbetts:11
Grahams:24   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:29   Hewitts:16
Wainwrights:21   Islands:2
Joined: Dec 23, 2011
Location: D&G

Re: The Glenrath Hills: all four Donalds

Postby hills » Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:09 pm

Still to do these, useful info indeed.
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Munro compleatist
Posts: 476
Munros:215   Corbetts:109
Grahams:109   Donalds:65
Sub 2000:157   Hewitts:4
Joined: Sep 16, 2009
Location: Stirling

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