A retrospective from 2010
15.9 miles 1332m ascent 8h 40m
Well, what can I say? We met, fed, bursting with energy, wagging tails (those that had them), and ready for a day forecast with sunshine, to feast our eyes on the views from the Rhinns of Kells.
Three options faced us, circular from Forrest Lodge or linear from Forrest to the Green Well of Scotland. Well, horseshoe rather than linear but topologically speaking it’s the same thing.
On the drive out to Carsphairn we spotted plenty of birds of prey, many grouse and even a red squirrel, but the hills were to prove less well stocked. No goats on Meikle Lump for example, despite others reporting them always present.
So, having dropped off one car on the old road at Bridgend, we crowded into Joanna’s car and set off for Forrest Lodge, driving past the Energy building with a turfed roof. The sign at the parking area warned there was No Parking after 8 pm. But what was that to us at 9.30 am?
I had chosen this nice easy walk to break in my new boots for the halloween outing.
The roads in the estate are all named after Olsens or people I presume connected to them, and we set off along Prof. Hans Heiberg Road. I’m not entirely sure who the professor was. There are several Hans Heibergs, but the most likely I think is Hans Herman Hjortdahl Heiberg (1904-2000) a Norwegian forester and botanist.
The Fred. Olsen company, which began as a shipping concern also now has interests in renewable energy which might explain the turf roofed building. More on the history of Fred Olsen.
As I mentioned we set off along the eponymous track, overtaken at one point by a farmer on a quad bike with a spaniel sitting behind him. The path has a gentle rise at first but then rising to a level sufficient to warm the muscles. Oscar was exploring the woods but returned after something made him yelp. Probably a sting from a wild haggis.
A little way after Kristin Olsen Road we passed a green observation tower which looked as if it ought to be guarding some far off frontier, perhaps that between Galloway and civilisation. And a little beyond this there is a post marking the path to Meikle Lump. Now path it may be, defined as a stretch of ground that is not completely impassable, but it was very boggy and at one point blocked by a fallen tree. It led us to a stile and gate and the hills proper. Here the gradient increased significantly to red face level.
The last time I came along here I turned left and walked to the wall which I then followed up Meikle Lump and Millyea, But it had been very wet so I recommended an oblique direction to the wall. Unfortunately I was defeated by tussocks (may they rot) and went the boggy way instead.
Corserine's North Gairy Top from Meikle Lump
Three things differed in this ascent compared to my last. I was with company which added a certain esprit de corps and buoyed me along a little faster. The weather was worse, though not terrible, it was dry but the cloud was low and we soon climbed into low visibility. But thirdly, it was a damn sight steeper this time.
By the time we reached Meikle Millyea and its sneaky summit 300m from the trig pillar, we were in cloud. There are photos in better weather from my May 2010 outing http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=31533
Unfortunately the extensive views the Rhinns afford were denied to us and this changed the walk from the sight-seeing expedition I had hoped it would be, to more a heads down route march up and down a bunch of hills, all looking much as the last did.
Silly walks on Meikle Millyea
We followed a tumbled down dyke from Meikle Millyea (Meikle=large (scots), Meall Liath =grey hill (gaelic)) over Milldown (brown hill) and onto to Millfire (wooded hill, or hill of ravens). Up on the ridge the wind had picked up considerably, though not to a level where it impeded our progress. I was pleased to find that my hood offered good protection to my cheeks. I had previously stopped on Millfire for lunch but the small cairn didn’t offer enough shelter for five. We sat down behind a small hillock, which took the edge off the wind and ate with little conversation. My coffee was the cool side of luke warm, which just about summed up my spirits too. Some of the views in better weather, from Millfire are on the photo page.
Trudging north from Millfire in a gale
There is a descent of about 90m from Millfire to the col between it and Corserine, which was a easy descent with improving visibility as we came out of the clouds. There are some cairns here marking the point where the old shepherd’s track crosses over the Rhinns of Kells.
The 190m up to Corserine does not look particularly steep on the map, nor to the naked eye, but it certainly feels steep. The summit of Corserine, unfortunately was in cloud. No panoramic views and no visible points for navigation either.
Then it went pear shaped.
We could see the trig point on Corserine but only because we were standing next to it. Map, compass and discussion gave us our direction, and looking at the GPS track we did set off in the correct direction but gradually turned to the left without realising it. Consulting the magic device we were given a grid reference that seemed so unlikely that we dismissed it as incorrect, which in retrospect was a mistake.
When we reached the downhill section I didn’t recognise it. There was scree rather than rock and grass. The scree looked too dangerous so we headed back up and came across a faint path to follow. I do recall crossing a more defined track, which must have been that from Corserine to Carlin’s Cairn. We seemed to be following a ridge but were in fact contouring onto Meikle Craigtarson.
Eventually we descended far enough to come out of cloud and were faced by a descent onto a minor hill with a forest track at its edge and a large hill to our right, apparently running north with a loch visible in the distance. The bad news gradually sank in. We were 200m down the NW face of Corserine below the Fallincherrie Scar just above Meikle Craigtarson.
It looked like a long climb back up. It felt like a long climb. But the tussocks were not too bad and 20-30 minutes had us on the col between Carlin’s Cairn and Corserine. We had spent about an extra 75 minutes on the detour.
So we were faced with climbing back up Corserine and heading back to Forrest Lodge or pressing on to the second car at the Green Well. The latter was slightly longer but avoided the steep climb down Craigrine which I didn’t fancy doing in low visibility having already gone wrong once before.
We had done three Donalds so far, so on we went for another three. The climb to Carlin’s Cairn seemed relatively easy compared with what had gone before, but yet again we were back in cloud.
From a distance both Meaul and Cairnsgarroch look like minor humps on the ridge, and they don’t jump out as tall hills from the OS map. But up close they are impressive with some very steep sides. Both easily over-reach Criffel.
The 200m drop from Carlin’s Cairn took us back out of cloud and by the time we had climbed Meall we were in sunshine. And this wasn’t just any sunshine, it was the golden light seen in the last hour of daylight.
View of the Rhinns from Meaul, Andy has been left behind contemplating
From Meaul we could look north to the mighty hulks of the Rhinns of Kells, still topped with cloud, and south to Bow and Coran of Portmark bathed in golden light. A wall heads down from Meaul and over Cairnsgarroch with an accompanying fence to climb along the way. A navigational aid when we didn’t need one.
Cairnsgarroch was a place for another breather. It was the last summit but not the last hurdle. Heading down was initially slightly tussocky but we made good progress. The end was in sight, but still quite far away. I worried that the last few metres would have to be steep because we were still quite high up.
Steep it was, and the tussocks were larger, but with zig-zags my knees just whimpered rather than screamed. My left ankle though was burning. David, as ever, exhibited his disdain for the terrain by forging on at an inhumanly fast speed.
He appeared to be making for a gate to the SE of Craighit. As I approached it I was thinking that a gate meant a track and a gate that big meant a vehicle track. Sadly the gate was an optical illusion made by the junction of three fences. No track there but we made for one one winding around the north of Craighit.
Knee busting tussock gradient down to Craighit
Garryhorn burn, and Carsphairn hills
We followed the quad track through wet grassland until it led us to the footbridge as marked on the OS map. The bridge was an ex-bridge. All that remained was a single rusting spar. From a distance it looked as if this might be crossable while holding onto nearby trees, but close up this was obviously not possible.
Further along the burn looked to be fordable but we decided to look for a better crossing. David managed to cross on a metal pipe using walking poles as stabilisers. I knew I would not manage that. We all eventually got across on stepping stones. Then we were just seconds away from the path which increased in quality as we followed it.
The path was like water for a thirsty man. Ahead were the Carsphairn Hills and to either side wet grasslands bathed in evening light. We crossed Carphairn lane on a stone bridge, then over the Water of Deugh on the A713 and back to the car at last.
We were back at Forrest Lodge well before the 8pm deadline.
A challenging walk in poor visibility. The pathless sections coming off Cairnsgarroch were unpleasant but the ridge itself is easy walking. It was a shame we were denied the scenery.
6 Donalds (including one Corbett) and one Donald Top in a day.
Unfortunately the GPS battery ran out before the end.
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