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Land of Strange Names: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill & Mullwharchar

Land of Strange Names: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill & Mullwharchar


Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Wed Jun 11, 2014 3:19 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Craignaw, Mullwharchar

Donalds included on this walk: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill, Mullwharchar

Date walked: 10/06/2014

Time taken: 8.25 hours

Distance: 19.7 km

Ascent: 1180m

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A long journey into the Land of Strange Names, a.k.a. the Galloway Hills: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill and Mullwharchar from the car park at the road end (Bruce's Stone) in Glen Trool.
I had a full week off work and had hopes of getting a bit of walking in: however, due to various family commitments, in the end I only had three days free, and this was the third of them. I'd initially had high hopes of some Munros, but I then had to sit and watch the www.mwis.org.uk forecast for Tuesday 10th June worsen by the day, from what initially seemed set to be quite a good day's weather when I looked on the Saturday, to a truly dismal forecast by the time I checked for the last time on the Monday evening, with thunderstorms breaking out in the early afternoon and therefore significant lightning risk. Now, I don't mind walking in most weathers, but I do draw the line at wandering about on top of hills carrying big metal poles during a thunderstorm :shock: ... On closer inspection, however, there was one hill area which looked set to avoid the thunderstorms, namely the Galloway Hills - so that's where I headed.
As I had a full day to fill, I opted for two of the remoter Grahams in the Loch Trool area, Graignaw and Mullwharchar, and if the weather held, I hoped to be able to include the fine Donald of Dungeon Hill as well.
This is the first pair of hills described in Andrew Dempster's 1997 book on The Grahams, and in his route suggestion, Andrew recommends returning from Mullwharchar via the Merrick, adding an additional 350 metres of ascent :? - he justifies this by stating that "any route back to Loch Trool from [Mullwharchar] that does not include the Merrick climb is long and fairly arduous". I wasn't entirely convinced, having previously climbed the Merrick and Shalloch on Minnoch from Glen Trool (a long and overambitious outing, but 'nuff said about that), and having returned on that occasion via the Rig of Loch Enoch and found it fairly straightforward, I thought the Rig of Loch Enoch might serve the purpose today as well.
The route starts off up the track that continues from the end of the Glen Trool public road at the Bruce's Stone car park. About 150 metres past the bridge over the Buchan Burn, with its fine view of the waterfalls at the end of the Burn, a signed path forks off left at a gate, with a Forestry Commission sign for "Gairland Burn & Loch Valley".
WR1 - sign at start of Loch Valley path.jpg
The hill path up to the loch starts off well but gets predictably boggier in its upper stretches, particularly where it gets close to the Gairland Burn, but it gets the job done OK, and soon enough I was up at Loch Valley. A scenic spot:
WR2 - at Loch Valley.jpg
As indicated on the OS map, the path continues up the west side of Loch Valley and on to the next loch to the north, Loch Neldricken. In fact, it keeps going even further to the north (towards Loch Arron and maybe eventually Loch Enoch??) but I left it just after it crossed a drystane dyke at the NW corner of Loch Neldricken, which is strangely named as "Murder Hole" on the OS map :? . Does anyone know who was murdered here and why?
WR3 - Murder Hole.jpg
From here, I cut across the north edge of Loch Neldricken, keeping fairly high to avoid the boggiest of the terrain, contoured round the end of Ewe Rigg, and then headed across the glen of Neldricken's NE feeder burn, aiming roughly for the tributary burn that joins it at GR 448835. From here, there was a reasonably straightforward ascent route up Craignaw's craggy west face, via entertainingly rocky slopes to the left of the burn's gorge, with some nice bits of easy scrambling en route. Craignaw's summit was visible high on a crag over to the right (south).
WR4 - Craignaw ascent.jpg
I eventually reached the skyline on a lovely section of big stone pavements, with grand views north to my next two targets, Dungeon Hill and Mullwharchar.
WR5 - Dungeon Hill & Mullwharchar from near Craignaw summit.jpg
I now found a relatively easy way up through the crags from here to Craignaw's summit to the south. The cairn is perched precariously on top of a huge boulder, with more fine views.
WR6 - Craignaw summit cairn with Dungeon Hill & Mullwharchar.jpg
Craignaw is a great wee hill, unexpectedly rocky and knobbly for Scotland's Deep South, and in fact possibly my favourite Graham to date. I'd barely heard of it before, too - it deserves to be better known than it is. A view from its cairn towards the Merrick and Loch Enoch to the NW:
WR7 - Craignaw summit cairn with Merrick & Loch Enoch.jpg
I descended carefully (much cragginess) from Craignaw's summit back to the big rock platform at the top of the connecting NW ridge towards Dungeon Hill, and on down to the cairned bealach. Unfortunately I hadn't read nxmjm's entertaining walk report on these hills until later, and therefore I didn't give this cairn a second glance... in retrospect, it would have been interesting to see whether the cairn was still managing to "keep it up" or if the Viagra has worn off by now!
I pressed on from the bealach towards Dungeon Hill. I'm not much of a Donald-bagger, but this is definitely one of the finest of the non-Marilyn Donalds, being another rocky peak well protected by crags on most sides, and it would have been a shame to leave it out. Clearly most people agree, as there is a fairly good path from the bealach straight across towards Dungeon Hill's summit, which is tackled from the west to avoid its almost all-encircling crags.
WR8 - Dungeon Hill from cairned bealach with Craignaw.jpg
When I eventually got up Dungeon Hill, its summit environs proved to be unexpectedly flat, with lots more of those big granite pavements, and large cairn. There was a nice view back to Craignaw, which was showing off its craggy features.
WR9 - Dungeon Hill summit from Craignaw.jpg
Mullwharchar was also clearly visible now, but it wasn't quite as shapely as Craignaw, being just a big bouldery cone of a thing. It is one of the more remote Grahams, however, and I would be glad to get it ticked off...
WR10 - Mullwharchar from Dungeon Hill summit.jpg
On the way down from Dungeon Hill, the cloud briefly cleared from the summit of the Merrick, which otherwise had its head in the clouds all day. I was briefly tempted by Andrew Dempster's suggestion of returning via the summit of the Merrick: thankfully this mad notion soon passed, however, as the weather started to worsen again.
WR11 - Merrick free of cloud.jpg
From the bealach with Dungeon Hill, a path develops and continues around the east side of Mullwharchar almost all the way to the summit. It wasn't long before I was up at the cairn, with a fresh view to the north over the end of Loch Doon:
WR12 - Loch Doon from Mullwharchar summit cairn.jpg
It had started to rain quite heavily by now, so I didn't hang about, and beat a hasty retreat down Mullwharchar's SW ridge (insofar as Mullwharchar has ridges :lol: ). There was a fine view of the oddly shaped Loch Enoch and its islands. An interesting oddity, just visible in this view, is that Loch Enoch's biggest island has its own small loch in the middle, i.e. a loch in an island in a loch.
WR13 - Loch Enoch from Mullwharchar descent.jpg
The rain now turned torrential for 15 minutes or so, and I stopped in the shelter of a big boulder by the south shore of Loch Enoch, just a bit before the Eglin Lane (its main exit burn) leaves its NW corner. It wasn't a bad view, considering the weather, while I munched my slightly soggy M&S sandwiches.
WR14 - Eglin Burn crossing.jpg
I pressed on across the Eglin Lane (an easy enough crossing on some big boulders) and along the west shores of Loch Enoch, using a patchy path that skilfully avoids the worst of the terrain. Eventually I arrived at the SW corner of the loch, where the Rig of Loch Enoch can be picked up to provide a good medium-level return route. Loch Enoch was looking eerily beautiful from here. I'd have to say that there is something not quite canny about Loch Enoch; you can sense the presence of the Shee, or something...
WR15 - Mullwharchar from SW corner of Loch Enoch.jpg
But enough of this Celtic Fringe romanticism already. I carried on up the Rig of Loch Enoch, via a useful wee path which starts at this SW corner of the Loch, just to the left of a line of fencing immediately beside a drystane dyke. It's a long and fairly level ridge, handily enough heading straight back towards the car park at the east end of Loch Trool, and with a reasonable path right along its crest. It's such a good route that I can't understand why Andrew Dempster doesn't recommend it in his "Grahams" book, but I'd hazard a guess that the path maybe didn't exist back in 1997. Anyway, nowadays it's a bit of a no-brainer for return if bagging these two Grahams together from Loch Trool. It has good views too. Firstly, an interesting line-up of three of the high level lochs in this area: little Loch Arron first, then Loch Neldricken, and then Loch Valley at the bottom.
WR16 - Line of 3 lochs from Rig of Loch Enoch.jpg
Further down, there was a good view of Craignaw sitting directly behind Loch Neldricken.
WR17- Loch Neldricken & Craignaw from Rig of Loch Enoch.jpg
Further down, Loch Valley took its turn in the spotlight, complete with its own hill - the 531 metre sub-2K Marilyn, Craiglee, with its strangely-named west ridge, the Rig o'the Jarkness.
WR18 - Loch Valley & Craiglee from Rig of Loch Enoch.jpg
Towards the end of the Rig of Loch Enoch, there is a bit of descent to a minor bealach, then a re-ascent to Buchan Hill, which is fairly sizeable at 493 metres, although it isn't a Marilyn (I expect it is probably a HuMP though). It has three separate cairned summits, the first being the highest I think. An interesting view of Mullwharchar and the Merrick from here:
WR19 - Mullwharchar and Merrick from first Buchan Hill cairn.jpg
There was also a good view east over Loch Neldricken, Loch Valley, and the short connecting stream between them:
WR20 - Loch Neldricken and Loch Valley from first Buchan Hill cairn.jpg
Buchan Hill's second cairn had subtly different views, the best probably being of the Rig o'the Jarkness with the two Glenhead Lochs to its south:
WR21 - Craiglee with two Glenhead lochs from second Buchan Hill cairn.jpg
From the third cairn, the best views were south down Loch Trool. It came as something of a shock at this point to realise how high up I still was: although the Rig of Loch Enoch gives the impression of being relatively low judging by the views over all of these hill lochs (Enoch, Neldricken and company), in fact all of these bodies of water lie at fairly high altitude, on a lumpy plateau between 300 and 500 metres, and Loch Trool is MUCH lower :shock: .
WR22 - Loch Trool from third Buchan Hill cairn.jpg
This is the one disadvantage of the Rig of Loch Enoch as a return route, I suppose: it involves a steep and occasionally mildly scrambly descent of Buchan Hill's western slopes, which have two bands of broken crags. It's easy enough in good visibility, but would need care in cloud or poor light. Also, the path unhelpfully disappears shortly after the third cairn (or maybe I just lost it :( ).
WR23 - Buchan Hill descent route.jpg
Once down at the foot of Buchan Hill, I headed straight west to the Buchan Burn and crossed it - this involved a bit of wading, but it was well worth it as the excellent Merrick descent path then emerged from the forest immediately to the west of the Burn just a hundred metres or so downstream, giving a very easy and scenic descent back to the car park.
WR24 - end of route on Merrick descent path.jpg

A long and satisfying day's walking - who needs Munros :lol: ? Craignaw, in particular, is a really great wee hill :D .
Last edited by bobble_hat_kenny on Sun Dec 28, 2014 10:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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bobble_hat_kenny
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Re: Land of Strange Names: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill & Mullwhar

Postby Fife Flyer » Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:20 pm

Nice one Kenny, will probably go back to your report when winter approacheth :wink:

Saving the wee hills in the borders to keep me occupied in the cooler weather :lol:
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Re: Land of Strange Names: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill & Mullwhar

Postby kevsbald » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:49 pm

Kenny,

enjoyed this. I have these two Grahams left to do in this area and considered your route.
Looks a nice pad but for a dry day or an evening camp.

Cheers
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kevsbald
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Re: Land of Strange Names: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill & Mullwhar

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:37 pm

kevsbald wrote:Kenny,

enjoyed this. I have these two Grahams left to do in this area and considered your route.
Looks a nice pad but for a dry day or an evening camp.

Cheers

Thanks for that! It is a great wee area this - it has a nice Back Country feel to it, and I think there would be no shortage of suitable spots for some wild camping, so that might be an appealing way to tackle these hills.
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Re: Land of Strange Names: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill & Mullwhar

Postby paz1953 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 9:20 pm

Hi Kenny. Enjoyed reading your description of the walk. Downloaded your GPS coordinates and used them as the basis for today's walk. Very helpful. Very wet underfoot made walking in some stretches challenging but a mostly dry day with great visibility more than made up for this. Cheers.
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Re: Land of Strange Names: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill & Mullwhar

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:05 pm

paz1953 wrote:Hi Kenny. Enjoyed reading your description of the walk. Downloaded your GPS coordinates and used them as the basis for today's walk. Very helpful. Very wet underfoot made walking in some stretches challenging but a mostly dry day with great visibility more than made up for this. Cheers.

Thanks - I'm glad you found it some help! I really enjoyed this route - a Grand Day Oot :D .
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