An afternoon walk, snatching the last chance (and some improving weather) before the end of my Scottish trip this year.
The previous day had ended with better weather in East Lothian than I had for several days around Braemar. There was some rain overnight, with cloud in the morning, but I felt hopeful enough to head southwest the next morning. Passing through Innerleithen, I carried on as far as Ettrickdale, which took some time on the narrow Borders roads. The cloud grew worse and showery while driving up the dale, but optimism won out.
I parked just before the public road ends and donned waterproofs, as well as boots. Impatience made me set off up some steep pasture on the side of Bushie Law, when I should have used a track through the forestry instead. The grass was wet, but bore me without slipping. After crossing a fence, then following the upper edge of the trees, I met up with the track again, then left that to ascend Bught Hill.
This brought me into the clag, where the damp mist helped to cool another stretch uphill. Cairns loomed through the cloud and I aimed for the a double top, passing a slight dip and finding a gap through stone wall and wire fence beyond. The top of Bodesbeck Law is on a low rocky outcrop, where I settled for a bite of lunch (it was about 1 PM) and chose to wait sheltered from the breeze.
Patience brought rewards, clouds thinned and I began to get more glimpses of the lower hillside. In 15 minutes I could see across Moffatdale and some patches of blue amid the drifting clag.
With lifting and thinning cloud, I set off along the fence (and older stone wall) that distinguishes this part of the ridge.
Hills meander and roll along for 4 or 5 miles, not rising much above or dropping far below 2000 feet in height, so that 4 of them are Donalds (and 2 more are Tops), though only Bodesbeck and Andrewhinney Hill stand up much from the grassy ridge. The first slight rise is Nowtrig Head, which doesn't quite make the mark, but offered pleasant walking and clearing views.
I had considered a walk from neighbouring Moffatdale, but decided in favour of concentrating on this group of hills. Better weather meant a view of what I was missing, though it would have meant a longer uphill slog in damp conditions at the start.
The fence continues, though without a wall, across the Donald Top of Mid Rig (not the only Mid Rig on this walk). I cut to the right over wiry grass that dried off nicely in the breeze and patchy sunshine.
More cloud was passing higher up, but gave way to blue for the (slight) ascent of Bell Craig. Several fences join, so I still had one to follow (though no need of it) for the northeastern half of the ridge.
There is a slight descent, then a slightly more sustained (but gradual) climb towards the main hill of the day. I was already 2 hours into the walk and knew that the drive back would take a while, so headed across a peaty dip then started up Andrewhinney Hill.
This is level-topped, but boasted a good cairn (across the fence) and fine view across upper Moffatdale. I didn't venture down the slope, so couldn't see the Grey Mare's Tail falls, but admired Loch Skene cradled by steep slopes on several sides. The rounded hills along my route, together with the depth of the dales to either side, mean that it's a walk where the best views are nearby, rather than of the tops being crossed.
I continued down another Mid Rig, still accompanied by the fenceline. The ridge drops slightly more before climbing to Trowgrain Middle, whose impressive cairn could grace a more substantial hill. There was sufficient breeze to feel comfortable, but the afternoon had warmed considerably from the damp, cool and breezy conditions at midday.
Herman Law stands alone at the far northeast end of this ridge, the last patch of ground standing above 2000 feet. It lacks any equivalent of the previous well-built cairns, so there is just the junction of some fences and a chance to ponder which is the highest tussock.
I made an attempt to shorten the road walk ahead by delaying my descent slightly. I should perhaps have headed straight down from Herman Law, or reversed a lot of the route and come back down by Black Knowe Head. As it was, I ended up hauling around the side of Brockhope Kips, feeling warm from the sunshine and without much breeze or any shade (until the road was reached). At least this route visited some interesting stone sheepfolds, then an area of fenced-off planting.
I passed among a scattered flock of sheep to reach the minor road up Ettrickdale, then turned right to follow that for several miles. Apart from being on tarmac most of the way (with some grass verges to use at points), this isn't bad road walking. There was no traffic whatsoever, sunshine and green hillsides all around and the Ettrick Water flowing nearby. The road climbs 80-90 metres, but gently and without losing much height along the way.
Two vans were parked up when I returned to my car, so I'd guess their passengers may have been visiting the nearby bothy that night. I drove back towards Edinburgh, glad to have fitted in one last afternoon on the hills before the long journey south.
As usual, the route is approximate but indicates my wandering ascent and descent.
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