A year ago I had a grand plan for my first bothy night, only to find myself defeated by a forecast for a weekend of constant rain, and eventually getting soaked to the skin on Pen y Ghent instead. A year later, with an at least passable forecast, I was back for another go, starting with a roundabout journey to Moffat via Carlisle and Dumfries.
Moffat was a nice looking place with some lovely old buildings, and some of the houses with their gable ends to the street, which I didn't expect in this part of the world, but I didn't really have time for exploring as I knew I needed to get on.
My first objective was the Devil's Beeftub - a little bit out of the way, but a famous name, and I wanted to see it. I took the smaller road which runs out between the hills, but which seems to have been the main road once - lined with houses at first, and then fewer and fewer until it ends up running between occasional farms.
Towards the end it meets the hills on either side, and I could have headed straight up, but I still had my detour to make.
The new road runs higher up the hillside from the start, so I had to find a way of getting up to it. The map showed a track leading to it, but as so often things didn't seem quite the same on the ground - I found what seemed to be the start of a track, and then was quite quickly abandoned to rough ground - following up the side of the wood higher up I could clearly see the good track I should have been on, but on the other side of the trees and the deep burn valley.
Once I met the Annandale way it was better than I expected, though - a good track between walls which had probably been the road once upon a time. The Devil's Beeftub was quite an impressive sight, and had a covenanter's monument as well as an information panel which I sat against to eat my lunch.
From there I took another detour to look at a monument which turned out to be to the driver and guard of a mail coach who died in a snowstorm, and then I was finally heading into the hills.
The first climb was to the trig point on Annanhead Hill, and then on along the ridge, around the head off the Devil's Beeftub. This was a nice place of small hills, and names which suggested it had been more important once - Earlshaugh, and the Crown of Scotland - and the source of the Tweed just the other side of the ridge.
I was going on skirting the catchment of the Annan, with Whitehope Heights and Hart Fell visible up ahead, although they still looked quite a way away.
Where the Annandale Way turned downhill again by the last tributary (oddly named the Tweedhope Burn) there was a neat cairn, and a fairly steep climb onto the shoulder of Whitehope Heights.
Apart from a strange fence and wider views ahead this was fairly unexciting, with a broad flat summit area - the only excitement was having to climb a tall ladder stile to come to the actual summit, which was marked with another solid cairn.
From Whitehope Heights to Hart Fell doesn't look far on the map, but it involved a very steep, slow descent to a boggy valley, and then a longer pull, almost as steep, up out of it again.
After a long way up it did finally start to ease off a bit, and I could see the stream valley start to flatten out beside me, which suggested I might be getting somewhere.
Nearer the top, it was a great wide flat place, which didn't look like it could be hiding anything even as tall as a trig point. I met the main fence line, and then left it because the map suggested it curved round, which I think it didn't really, and met it again - but I did finally come across to where the trig point was hiding, and the highest point of the day.
It wasn't a very exciting summit, but the views ahead were pretty impressive, with the steep slopes around Black Hope and the new hills ahead, looking over towards Fruid and Talla. I could have gone closer to the edge for better views, but I was tired and sticking to the fence seemed easier - I'll have to be back, so I can skirt the edge the next time!
Coming down into the the rough ground between Hartfell Rig and Cape Law the path left the fence line, and I could see a path running up the hill on the other side - but then the path I was on just vanished, and I never did find the other one, because it didn't show from below - if it really existed at all! It was all a bit messier than I expected, and eventually I gave up any attempt at finding a path and just headed as best I could for the fence corner.
I'd been skirting the boundary between Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders for quite a while, but coming over the fence on Cape Law was the first time I'd been on the Borders side.
Cape Law again didn't have much of a summit - the wall and fence seemed to pass over as good a high point as any. I sat down to eat some dinner and have a think. It was getting on for 8, and I was quite tired, but there was plenty of light, and I might still have tried to push on over Garelet Dodd and Erie Hill if the patches of rain which has been drifting around the nearby hills hadn't decided to settle as mist and make me decide I'd be better off below it.
I headed down over Loch Hill with the cloud sometimes right around me and sometimes barely there at all, to meet the little stream from the loch and come out at the Gameshope Burn by the shepherd's hut, with a few people camping by the other side of the burn - the first people I'd seen since leaving the road at the Devil's Beeftub.
It was still a long slow way downstream, because there was never anything like a path, or even flat ground to walk on, so that my feet got sore from being always sideways - but pretty too. By the time I reached the bothy I wasn't sure if I was relieved or sorry to find it empty - it was a relief to know there was plenty space, but I was starting to feel that a bit of company might be nice - I wasn't scared, but I was a little bit lonely! I looked around a bit but it was quite dark inside, so I pulled a soft chair for me and a hard chair for my feet to the doorway, and settled down to enjoy the last of the light with the rest of my dinner and my book.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.