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Didn't find Alt-na-Shellach...

PostPosted: Tue Dec 29, 2015 11:36 pm
by 37201xoIM
... but I reckon that this walk through landscape redolent of The 39 Steps is, particularly without the prospect of one of an evil criminal outfit's henchmen pursuing me to my death, one of the most enjoyable I've done for quite a while. The Merrick, especially as seen from Benyellary across the Neive of Spit, is a shapely and beautiful hill, and the surrounding loch-pocked wilderness is, to my way of thinking, pretty much sublime. I'd very strongly recommend the Loch Valley route, through the heart of this wilderness. And, at least in late December, you get to enjoy it all in perfect solitude.

I appreciate my photos are deeply mediocre; I was too lazy to get my proper camera out so they're just from the Blackberry I was using for GPS anyway, and not helped by the wind and poor light making holding it still a bit of a fight, so they're pretty bad even by my own standards, and I won't pretend they do this grandiose landscape one iota of justice! But, well, marginally better than nowt, I suppose... or possibly not.

I followed the Walkhighlands route fairly exactly ( - hence the lack of a .gpx trace, but did it the other way around (i.e. clockwise). Doing that was also partly inspired by this excellent report: . I suspect it probably was better doing it this way around: the ascent of Benyellary then the Merrick via the path is pretty straightforward, with the views gradually opening up as you ascend, especially across the Neive of the Spit. Then descending on the pathless section from the top of the Merrick down to Loch Enoch obviously makes for easier wayfinding (not that it's that complex anyway), and the beautiful but damp secction back down to Glen Trool is much easier work downhill... just think of the moistness as a helpful form of dynamic braking...

For once the weather forecast was pretty accurate, and the torrential rain of the previous days [Can we have our climate back please, mista?] held off for almost all the day, albeit that it was pretty windy on the top. To avoid an antisocial early start I stayed at the House o'Hill hotel in Bargrennan, about as close as you can spend the night with a roof over your head - and pretty comfortable too, other than the awful Xmas music still being churned out in the bar/restaurant when I was there...

Anyway, not really a great deal needs to be added to the descriptions linked above, and the Merrick Trail one. The Trail makes for a steady ascent - quite a bit of height to be gained, but you seem to do so fairly easily. The views from the top are as good as others have said: no 'clag' today, though as you can see distinctly gloomy and the views out to sea (Isle of Man, I'm told?) weren't quite on offer; I must admit, however, that this sort of wilderness doesn't really need to be enjoyed in perfect weather and full sun, as far as I'm concerned.

Descending the Merrick is also fairly easy, really: just aim for the closest corner of Loch Enoch and make your way down over the not-particularly treacherous ground, with just a modicum of zig-zaggage. That said, from the top of the Merrick onwards, I was glad I had the GPS track with me - it becomes especially useful (a) after Loch Enoch before the path becomes evident and (b) if you're, like me, too lazy to make any effort at reading your map... To be fair, the faint paths down from Loch Enoch as far as Loch Valley are mostly not marked on the OS 1:25,000 map (the path is shown from the outlet of Loch Neldricken, which isn't really quite where you join said path) - though the way is reasonably apparent on the ground, at least going downhill, and you probably can't go wildly wrong...

So, that path from Loch Enoch past Craig Neldricken, Loch Arron, Loch Neldricken and the Murder Hole, Loch Valley and the Gairland Burn... OK, it's wet, that's true enough - but not truly boggy in the Yockenthwaite Moor, how-on-earth-do-I-actually-get-across-this, I'm-sure-I-had-two-legs-this-morning sense; didn't get wet feet myself [though suspect I may have been technically cheating: Aigle Parcours II, probably the best walking boot not actually to be a walking boot...]. I thoroughly enjoyed pottering down here - one of those walks which seems to have much more downhill than climbing, which can't be a bad thing... - through a landscape that feels like pure wildnerness and solitude in its finest form [yes, I'm an antisocial get, as you may have noticed].

Back to the car by Bruce's Stone just after light showers had started to think half-heartedly about sprinkling a bit, after just under six hours' unhurried potterage, including various random stops, so probably 5 1/2 hours is about right for the walk time, or perhaps a bit less. But why hurry through this?

All in all, a superb and relaxing walk in a region that seems to be massively underrated; the only other human being I encountered was a farmer just short of the Stone. I think he was genuine: I'm pretty sure he didn't have the top joint of his little finger missing...

The Merrick from Benyellary:
IMG_20151228_102600_Merrick from Glenyellary.jpg
The Merrick from Glenyellary

And back to Benyellary from the approach to the summit of the Merrick:
IMG_20151228_105453_Benyellary from Merrick.jpg
Benyellary from the Merrick

Ah, it's winter after all! -
Yay, snow!.jpg
Yay, snow!

From the summit of the Merrick:
I liked the curve.jpg
I liked the curve

Ditto, with what may be Craggy Island's Class 2 Relic in the foreground:
Holy Stone Class 2 Relic.jpg
Holy Stone?

Loch Enoch from the Merrick:
IMG_20151228_120955_Loch Enoch panorama.jpg
Loch Enoch

From Loch Neldricken and the Murder Hole (I think?) up to a now-slightly-clagsome Merrick:
IMG_20151228_132805_Merrick and Murder Hole.jpg
Merrick and Murder

Re: Didn't find Alt-na-Shellach...

PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 11:48 am
by DonnyW
Nice report 37201 ..and you caught the atmosphere of the area very well ..both in your descriptions and photos

As you enjoyed it..I can thoroughly recommend doing the other classic walk in that area.. Up the Buchan Hill..round the rig of Enoch.. wolf slock..dungeon hill ..craignaw ..and back. Just watch the north end of Craignaw if its has some nasty drops and the route is not very obvious at that point.

Happy new year..and I wish you many more great walks :clap:

Re: Didn't find Alt-na-Shellach...

PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 12:39 pm
by 37201xoIM
Thanks very much, Donny - and recommendation duly noted; hope it won't be long before I'm back in that part of the world again.

And a fine 2016 to you too!

PS Silly question: is the walk you mention this one by any chance? -