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The Merrick's boggy route turns out to be dry(ish)

The Merrick's boggy route turns out to be dry(ish)


Postby denfinella » Fri Apr 29, 2016 1:36 pm

Route description: The Merrick via Loch Valley, from Glen Trool

Corbetts included on this walk: Merrick

Donalds included on this walk: Merrick

Date walked: 23/04/2016

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 15 km

Ascent: 880m

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The dry week of weather leading up to last Saturday led me to specifically seek out a notoriously boggy route to try out. Galloway seems to have no end of these, but The Merrick via Loch Valley ended up being the day's target. The drive was a bit of an expedition in itself, thanks to us choosing the "direct" route via Straiton: the last 25 miles all being on unclassified roads - and mostly single-track. I think we only passed one other vehicle the whole time!


merrick-loch-valley.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



Evidently the rest of the world had arrived at Glentrool via an alternative route, and we took one of the last spots in the road-end car park, although there's another car park a little way further back which stayed empty all day. First, a quick trip to the Bruce's Stone, with lovely views over Loch Trool:

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Leaving the Bruce's Stone, we reversed the walkhighlands route, ascending via the more popular path and saving the rougher, wetter part for the descent. First, a pleasant and gentle climb alongside the Buchan Burn on quite a good path, with a few attractive waterfalls accessible by short detours.

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Soon after the gradient flattens again: the OS map promises trees but they've all been cut down. Benyellary comes into view, which we'll climb on the way to The Merrick. Beyond, Culsharg Bothy which is unlocked but very unappealing inside: a load of burnt rubbish in one of the rooms, and old sleeping platforms dusty and broken.

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The main steep section of the route follows, on the steep southern flank of Benyellary. The first section is on a wide path / track through forest: there's a chilly wind today so we have an early first lunch stop before leaving the shelter of the trees. Beyond, a crushed gravel path leads easily almost all the way to Benyellary's summit, becoming a grassier one for the final pull alongside a wall. The weather this morning is as good as the forecast promised: a few clouds dotting the sky and clear air, allowing for excellent views. This is the first summit from which I've been able to see all of Arran, Ailsa Craig, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Lake District and a decent swathe of the Scottish mainland... impressive, even with the wind turbines!

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Beyond, a graceful ridge (less gracefully named "Neive of the Spit") stretches away to the lofty Merrick, the highest hill in the Southern Uplands.

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The Merrick is easily reached: if the views from Benyellary were good, they're even better here. The northern vista opens up too - an area of bare ground reminiscent of the Highlands. A couple of walkers are visible ahead, descending the Little Spear en route to Kirriereoch Hill. I'm going to run out of photo space on this post so here are just a couple.

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Kirriereoch isn't on our route today. Instead, we descend east towards the splat-shaped waters of Loch Enoch. Initially there's a large cliff on our left (as well as a snow wreath remaining from winter), before the ridge broadens on all sides. Lower down on Redstone Rig, a number of rock bands run perpendicular to our route down, hiding picturesque lochans in their folds. It's easy to detour around them all, and the ground stays dry and easy to walk on all the way to the loch.

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The loch's a lovely place, and already this feels like a much more interesting way to descent than the direct tourist path, which despite some attractive sections wasn't the most interesting way up a hill. Walkhighlands warns that the bog starts here, and so does the path. It's faint at first and there are indeed a few squelchy sections, but they're all easily avoidable. Sometimes it's easier just to walk across the pathless ground nearby. The south side of the loch has a tiny sandy beach. Care should be taken here if doing the route in this direction: the path fades nearly to nothing and there are a number of low passes stretching away south from here. The third one over is the one we're looking for, in the morning shadow of Craig Neldricken. I think it's the furthest one visible in this photo:

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The valley leading to Loch Arron should be a pretty place, but the widely scattered corpses of both a deer and a sheep detracted from the scene a bit, making us decide to postpone lunch stop number two. The still-faint path passes Loch Arron at a distance - the smallest of the series of lochs on this descent route.

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Around here we stop for lunch (again) and also pass the first other walkers seen since The Merrick's summit, doing the same circuit but in the opposite direction (I think). Happily their boots look dry, which bodes well. Ironically the next section around Loch Neldricken is the wettest part of the day, although still with no serious issues. Our lunch stop seems to have been a good choice... since otherwise we might have had to eat alongside the MURDER HOLE :shock: which was apparently once a dumping ground for dead bodies. Indeed, it still seems a stagnant and foreboding place. The path climbs slightly to escape the scene, with Loch Valley soon visible ahead, the last of the upland lochs on the walk today.

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There's a choice of paths at various levels on the gently sloping hillside above Loch Valley, all leading to the same end point: the particularly attractive loch outflow where the Gairland Burn exits through a boulder, narrow valley. The valley soon widens again for a final wild section before the home straight, and the path finally becomes consistently clear for the first time since The Merrick.

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Progress is quick for the short but slightly rough descent towards the valley track at Buchan. A suspicious sheep reluctantly grants us permission to pass. Good views open out both up and down Glen Trool.

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One more cheeky wet section before a good track is gained. All that remains is a few minutes' walk along the valley to the start, although a final steep zig-zag to the car park provides a sting in the tail! Maybe not a classic, but there's a lovely remote feel to this descent route after a straightforward climb, and the run of dry weather has made it a good time to tackle this one.
User avatar
denfinella
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1116
Munros:66   Corbetts:34
Grahams:23   Donalds:16
Sub 2000:61   Hewitts:14
Wainwrights:6   Islands:45
Joined: Mar 19, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

Re: The Merrick's boggy route turns out to be dry(ish)

Postby litljortindan » Sun May 01, 2016 9:33 pm

Grand looking views from the top and along the way there. I'll really need to get down there one day.
User avatar
litljortindan
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 1892
Munros:115   Corbetts:58
Grahams:27   Donalds:1
Sub 2000:47   Hewitts:12
Wainwrights:10   
Joined: Dec 11, 2011

Re: The Merrick's boggy route turns out to be dry(ish)

Postby denfinella » Sun May 01, 2016 11:25 pm

litljortindan wrote:Grand looking views from the top and along the way there. I'll really need to get down there one day.


Indeed litljortindan, not a bad hill at all!
User avatar
denfinella
Wanderer
 
Posts: 1116
Munros:66   Corbetts:34
Grahams:23   Donalds:16
Sub 2000:61   Hewitts:14
Wainwrights:6   Islands:45
Joined: Mar 19, 2012
Location: Edinburgh

Re: The Merrick's boggy route turns out to be dry(ish)

Postby SecretSquirrel » Mon May 02, 2016 8:57 pm

I like the look of the return route past the lochs. I did Merrick via Benyellary and returned retracing the same, so I missed out on the lochs. I'll hopefully get to revisit the area again for the surrounding hills.

Merrick's a great hill and it looks like you had a cracking day for it.
User avatar
SecretSquirrel
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 420
Munros:124   Corbetts:26
Grahams:24   Donalds:76
Sub 2000:10   
Joined: Jul 2, 2012
Location: Hamilton

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