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Nithsdale Trio: Kirkand, Cairnkinna and Cairn Hills

Nithsdale Trio: Kirkand, Cairnkinna and Cairn Hills


Postby inca » Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:46 am

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Cairn Hill, Cairnkinna Hill, Kirkland Hill

Date walked: 07/03/2017

Time taken: 3.75 hours

Distance: 12 km

Ascent: 739m

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Map: OS 1:50,000 nos. 71 & 78
Attendees: Me, Big Dog, Small Dog
Time: 3hr 45m.

I was looking to make progress on my Sub 2000’s list and the better end of a gloomy national forecast took me west to three hills either side of the A76 between Kirkconnel and Enterkinfoot.

Kirkland Hill
Distance: 4k. Ascent: 146m. Time: 1 hr.

My start point for Kirkland was the high cattle grid (GR 745164) on the single track road leading northwest from the B740 at Crawick. The road wends its way upwards to a high point of over 400m and ends at Fingland. It’s not a difficult drive but passing places are few. For a time I fret about encountering a bad-tempered, behind-time delivery driver coming the other way.

After parking on a wide grass verge beyond the cattle grid I set off down the track to its western side. There’s helpful signage here, albeit located on an extremely short pole.

Start point for Kirkland
Imagefullsizeoutput_33ce by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Imagefullsizeoutput_33d0 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

The track runs southwest and after a few hundred metres arrives at a metal kissing gate. There were clear views of Kirkland Hill ahead. Going through the gate and across a burn I turned north after a short distance to pick up an ATV track alongside the fence shown in the middle right of the picture below. This made for good progress up to the eastern ridge of Kirkland. The track then veered away westwards from the fence directly to the trig point.

The summit proved to be a good vantage point.

Kissing gate with Kirkland behind - the ATV track runs to the left of the fence line
ImageIMG_2113 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Easy going on Kirkland's east ridge
Imagefullsizeoutput_33d2 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Trig point looking southwest
Imagefullsizeoutput_33da by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Looking southeast to Todholes Hill
Imagefullsizeoutput_33de by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

The view northeast - Common Hill at the back
Imagefullsizeoutput_33e0 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

On the way down I tried a more direct route southeast to the kissing gate. More direct it may have been but any time saved was minimal. The terrain here was soggy and patchworked with knee-high tussocks.

Cairnkinna Hill
Distance: 5k. Ascent: 386m. Time: 1 hr 45 mins.

I had some difficulties before I started this hill. On the way from Sanquhar I managed to take more than one wrong turn on the network of single track roads that run south through to Monaive and Penpont.

Eventually I did find my way to the glen south of Cairnkinna. It’s a pretty place. Mixed woodland garnishes the lower slopes of steep sided hills and the access road runs close to the burbling Scaur Water (spelled ‘Scar’ on my map). Cairnkinna Hill itself looked sleek and slender from below. Two large birds –Red Kites I think- wheeled overhead before drifting off to the east.

The next issue was parking. It’s a narrow road and requires care. (I’d already passed a Land Rover sunk axle deep and abandoned in a muddy verge.) One option was leaving the car near Woodend and working my way gradually up the southeast ridge. However no suitable parking spot presented itself. In any case, I was now an hour behind schedule.

I decided to leave the car in a small quarried area on the north side of the road at GR 787005. This would make the walk shorter and steeper. And so it proved. The ridge line was only half a kilometre behind the car. But it was a thigh-burning climb to get there.

A short break and I turned northwest towards the high point of Woodend Craig. An electric fence ran the same way. I followed a faint trod on one side of the fence before hopping over to a good ATV track on the other.

A bank of cloud was rolling over the hill by the time I hit the 488m top. The way ahead was clear enough though - another ATV track ran northeast up the centre of the broad ridge, through an old fence line, and all the way to the trig point and summit cairn. It was easy going. Midway there a sheep skull stared at me from the grass.

Start point for Cairnkinna
Imagefullsizeoutput_33e6 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Ascending Woodend Craig
Imagefullsizeoutput_33e8 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

And on into the murk on Cairnkinna's southwest ridge
Imagefullsizeoutput_33ea by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

In truth, there wasn’t a lot to see from the summit so I wandered round the large cairn. A corner of its been made into a three-sided low wind shelter, comfortable enough for one person to sit in.

Atop Cairnkinna
Imagefullsizeoutput_33ec by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Descending back to the Scaur Water valley
Imagefullsizeoutput_33ee by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

I descended more or less the way I came up. Predictably the last section was a knee thumper. By now, my ‘sleek and slender’ impression of the hill had changed. It proved to be biggier, bulkier and more impressive than I expected. For a Sub 2k, Cairnkinna’s a bit of a bruiser.

Cairn Hill
Distance: 3k. Ascent: 207m. Time: 1 hr.

This was meant to be my penultimate hill for the day but delays getting to Cairnkinna meant it would now be my last.

Two options presented themselves by way of approach -

a) From the north - following a track (GR 838098) south-southeast from Mennock on the B797 and coming up over Yell Hill; or
b) From the south - off the minor road to Coshogle, west of Enterkinfoot.

I chose the latter. It seemed shorter and I was keen to visit the old church at Kirkbride.

Having done some online checks beforehand, I was aware that the occupiers at Kirkbride Cottage had a boisterous group of dogs. Setting off from the south would have taken me directly passed the house and I wasn’t sure how my two would react to them.

A fingerboard points to Kirkbride Church just before a distinct U-bend in the minor road. I decided to follow the track northwest here in the hope that I could get beyond the Cottage and leave the car somewhere in the vicinity of the ruins. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn (a common theme emerging today :roll: ) towards the end of the track and ended up at the front door of the Cottage.

A sullen looking man appeared from within. I braced myself for a row. I needn’t have. The guy was pleasant, explaining that the dogs were locked away for the afternoon and offering to let me leave my car in the paddock behind his house. We chatted for a few minutes about the old church. He sounded rueful about its condition and demise.

With hindsight, it’s probably worth pointing out two things here. First, the upper reaches of the Church track are unsuitable for anything other than 4WD vehicles. Second, progress along the lower parts of the track are so slow and the distance covered so short, it’s probably not worth taking the car in any case. (I didn’t see the Kirkbride dogs myself so can’t comment on whether my choice to was justified or not.)

Looking back to Kirkbride from the gate into the wood
Imagefullsizeoutput_33f2 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

From my parking point I followed the track north through two gates and into a small wood. Ahead was a small clearing with a number of barrel contraptions in a wired enclosure. I’m not quite sure what their purpose was/is but I took an open gate to the right and then walked on through a gap in the trees to the rear. A path here is plain enough; at some points it’s overhung by low branches.

Onwards into the wood...
Imagefullsizeoutput_33f6 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

At the north edge of the forest I came to a metal gate and the open hillside. It was then a matter of hop-scotching faint ATV and animal tracks northwards to the old summit cairn which sits at a junction of fences.

The views from the top were dominated by Lowther Hill to the northeast. I’ve done most of the hills in this area now and for some reason always find its golf ball top reassuring; rather like a friendly old neighbour you see regularly but never speak to. I found myself waving at it before I knew it.

Looking towards Lowther Hill on the way up
Imagefullsizeoutput_33f8 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

The cairn on Cairn Hill
ImageIMG_2142 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

I returned to the car as per my outward route, stopping briefly to have a look round the old church and graveyard. I understand the building dates back to the 16th century. There’s little left of it now and –notwithstanding the nearby cottage- the location feels remote. I found one headstone dating to 1845 but most are so weathered as to be indecipherable.

Engraving on a Kirkbride headstone
Imagefullsizeoutput_3406 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Ivy eating into the old Church walls
Imagefullsizeoutput_340e by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Kirkbride Church
Imagefullsizeoutput_3400 by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

Looking back - Church, wood and hill
Imagefullsizeoutput_340a by Neil Mackay, on Flickr

On the way back to Edinburgh, I went through Durisdeer and passed Well Hill. This was meant to be my last target for the day. Ach well, another time. It’s a nice part of the country and one worth returning to.
Last edited by inca on Tue May 08, 2018 6:58 am, edited 4 times in total.
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inca
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Re: Nithsdale Trio: Kirkand, Cairnkinna and Cairn Hills

Postby JohnJoe » Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:34 pm

Nice photos.

Is that a border terrier? I've heard they're good for long walks but aren't too keen on other dogs!
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Re: Nithsdale Trio: Kirkand, Cairnkinna and Cairn Hills

Postby inca » Thu Mar 16, 2017 8:11 pm

JohnJoe wrote:Nice photos.

Is that a border terrier? I've heard they're good for long walks but aren't too keen on other dogs!


Hi JohnJoe,

Thanks re the pics. Yep, Border Terriers. I have two. One's big for the breed, the other small. Had heard the same thing as you before we got them.

My experience with other dogs so far is this. The big one's pretty laid back and no bother. The small one needs a bit more watching - she doesn't go looking for trouble but doesn't much like attention from other dogs either. Particularly other Borders.

They're great dogs for the hills. (It was one of the reasons we went for the breed.) Small dogs, big hearts and they'll take as much exercise as you can throw at them. One down side -of my two at least- is that they're are both chasers. They're trained and fine with sheep. But deer, hares and foxes are another story :roll: Then again, that's not a problem specific to Borders, or even the Terrier family, I guess.

So on balance? Good company, proper characters and I wouldn't be without them on hill days.
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Re: Nithsdale Trio: Kirkand, Cairnkinna and Cairn Hills

Postby JohnJoe » Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:54 pm

They sound perfect for the hills! Not suited to me now, but maybe one day.

I have a Boston Terrier and she chases - birds, mainly. You can imagine how unsuccessful that is!
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Re: Nithsdale Trio: Kirkand, Cairnkinna and Cairn Hills

Postby PeteR » Fri Mar 17, 2017 8:37 pm

These look interesting. Still have all three to do and now looking at the WH GPS planner to get my routes drawn up. Thanks for posting, as you might just have planted the seeds of these three in my head :thumbup:
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