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The seven southern Lowthers

The seven southern Lowthers


Postby dav2930 » Sun Jul 02, 2017 4:19 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Ballencleuch Law, Queensberry

Donalds included on this walk: Ballencleuch Law, Comb Law, Earncraig Hill, Gana Hill, Queensberry, Scaw'd Law, Wedder Law

Date walked: 24/06/2017

Time taken: 8.3 hours

Distance: 29 km

Ascent: 1232m

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Looking at my Walkhighlands Donalds map, the southern Lowther Hills caught my attention for three reasons. First, none of the balloons were blue! Second, there were seven of them. And third, it looked feasible to do all of them in a reasonable day's walk. Just to check out that apparent feasibility, I looked through the walk reports and was delighted to see several descriptions of more or less the same route taking in all seven Donalds.

Saturday 24th June looked a suitable enough day for that sort of thing, so it was off to the Daer Reservoir with Karl, who didn't need much persuading.


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On the way up from Cumbria we passed through a few light showers and noticed the clag was down on the Moffat hills, so we resigned ourselves to a probable day of limited visibility. But by the time we'd turned off the A702 for Daer the sky was brighter and the tops were clear. As we approached the dam we noticed it was covered in green turf - nice touch! We parked up just past the Hatteril Hill plantations by the Reservoir and started putting our boots on in the usual way, sitting on the front car seats with feet out of the open doors. The strong breeze kept blowing the door against my head which made the procedure frustrating! :roll:

It was almost 9.00am by the time we set off. My OS map (a First Series Landranger) showed a track heading off around the foot of Watchman's Brae and into Kirkhope Cleuch. This seemed an obvious way to access Comb Law, our first Donald of the day. There wasn't much evidence of this track on the ground though! :? Further up the Cleuch a track of sorts did appear and a distinct path went straight up the steep slopes of Comb Law, which we followed. It was one of those paths that goes so far then disappears into the grassy tussocks.

P1020735.JPG
Heading for Comb Law


P1020737.JPG
Daer Resevoir


P1020739.JPG
Lowther Hill from Comb Law


Once we'd reached the top of Comb Law the going underfoot was smoother, following the fence. It was very breezy up here. Clearly we were in for a bit of buffeting. A good path was gained at the Rodger Law saddle and led to the second Donald, Ballencleuch Law. With the sun now shining, this was getting very enjoyable :D .

P1020741.JPG
Fence leading the way to Ballencleuch Law


P1020743.JPG
On Ballencleuch Law, fence leading the way to Scaw'd Law


The fence joined a wall on Scaw'd Law, Donald number 3.

P1020746.JPG
Looking down Nithsdale to Criffel from Scaw'd Law


P1020748.JPG
Wedder Law from Scaw'd Law


From Scaw'd Law a steepish descent leads to what can only be described as a road, albeit a rough one. While taking advantage of the easy walking it affords, we did wonder why it was there and sincerely hoped it's not paving the way for yet another wind farm. Whatever its purpose, it led, with a significant descent and re-ascent, all the way to Wedder Law, Donald number 4.

P1020749.JPG
The road between Scaw'd Law and Wedder Law, looking back to Scaw'd


A bit of a diversion onto the grassy plateau is required to reach the highest point, which could be anywhere in a large area.

P1020750.JPG
Summit of Wedder Law looking to Ganna Hill and Queensberry


P1020752.JPG
West to the Galloway hills from Wedder Law


Back on track, a fence led all the way to the fifth Donald, Ganna Hill.

P1020753.JPG
Summit of Ganna Hill looking to Earncraig Hill and Queensberry


P1020754.JPG
Daer Resevoir from Ganna Hill


P1020755.JPG
Criffel and the Solway from Ganna Hill


We found a sheltered spot in a scattering of mossy stones and settled down for a lunch break, with a good view of the route ahead to Earncraig Hill and Queensbury. Five down, two to go! :)

P1020756.JPG
Sheltered spot for lunch, looking to Earncraig Hill and Queensberry


P1020757.JPG
Wind farm in the Forest of Ae


Setting off again from Ganna Hill, it was a considerable descent and we followed the fence a bit too far as it led us north of the col below Earncraig Hill. We were about level with the col by the time we noticed our error, and had to cut across some rough ground to reach the col. A vague path led steeply up from the col to the top of Earncraig - this was by far the steepest part of the walk so far.

P1020759.JPG
Looking back to Ganna Hill and Wedder Law from Earncraig Hill


P1020760.JPG
Queensberry from Earncraig Hill


From Earncraig Hill another considerable descent led to the col at the north end of Penbreck.

P1020761.JPG
North-east to the Moffat hills


Going up the other side was about as steep as Earncraig, but eventually gave out onto the undulating ridge leading to Queensberry. There had been a strong breeze all the way along but now it was stronger than ever and reached a peak of intensity on the summit of Queensberry.

P1020762.JPG
Summit of Queensbury


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Looking back to Earncraig Hill, Ganna Hill, etc.


P1020764.JPG
West from Queensberry


After taking in the extensive views from the big cairn - the biggest in the southern Lowthers - we headed down the way we'd come, back to the col at the north end of Penbreck. At this point it's debatable which would be the quickest way back to the car. A re-ascent beside the fence to access the burn descending from Chalybeate Spring, and hence the Landrover track at Daerhead, is the chosen route in most of the other walk reports. This was the way we went too, and it worked out OK. But it was tempting to avoid the re-ascent by going north down the Crook Burn to Whiteholm, then cut north-west over the moors to the bridge at Crookburn. Could have been worth a try but without any paths marked on the map and without knowing what the ground is like, it would have been a bit of a gamble.

P1020765.JPG
North from Queensberry


It felt a bit of a slog going back up. When the hill levelled out at the change in direction of the fence, we kept going in the same direction across the moor until the top of the burn became visible, which we followed without issue down to Daerhead. The very isolated building there looked derelict as we approached it, but on closer inspection was clearly being renovated and was at least partially habitable. Wouldn't want to live there though!

P1020766.JPG
Daerhead, in process of renovation


We cautiously crossed a half-destroyed footbridge to gain a good Landrover track, which annoyingly went up-valley before curving round to head in the right direction! :? As we walked down the valley we were accompanied by the haunting cries of curlews and spotted a couple of oystercatchers flying close by.

P1020767.JPG
Dilapidated footbridge over Daer Water


We got back to the car at 5.20pm. No chance of getting to Moffat before the cafe's close :( . Plenty of time for the pub though! :) ... A thoroughly decent walk in some splendidly open hill country, we thought, with extensive views and a good tally of Donalds. :D
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dav2930
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby simon-b » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:58 pm

A nice round, dav. The quietness of the Southern Upland hills has its appeal, but I think the fact that fewer people walk there than some places makes them an easier target for wind farm planners. Missing the cafe in Moffat was bad news for whoever was driving, but there are plenty of nice pubs there for whoever wasn't!
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby Fife Flyer » Sun Jul 02, 2017 7:27 pm

Enjoyed reading that, especially as I did that round a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it - nice to see some familiar photo's :wink:
The Donalds offer a totally different challenge to Munro's and are just as enjoyable 8)
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby Jaxter » Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:26 pm

Nice one - I did a very similar route to this a few months ago, it was so windy on Queenberry that I had to bum-shuffle off the top :shock: :shock:

Couldn't be bothered with the track and just went down the ridge. Bit of extra ascent but much more interesting than a boring landrover track :lol:
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby dav2930 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:29 pm

simon-b wrote:A nice round, dav. The quietness of the Southern Upland hills has its appeal, but I think the fact that fewer people walk there than some places makes them an easier target for wind farm planners. Missing the cafe in Moffat was bad news for whoever was driving, but there are plenty of nice pubs there for whoever wasn't!

Cheers Simon. Yes it seems the poor old Southern Uplands are seen as fair game for all kinds of abuse :( . Karl was driving so it worked out well for me! :lol:

Fife Flyer wrote:Enjoyed reading that, especially as I did that round a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it - nice to see some familiar photo's :wink:
The Donalds offer a totally different challenge to Munro's and are just as enjoyable 8)

Thanks FF. Yours was one of the reports I peeked at to get an idea of the route, so thanks! :) I notice you did the walk in double quick time - certainly makes me and Karl look like a right pair of dawdlers! :lol:
I agree the Donalds have an appeal all of their own, I think I'm sold on them! :D

Jaxter wrote:Nice one - I did a very similar route to this a few months ago, it was so windy on Queenberry that I had to bum-shuffle off the top :shock: :shock:

Couldn't be bothered with the track and just went down the ridge. Bit of extra ascent but much more interesting than a boring landrover track :lol:


Thanks Jaxter. Crikey looks like you had some proper gales to contend with :shock: ; glad it wasn't quite as bad as that when we did it! :lol:

Yeah landrover tracks are boring aren't they? I think we'd just had enough of peat hags and tussocky grass for one day. And you still managed a quicker time than we did! :roll:
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby ambluce14 » Mon Nov 06, 2017 1:01 pm

Fantastic Photos - Daerhead is indeed under renovation. We are progressing (slowly :D ) the new bridge is a massive help with regards to materials. Tough going when the weather changes! looking forward to the day we can concentrate on walking the hills and not building in amongst them. kettle is always on if you see signs of life at the house as long as you don't mind the 2 spaniels greeting you!!

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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby dav2930 » Mon Nov 06, 2017 8:40 pm

ambluce14 wrote:Fantastic Photos - Daerhead is indeed under renovation. We are progressing (slowly :D ) the new bridge is a massive help with regards to materials. Tough going when the weather changes! looking forward to the day we can concentrate on walking the hills and not building in amongst them. kettle is always on if you see signs of life at the house as long as you don't mind the 2 spaniels greeting you!!

Lucy

Thank you, and what a surprise to hear from the owner of Daerhead! Looks a fantastic project to renovate a building like that in such a wild and remote location - good luck with it :clap:
Might just take you up on that offer of a brew if I'm ever up that way again - don't mind spaniels at all! :D
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dav2930
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby rockhopper » Wed Nov 08, 2017 2:48 pm

Must've missed this first time round :oops: Would agree, it's a good walk especially on a day such as this. You can also add the new donald, Rodger Law, as an option - cheers :)
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby dav2930 » Wed Nov 08, 2017 7:04 pm

rockhopper wrote:Must've missed this first time round :oops: Would agree, it's a good walk especially on a day such as this. You can also add the new donald, Rodger Law, as an option - cheers :)

Thanks RH. Hey there's that many reports popping up all the time it's difficult to keep up with them all! Re Roger Law, I remember at the time we thought it ironic that this nice-looking top with a trig point doesn't count as a Donald. We didn't realize it was a New Donald as we haven't really got our heads round these. Shame to have missed it really, though I think we'll be happy to get just the standard Donalds done! :)
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby ancancha » Mon Nov 13, 2017 12:56 pm

Nice report :clap:
That is interesting to get a post from the owners renovating the house :!: A remote get away from it all spot 8)
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Re: The seven southern Lowthers

Postby dav2930 » Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:57 pm

ancancha wrote:Nice report :clap:
That is interesting to get a post from the owners renovating the house :!: A remote get away from it all spot 8)

Thanks ancancha. Yes Daerhead looks like it'll be a perfect retreat; nice to know the owners are on Walkhighlands! :D
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