With temperatures hitting record highs for February across the UK and a sunny day forecast, Monday was not a day to be missed. I headed to Galloway Forest Park to collect one of my missing Donald tops, Caerloch Dhu AKA Shalloch on Minnoch, North Top - the extreme west Donald. Since it was a weekday and I was starting during Edinburgh's morning rush, I tried a different route hoping to save a few minutes and instead found much worse queues and eventually took half an hour more than the predicted two hours to get to my starting point. This was about 1km south of Stinchar Bridge on the minor road from Straiton to Glentrool Village.
Caerloch Dhu - 2.0hrs, 6.6km, 295m
There is a path shown on the 1:25,000 OS map that runs from a layby at NX 3943 9481 all the way to the top of Caerloch Dhu. When I arrived I decided that it was safer to park off the road at the previous layby (NX 3947 9495). That involved driving slightly uphill off the road to park instead of downhill. I once had experience of parking on what appeared to be level grass and then finding tyres spinning and unable to move off it without help. Since I was alone I didn't want to repeat that performance, and it was only a 150m walk north of the other layby. The path began as an easily overlooked groove, but soon turned into a obvious muddy bog-trot, and, as promised by other reports, provided fairly 'soft' going for the first two kilometres. It then became firmer and after passing several small and one larger cairn arrived at another small cairn marking the top. I sat down for a snack in the sunshine with my back to a fairly stiff breeze. From there the large cairn by Shalloch on Minnoch's trig point (not the summit) was clearly visible and I snapped a few views of other Donalds emerging from a layer of haze, or was it pollution? I debated whether to continue on to the main summit, but decided to return to the car and bag another nearby hill instead.
Craiglee (Ayr) - 2.4hrs, 5km, 330m
A 50 minute drive arrived at the car park below the site of the rebuilt Loch Doon Castle - moved in 1935/36 when the water level of the loch was raised as part of a hydro-electric scheme. I took the path heading up to Wee Hill of Craigmulloch catching up to another walker from Ayr. We walked together chatting about hills and mountaineering clubs until I turned left as the trees ended while he continued up the Wee Hill. I found a reasonable path/animal track that contoured round to the col between the Wee Hill and Craiglee at which point it evaporated. From the col it was a straightforward climb up to the summit ridge. Half-way up I looked back to see a figure arrive at the top of the Wee Hill. Not long after I reached the summit ridge with first a cairn then about 250m later the trig point. On my way down I caught up with the other walker sitting on a bench seat about 300m from the car park and admiring the view. We continued our earlier chat for ten minutes then made out way down to our vehicles where he climbed into his camper van and I wandered over to have a look around the rebuilt castle.
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