The forecast for the weekend and later was looking dire. In comparison Wednesday looked almost dry with gentle breezes so an early start was planned to squeeze another two Galloway Marilyns into the lengthening day, but fate had other plans. At 7:30am I expected the slow start in the morning rush hour, but not an accident that closed the main road through Livingston. That resulted in queues and diversions that my SatNav didn't know about so I couldn't rely on it. After somehow managing a complete circuit I escaped the suburbs and headed along the M8 planning to leave at junction four. That slip road was closed due to road works! I eventually navigated onto the M74, but several junctions north of where I'd wanted to be and perhaps half an hour more had disappeared. The result was starting my walk almost an hour later than I had hoped from the Forestry car park a few miles south of Castle Douglas.
Bengairn and Screel Hill - 3.2hrs, 8.8km, 580m
There were several other vehicles parked there and I met dog walkers both on my way in and on my return. The route is, apart from one wrinkle, quite straightforward. Head up the main track and by a map of the routes turn onto what appeared to be a recently improved path. This crosses a track by a bench seat. Straight ahead is one route up Screel HIll while I headed left along the track to Bengairn. The track eventually turns left with a made-up path continuing straight on until the gradient steepens and it becomes earthen. It splits with the right hand route ascending Screel Hill while straight ahead meets a wall and turns left for Bengairn, This is a reasonable path for 150 metres then just before it becomes a morass I found that ten squelchy metres to the left it continues again as a good path up and past Mid Hill - I diverted to its summit to snatch a couple of photos and add a Tump to my list of summits for the day. The path continues over a boggy section. Despite appearing to be heading in the wrong directions it turns back, runs along a ridge and then heads through a gate in another wall. From there the muddy path soon arrives at the summit. While it had been clear earlier, I managed to synchronise my visit to some passing clouds that deleted any views. I had a snack and coffee while sheltering in the ring cairn around the trig point. The cloud wasn't clearing and I was conscious that time was passing. I headed down only to find the sun reappeared a few minutes after passing the gate. I decided I still had time to include Screel Hill in my walk - it was less than 50m of ascent to another large cairn. From there the route along the ridge had several muddy sections followed by a slippery descent into forest then a section of fallen trees followed by more mature forest before meeting the improved path down to the bench at the crossroads. Back at the car I decided after more coffee that I'd probably still have time for objective number two before sunset arrived - perhaps..
Bengray - 2.1hrs, 6.4km, 320m
It took a bit over half an hour to reach Laghead Brige north of Gatehouse on Fleet and my parking spot for Bengray. Naismith told me that it should be possible in one and a half hours and I had two hours until sunset scheduled for a few minutes after 5pm. So I set off. The signpost pointed to a stile over a dyke after which the path split and then became indistinct. I decided to collect the Tump of Benfadyeon where one report had promised an ATV track that would take me to my goal. I did find one there, but after a couple of hundred metres I felt it was leading me astray, so left it and found another which was better. It tempted me round to the south of Bengray's west summit to climb up beside the forest fence and wall to a col. There I found the stone stile I'd seen mentioned in other reports. A walker built it in November 2016 to assist his wife over the fence without ripping herself and her clothes on the barbed wire. It was still there and most useful. The summit was a heather clad bulge not far away, and from it a deep well-trodden groove through the heather led 50m east to the slightly lower trig point. Shadows were now obviously lengthening and the sun about to hide behind, I think, a distant Cairnharrow. No time to sit and stare, so I headed back over the fence and continued north from there to soon pick up a different ATV track. This eventually met my uphill route. As sunset arrived I contoured around the south of Benfadyeon and arrived back at the car a few minutes after the sun had disappeared. With the now mostly cloudless sky there was still plenty of light for navigation.
Another fine day with both objectives achieved and once again the Met Office deserving full marks for their forecast.
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