Hill of Stake Without The Palaver

Sub 2000s: Hill of Stake

Date walked: 04/06/2021

Time taken: 4 hours

Distance: 11km

Ascent: 465m

Hill of Stake has a bad reputation hereabouts but I'm not entirely convinced it's deserved. As a local who has been up here dozens upon dozens of times me and the Stake have always got along just fine.In fairness as a hill in and of itself it is a bit 'meh', but it enjoys pleasing views on a good day and I'd only consider it to be an averagely boggy walk, unless you take some mad-cap approach across Duchal Moor. Been there, done that.

In crisp, winter weather a through walk from Lochwinnoch to Largs via Hill of Stake makes for a grand day out, or in October/November time heading up from Outerwards over the Burnt Hills when the moors are resplendent in their autumn finery, all richly gold and black, is a good option. Today, however, I'm taking what is perhaps my favourite route from Muirshiel. Not via the mine, the stony track out is not my idea of a good time, but a slightly more direct up and down taking in the Raith Burn, Misty Law and Queenside Loch.

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It's a bit of an overcast day, I doubt I'll be seeing much of Arran or the Arrocher Hills, but it is warm and dry, a bit breezy from the south west but nothing out of the ordinary. I set off following the mine track route for a short distance until I cross the Calder then turn left, leaving the main path and doubling back towards the Raith Burn. There is a cracking but strenuous walk to be had along this steep-sided burn with its series of wee waterfalls but that's for another day. Today I cross it and head through the thick heather slightly above the south side of the burn. It is pretty deep on these lower slopes but there are pathways to be found through it, probably more frequented by sheep than man, which ease passage.

I follow the course of the Raith Burn, roughly, for about a kilometre until reaching the fourth tributary, then turn south and follow this stream towards Little Misty Law. Both this wee hill and Misty Law herself, can be seen from the bottom then disappear from sight before coming back into view as I gain height and the heather becomes thinner. I'm soon atop the baby sister. I can just about make out Ben Lomond and the Kilpatrick Hills through the haze. After stopping briefly I drop westward towards Misty Law, skirting around the lochan and hopping over the fence pretty much where it meets the end of the track up from Lochwinnoch.

As it is a little breezy I decide to have a seat and a first coffee stop of the day in the shelter at the foot of Misty Law before nipping up the short, steep, grass path to the summit. Misty Law is one of my favourite wee hills. One of her many pluses is a shape that provides shelter no matter the wind direction, though today's conditions are much more benign than the last time I was here on Easter Monday when it was blowing a hoolie from the north west and I could barely stand up on the summit. No such problems today, caffeine topped up I'm soon at the cairn on the flat grassy top, which makes an excellent camping spot, another plus. From here the views over the local hills are fine, across the headwaters of the Garnock towards Black Law and Irish Law, back towards the wee hills to the east of the Calder, and, of course, the route northwest over Totterie Law to Hill of Stake.

Crossing the Raith Burn

Paths through the heather

Cairn on Little Misty Law

Approaching Misty Law herself

Misty Law cairn

It's a very short distance from Misty Law to the neighbouring Totterie Law. A name I've always found faintly amusing, as if it's a drunken bum of a hill. A quick fence crossing and I'm following the obvious path via the two wee cairns on Totterie Law to pick up the older fence line the leads the way to East Girt Hill and Hill of Stake beyond.

It is the land between Totterie Law and East Girt Hill that is notorious for its deep bogs but it really isn't that bad. You just have to treat it with respect and pay attention. There are three main sections of bog, the middle one of which is probably the worst. It is easily recognised by the wee lochan to its east. The fence has sunk into the ground here and I choose to step over it, not difficult as it is only knee height at this point, and skirt around to the west of the squelch. As a general rule if it's heather it's fine to stand on, as is tussocky grass. Clumps of reeds or yellowy-brown moss are probably OK, give them a good prod with a walking pole to be sure. But if the moss is bright green do not step on it. Unless ending up waist deep in water is your thing, in which case go for your life.

Of course the fact that the weather has been pretty dry so far this year makes life considerably easier and a few sections of tussock hopping soon see me across the bogs of doom and headed on towards unassuming East Girt Hill. The cairn here is barely worthy of the name and from it I can see another party just reaching the top of Hill of Stake from the opposite direction. I pass them as I head up the steady pull to the highest point around, they are walking on the other side of the fence in as if this is a suitably socially distanced one way system. We acknowledge each other and go our separate ways. They are the only other people I see all day.

I soon find myself atop Hill of Stake. It has taken about two hours to get here. Looking down towards Largs I can just about make out Cumbrae, Bute and Arran but it is pretty hazy. It is also a little blustery so I head off the east side of the hill where a few metres away is a conveniently directed semi-circular peat hag the offers protection from the prevailing winds. I stop here for some dinner and more coffee, gazing across the open moorland towards Queenside Hill where I'll be headed next.

Towards Totterie Law

Perhaps the boggiest bit with Slaty Law and the Corby-Knowes in the distance

Approaching East Girt Hill

East Girt Hill cairn

Heading towards Hill of Stake from East Girt Hill

Looking down past West Girt Hill towards Largs. The A,B,C islands are not clear today.

Hill of Stake trig and cairn

Looking east from my peat hag dinner stop towards Queenside Hill

Fed and caffeinated I now head eastwards. I love this part of the route across open, pathless moorland. It is a gentle, soft on the knees descent down towards the imaginatively named Wee Burn. I am accompanied by the sound of its gently trickling waters as I follow it across the moor to its confluence with the White Grain Burn. An easy step across this and I am on to the slopes up towards Queenside Hill.

As is often the case in these parts there is an obvious quad bike track to follow along for a good segment of the journey which then suddenly vanishes leaving me once more on pathless moorland. None the less it isn't long before I reach the top of Queenside Hill and the last cairn of the day which bares a remarkable resemblance to the first one on Little Misty Law lending the walk an odd symmetry.

From here I drop northwards and after a short distance Queenside Loch comes in to view. This is a something of a hidden gem nestled in amongst the nameless tops of Queenside Muir. It can't be seen from any of the better known hills and it is rare not to have it to yourself. In the darker months chattering geese can be found over-wintering but they've long since left for their northern breeding grounds and today the only sounds are the water lapping in the breeze and the hum of bumble bees. I skirt around to the old dam wall at the eastern end and settle down for a final coffee stop of the day, lingering for some time in warm sunshine enjoying the peace.

Cairn on Queenside Hill

Looking back towards Misty Law from Queenside Hill

Heading down to Queenside Loch

Coffee stop on the shores of Queenside Loch

Eventually I tear myself away and pick up the obvious path from the wall along to the north of Queenside burn back down to meet the mine track. This path is straightforward though squelchy at the bottom and the noise of cascading water accompanies me down. All that is left is what I consider the worst part of all, the horrible, stony track back to the visitor centre.

I'd sooner be bog stomping!

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Comments: 2

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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
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Trips: 7
Distance: 81 km
Ascent: 4550m
Munros: 3
Corbetts: 1
Grahams: 1
Sub2000s: 1

Joined: Jan 07, 2021
Last visited: Jun 14, 2021
Total posts: 17 | Search posts