Weather for Waterfalls?

Date walked: 21/07/2021

Time taken: 5.66 hours

Distance: 18.5km

Ascent: 704m

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With temperatures due to creep over the 25C mark it is officially too damn hot for my tastes. Too hot for long drives and too hot for big hills. So I have elected to spend my usual Wednesday off low and local and pay a visit to two waterfalls deep in the heart of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, the Garnock and Murchan Spouts. These are located in a fairly inaccessible place, even I don't venture here very often, it's going on three years since I last visited. I'm not even really expecting there to be much water coming down them when I get there given the ludicrously dry weather we've had all year, but the Garnock Spout in particular is a nice spot anyway, and this is a wee bit of unfinished business. I had intended to walk this route Easter Monday, but after battling a 45mph north-westerly up to Misty Law and near getting blown off the top when I arrived I'd had enough of wind in my face and opted to skip the falls and make a bee line for Capet Law instead.

Wind is not an issue today, there is but the gentlest breeze as I head out of Lochwinnoch at twenty past eight. The skies are overcast early, for which I am grateful as I head up the familiar route, across the Calder and up the torturous single track road out of the village. I hate this bit and as always it is a relief to arrive at Muirfauldhouse and leave the tarmac behind. I'm a little taken aback as I enter the field to discover the old Saab that had been sitting here for years is gone. I'm somewhat unreasonably sad about this. It was an eyesore in fairness but I had a soft spot for it and used to wish it good morning or evening each time I passed, it seemed so unloved and neglected.

From here on the route to Misty Law is easy. Across the field and pick up the landrover track. Round wee craggy Turnave Hill where a solitary sheep stands sentinal on the top, watching my every move, and out across the moor. The ascent is gradual, any flooded sections, and even in these driest of conditions there are some, easily skirted on obvious side paths. Round past Hannah Law, which is just about visible in the clag, and along the side of Broadish Law before crossing the Cample Burn and up the final stony path to Misty Law. Today she is living up to her name as I arrive but as I sit on the top, pausing for coffee and a bite to eat, the sun breaks through and any cloud dissipates. Time to dig out the factor 50.

Turnave Hill, there's a sheep on the left keeping a wary eye on me

Hannah Law in the early clag

Crossing the Cample Burn, not exactly difficult in this weather, there's barely any water in it

Misty Law looking, well, misty

Queenside Hill comes into view as the clouds burn off for the day, it's going to be a scorcher

Sun screen liberally applied I drop off Misty Law to the south west and hop over the fence. From here on there is no semblance of a path just rough, heathery, and in normal circumstances very boggy moorland. This is my kind of walking (yes, I am a weirdo). It is possible to follow fence lines along the way if visibility is poor but there's no need now the cloud has vanished, I just aim roughly for Irish Law, now clearly visible, then pick up a tributary of the Murchan Burn to follow until the slope down to the confluence of Murchan and Garnock I'm aiming for can be seen.

Soon enough the Murchan Spout also comes into view and sure enough there is barely a trickle coming down the falls. Hmmm. I can't say as the lack of water is a surprise but it is slightly disappointing, in normal conditions these falls are a fine sight.. There's so little water today it barely shows in any photographs at all.

The Murchan Spout, more dribbling than spouting after months of dry weather

Heading down to the confluence of Murchan Burn and Garnock Water, Black Law on the right. The scar across the landscape is an access track for a new micro-hydro scheme going in on the Garnock

On the plus side dry weather makes zig-zagging my way down the steep, grassy slope to the bottom a breeze. Now I just need to pick my way across the bouldery terrain to the Garnock Spout, crossing the river several times to find the path of least resistance. Even though the rocks are largely dry today this requires care, there is no easy way and there is no phone signal here (or not on my network anyway). This remote spot is not a place to get into trouble when on ones own.

As I very carefully make my way upstream the spout comes into sight, and like it's neighbour it is more trickle than torrent today. In wetter weather these falls, which drop around 20m, are glorious. Today they seem more a soggy smear against the vertical rock face. I have never seen them so dry, but then I feel like I've been saying that about a lot of things lately. I also wonder if the holding dam that's been constructed above the falls for the new hydro scheme makes any difference to the water volumes, but reckon it's probably 90% dry weather responsible.

Once I arrive at my destination and select a seat opposite the waterfall in the shade I am, however, treated to a cooling breeze, a faint rainbow against the rocks and a mizzle of water on my face. It is lovely to be out of the sun and a splendid spot for some dinner. The waterfalls may be rather lacking in your actual water but I am none the less glad I came, this is a delightful place to be on a hot, July day. Is this weather for waterfalls? Yes and no. They're not at their watery best by any means, but shade and water splashing on me sure beats blazing sunshine.

Down at the bottom and heading upstream

Bouldery ground below the Garnock Spout, which appears as a mere soggy smear on the left in such dry weather

Trickle rather than torrent, looking up at the Garnock Spout from my dinner spot

Faint rainbow on the rocks

I sit for a time enjoying the coolness but eventually make a move, I still have several kilometres of wading through heather and tussocky grass ahead of me and need to be home by three. So reluctantly I leave the shade and ease my way back across the boulders to the point the streams meet, this time heading up the steep hill on the south side of the Murchan Burn. The spout looks as sorry for itself passing on this side as from the other.

Murchan Burn (right) meets Garnock Water (left)

Murchan Spout, still dribbling, as I head back up the south side of the burn

Then it's a case of following the fence line to the rag-tag collection of tops that make up Capet Law. I pop up a couple of them but don't linger. My next target, Lairdside Hill, looks a long way off from here and time is ticking on. Once again I could use a fence line as a guide on this section of my route but opt to head straight across the moor. The terrain is no easier along the fence anyway, and while this area is usually a bogfest there's barely any squelch at all today. After a time I cross Maich Water and briefly pick up the track that runs alongside it before heading up the hill.

The rough stuff is now behind me as I ascend Lairdside Hill's grassy slopes. I briefly stop at the top for a quick coffee then it's down the eastern side where there is a quad bike track which makes the walking back towards Turnave Hill and the track back to Muirfauldhouse quick and easy. It is blazingly hot and I am relieved when I reach the shade of the trees on the road back into Lochwinnoch.

Back towards Mistly Law from Capet Law

Approaching Lairdside Hill

Lairdside Hill cairn, looking down on Lochwinnoch

I've made good time from Capet Law and it is the dot of 2pm when I arrive back at the Castle Semple Loch car park, which allows me enough time to dangle my feet in the water for 15 minutes or so before heading home. The perfect way to end an enjoyable, but very hot day.

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Trips: 13
Distance: 154 km
Ascent: 8933m
Munros: 6
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 2
Sub2000s: 1

Joined: Jan 07, 2021
Last visited: Aug 05, 2021
Total posts: 32 | Search posts