Sweating It Out In Galloway

Corbetts: Merrick, Shalloch on Minnoch
Grahams: Craignaw, Mullwharchar
Donalds: Craignaw, Dungeon Hill, Kirriereoch Hill, Merrick, Mullwharchar, Shalloch on Minnoch, Tarfessock

Date walked: 29/06/2018

Time taken: 28 hours

Distance: 34.2km

Ascent: 2352m

- 29th-30th June 2018
- 28hrs (31hrs incl. bike)
- 34.2km (82.16km incl. bike)
- 2352m (2796m incl. bike)

Although having just got back from a full week away, I finally had two days off in a row the week after and decided it was finally time to get the last of my Wigtownshire Donalds out the road. I was in town (32°C!) the day before thinking "If I'm only off to the shops for 20 minutes and I'm sweating now, how will I cope with two full days walking intersected by an awful sleep?" Despite the day before being the hottest day I can remember since 2004 when I was 8, it was only a meagre 24°C for the first day. From what I can tell, there is only one way to access these hills by public transport and that is a convoluted bus journey to/from Newton Stewart to/from Girvan via Glentrool. (Un)fortunately I am still in Glasgow so decided to make use of the old bike and turn it into a full-blown double marathon.

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Up at 06:45 for an early train to Central then a train to Ayr then a train to Barrhill. The latter is a lovely little street village in the centre of loneliest west Galloway and it's peculiarly positioned train station about 150m up a winding hill really did make me appreciate how great bicycling is again, until I remembered I will have to go back up it again at the end of the next day.

The Range of the Awful Hand from just after the highest point of the cycle:
1 - view to ridge from cycle.jpg

Google had predicted my cycle to the Bruce's Stone car park to be an hour and a half and it was almost spot on. The journey was initially steep but then gradually descended to Bargrennan, finishing with a gruelling rollercoaster to the lodge car park, where I chained the bike up, spotting a slowworm slither under the tree beneath me. Arrived at just past 11:30. There is a clear sign that leads you onto the Merrick climb through a well-maintained path. I was immediately made aware that love was in the air for every type of fly imaginable - I must have seen roughly around 80 dragonflies, 50 butterflies, 50 damselflies and 30 hoverflies in the full two days.

Insects everywhere:
3 - Insects.jpg

It was a longer walk than it looked on the map to Culsharg bothy, which is in a complete mess despite all the rubbish being cleared away. A shame as it is in a spectacular surrounding. I was already having to refill my flask; I must have gone through 10 litres of water by the end of the next day, most of which was from questionable sources but my new Sawyer filter made sure I was not ill for the third time this year.

Benyellary with Culsharg below:
2 - culsharg with benyellary.jpg

Upon joining the initial ascent through the forestry, I was already really enjoying being in the shade - it didn't really occur to me that this was the last shade I would get until I was in the bothy at Tunskeen. I had planned to actually cook some food for dinner and breakfast for once so ended up carrying what was likely the weight of a small tent in my bag. I was already regretting it by the beginning of the moorland and felt like I was on an army training exercise as oppose to an enjoyable hillwalk. The other two folk that had started at the same time as me had boosted past - usually it's the other way around! The gradual ascent of Benyellary would have otherwise been quite easy and it was already 13:15 by the time I'd made the summit. The views were hazy but still very impressive. I had a 15 minute refuel before setting off again, surprised at the complete stillness of the air.

Benyellary cairn with the Rhinns of Galloway:
4 - benyellary with rhinns of galloway.jpg

Along The Neive of the Spit to the summit of The Merrick:
5 - to merrick summit.jpg

I stubbornly admitted that I regretted not taking suncream but after the relatively easy final push to the top, I finally decided to take the shirt off. The heat had somewhat masked the fact that I was at the highest point in Southern Scotland and subsequently the highest Donald. The view by this point was excellent, so much so that I covered just about all 360° on both my camera and my phone.

First time I have seen Ireland from the mainland; Slieve Donard et. al:
6 - slieve donard.jpg

Little fluffy cloud (have The Orb visited Galloway?):
7 - little fluffy cloud.jpg

It was an unexpectedly steep descent to the Little Spear, and then even more so down to the base of the bealach. The water I drank there was the most questionable of the whole trip - even with a filter, watching a decomposing sheep dropping float by didn't exactly scream "quality". The ascent of Kirriereoch Hill was probably the hardest out of the subsequent three Donalds to go - steep and rugged (but I suppose they all were!)

Back to Little Spear and The Merrick from Kirriereoch's conspicuous summit stone:
8 - back to little spear and merrick.jpg

Over to Tarfessock South Top, Tarfessock and Shalloch on Minnoch:
9 - south top, tarfessock and shalloch.jpg

The summit was a large plateau of short grass but the descent was as equally, if not more, steep and rugged as the ascent. There was at least a prize of a long flat walk over past a few pretty lochans before more ascent was needed. Even spotted some Palmate Newts enjoying the sun.

First time spotting newts too:
10 - newt.jpg

Tarfessock's South Top was oddly tiring for such a small bump - the summit is not much to behold; the hill itself is essentially only a collection of rounded crags. The ascent of Tarfessock was almost identical to Kirriereoch only slightly easier.

North face of Kirriereoch:
11 - north face of kirriereoch.jpg

Shalloch on Minnoch from Tarfessock cairn:
12 - som from tarfessock.jpg

On the ascent of SoM, I aimed for a flat section half way up to plan a drink stop and split the walk into two. I was absolutely shattered by this point and was beginning to get some mild heat exhaustion symptoms even with regular drinks and no shirt on. Not long after my stop I reached the real summit and then the walk to the trig point. The view over to the outlier of Caerloch Dhu was not very inspiring.

Actual top:
13 - som summit cairn.jpg

Over to Caerloch Dhu:
14 - caerloch dhu from som.jpg

It was an easy stroll down an old ATV path to the unnamed lochan, where I dropped off the bag for a quick up and down to the top. A few spots that could have been the summit but I believe the first cairn is the actual top. I could see the sheep inspecting my bag in my camera from the path now that I had left.

SoM from Caerloch Dhu slopes:
15 - back up som from caerloch slopes.jpg

Once back at the lochan I didn't plan ahead and simply walked along the shallow glen, assuming Tunskeen would be over the edge once I reached it. This was not the case at all - the last thing you want to see at the end of a long day is the site of your bed for the evening being nearly 2km away! I don't know exactly what route I took down but decided to aim for the road relatively quickly as being back in the dreaded Galloway tussocks was horrendous. I did make a mental list of why exactly they are so infuriating but the list became too long after a while. The descent to the road was only half an hour or so but had put a serious damper on the day. The forestry road provided a brief section of relief before the land rover track to Tunskeen.

16 - finally at tunskeen.jpg

After all the effort I had gone through to pack a dinner, my vegetable oil tub (the only thing I had asked for help with choosing a container for) had burst, making the whole bag and it's contents smell of basil. I thought to hell with it, donated the two tins I had carried in and settled for a huge bowl of slightly undercooked rice and some more Abernethys. I was off to bed early at about 21:30 but a couple who had cycled in from Ayr joined as well about an hour later. After speaking to them for a bit, we all tried to get to sleep. I had, once again, forgotten the crucial staple of a sleeping mat so essentially tossed and turned for 8 hours, which was interspersed with short periods of dozing.


After we had all awoken the next day earlier than expected, I got my act together and devoured three slice sausages for breakfast, made some terrible tea with long-life milk, wished the other two well and was on my way by 9. The view over to Mullwharchar was nice until I realised that it was at least 5km of tussocks.

Oh joy:
17 - way ahead to mullwharchar oh joy.jpg

I wont go into too much detail other than to say that it took 2 and a half hours to get to the top of Mullwharchar. On the upside, there were a few good sights to behold. Eglin Lane was a beautiful burn - I would have stayed longer had I not been in a rush. The Lump of Eglin was also very impressive. I decided to go for a quick skinny dip in a tributary to cool myself off, which felt excellent afterwards. The ascent of Mullwharchar was never-ending, undulating and steep; definitely the hardest ascent of the trip. I had a half hour rest at the top.

Next two targets for the day with some Minnigaff hills and Cairnsmore of Fleet in the background:
18 - dungeon and craignaw with others behind.jpg

From other reports the descent off Mullwharchar hadn't looked that bad but it was a bit tussocky-er and deeper than I had thought. Dungeon Hill looks like a doddle from the map but was still a lot of work, weaving inbetween large crags and arriving at the wrong top!

Craignaw from Dungeon Hill cairn:
19 - craignaw from dungeon cairn.jpg

Contrarily, despite the journey to Craignaw looking horrendous on the map, it was infact much less work than I had assumed. I opted out of going along the top of Craignairny and Little Craignaw, instead curving around the sides, where I had some fun scrambling inbetween the enormous rock faces. Any ascent you achieve going along the top is effectively lost anyway. There is a very clear grassy rake on the north side that takes you almost perfectly to the summit, although is pretty steep. As a reward, a little lochan to refill at is provided! I was very content with having made it to the final Wigtownshire Donald.

Craignaw cairn with Rhinns of Kells in background:
20 - craignaw cairn with rhinns in background.jpg

Looking back to Mullwharchar and Dungeon Hill:
21 - mullwharchar and dungeon.jpg

Backhill o' Bush bothy, probably not one I will ever visit:
22 - backhill o bush.jpg

My next goal was reaching the start of the path back to the road. I thought about gradually descending over the crags to the tip of Loch Neldricken but despite whatever I have planned in my head, something completely different actually happens and I went steeply down to one of the loch's great beaches.

Down to Loch Neldricken:
23 - down to loch neldricken.jpg

Luckily for me, there was a faint path that skirted the loch and it only took 15 minutes to reach the actual track from there. Although taking much longer than expected, and often in much worse nick than I had expected, the path was very beautiful.

Loch Valley at the beginning of the track:
24 - loch valley.jpg

There was quite a lot of folk on it (most looking for an excuse to get drunk but I digress) but I was more concerned about the tenderness of my blistered, pink shoulders and trying not to make them any worse. After the path oddly gets worse through clumsy rock and huge bracken, I was finally back on a road since 19:00 the day before. The wind had completely died down so I hobbled my way into shade to see how close I was to the bike. Only a very short but ridiculously steep and winding forestry road was in the way, after which I could spot the Merrick climb sign and eventually the bike. I had arrived at almost exactly 15:30, giving me two hours to make the uphill grind back to Barrhill.

The rollercoaster of the Glentrool Lodge road was definitely worse on the way back than the way there, but the flat section from Glentrool to Bargrennan allowed me to recover. I stood at the road junction, drinking my last cup of water, in the knowledge that the next 5km was going to be gradually uphill almost all of the way. Indeed it was, and I did briefly stop at a burn to allow me to swallow again. All that was going through my head was reaching the house on the left that marked the high point of the road, trying to block out the pain in my legs. It arrived faster than I had thought (although not by much) and I blasted back into Barrhill. Upon finding the turnoff to the station, I spotted a public toilet sign. I really do not think such a facility is praised enough. I locked the bike up and sprinted to their laughably small sink to drink what must have been the equivalent of a full bottle of water from it. I ended up seriously needing it as I had strangely memorised the route back up to the station and although not even a kilometre, it took 20 minutes to push myself and the bike to the top and what is certainly the remotest station on the Stranraer line. I dived into the shade and gorged on some more biscuits before the train picked me up. My clothes were coated with sheets and lines of salt from where my sweat had dried and then been sweated through again with black patches. The three hours back to the house were spent thinking of why anyone does hillwalks in the first place.

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Comments: 6

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User avatar
Location: Inver/Gla/D&G
Occupation: Student
Activity: Wanderer
Camera: d7000/iPhone 6/35mm
Ideal day out: Bit lost & sunny

Munros: 3
Corbetts: 10
Grahams: 14
Donalds: 49
Wainwrights: 1
Sub 2000: 31

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