Snow dodging around the Galloway hills

Corbetts: Shalloch on Minnoch
Donalds: Alhang, Blacklorg Hill, Shalloch on Minnoch
Sub 2000s: Craiglee (Ayrshire), Criffel

Date walked: 18/03/2018

Time taken: 10.1 hours

Distance: 40km

Ascent: 2270m

Corbetts: Shalloch on Minnoch.
Other Donalds and New Donalds: Meikledodd Hill, Blacklorg Hill, Alwhat, Alhang, Caerloch Dhu.
Sub 2k Marilyns: Craiglee, Criffel
Date: 17 and 18/03/2018.
Distance: 40km.
Ascent: 2270m.
Time: 10 hours, 10 minutes.
Weather: Windy! Some sun (especially on Saturday), very cold, ground hard.

Time to drive to the hills again after 3 consecutive weeks of using bike and public transport. That meant another visit to the south of Scotland. Galloway looked to be clear of pesky weather warnings (now getting bored of snow low down), and also to have some sunshine, so I decided on a bothy trip of some sort. Plenty of unclimbed hills down that way, so I had more possibilities than I would be able to manage in a weekend. To be honest, with the rain lashing down on Friday afternoon, I nearly opted for something a bit closer that would allow me to sleep in my own bed (the Howgills or the Cheviots were an option), but I'm glad I stuck with my weather forecast in the end.

While Saturday morning in Sunderland wasn't exactly pleasant, the snow still wasn't sticking by the time I had picked my car up, and by mid-morning, I was across the Pennines and heading into Scotland and a bit of sunshine. First stop, I decided, would be up the Water of Ken, where I could get to a couple of Donalds that I'd missed out in the area between Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and Blackcraig Hill.

Saturday 17th - Water of Ken hills: 14km; 710m ascent; 3 hours, 30 minutes.

I can't say I was over-excited about these hills, but as I drove up the glen, it was much more varied and scenic than I remembered it when I had been up for a circuit of the Cairnsmore and Windy Standard previously. There was sun on the hills and they looked a lot more shapely than some of the Pennines, so things were off to a good start. I parked at the forestry parking area and walked up to Lorg (shown as a road, but actually a gravel track). As there was a cold wind, I decided to follow a track up the Lorg Burn rather than get straight onto the hill to stay a bit more sheltered.

Water of Ken map.gpx Open map in GPS Planner  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Lorg Burn

Ewe Hill

I left the track and went steeply up the side of Meikledodd Hill to reach the fence on the ridgeline. From here it was easy walking to the summit, with good views to the Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. Looking west, there were many shades of green and brown with the light changing all the time.

Across Moorbock Hill and Windy Standard to the Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

Southeast from Meikledodd Hill

Afton Reservoir and the new extension to the Windy Standard windfarm

It was an easy wander along to Blacklorg Hill - probably quite boggy normally, but today with a hard frost, there were no wet feet. An extension to the Windy Standard windfarm meant that a new powerline was being run between Blacklorg and Meikledodd, the construction track snaking up from the Afton reservoir and over the col.

Blackcraig Hill from Blacklorg Hill

On the ridge to Meikledodd Hill

I retraced my steps towards Meikledodd then contoured the summit, heading over what looked like it would be a very boggy area for Alwhat. More easy walking in the strong wind led to Alhang - while the views were way better than I could have hoped for, the chill of the easterly didn't encourage hanging around!

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn from Alhang

Looking west from Alhang

A quick descent over Mid Rig (on the edge of which the wind was at its worst) had me down to lower levels in no time. I was able to have a quick lunch break before picking up a forest ride and track which took me back to the car.

Dropping down over Mid Rig

Back near the car

I wasn't expecting much from this little group but in frozen conditions, it had been a pleasant little walk. The suggestions of snow flurries and icy roads in the weather forecast never came to anything that actually settled, and the driving conditions were great - no need to worry about getting stuck up any of these remote glens! Funnily enough, identical weather to my last visit to this glen almost 10 years ago to the day.

Craiglee: 5km; 360m; 1 hour, 10 min.

Clennoch would be the obvious bothy to stay in round here, but it has no fireplace, so would've been a bit miserable this evening. Instead, I fancied Tunskeen, which is on the edge of my favourite part of the Southern Uplands, so I headed off down the Loch Doon road, the scenery seeming tropical from the inside of the car. Before going to the bothy, I decided to make a short detour up Craiglee - a hill I had been intending to go up on my stupid 2014 backpack of most of the Galloway hills. By that time, I had run out of energy and it was all I could do to plod out from Tunskeen to Dalmellington along the road, never mind go up Craiglee :lol: .

Craiglee map.gpx Open map in GPS Planner  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Loch Doon from the dam

Loch Doon Castle and the Rhinns of Kells

There is a signposted walk up the bottom section of Craiglee, which seems to peter out higher up, a faint path through the heather taking over. This actually leads up the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch which has good views over Loch Doon to the Rhinns of Kells. It was quite a rough wander from here to Craiglee itself, and I was again glad of the hard frost.

South down Loch Doon

South down Loch Doon

Although not quite late enough for sunset, there was a good light on the top and I loved the views down into the wilds of the Awful Hand. Definitely a part of the Southern Uplands that feels like it could be in NW Scotland somewhere. Again, little hanging about due to the battering, freezing wind, and I mostly retraced my steps, skipping out the Wee Hill of Craigmulloch via a heathery traverse.

The Awful Hand - Mullwharchar and the Merrick

Merrick from Craiglee

NE across Loch Doon to the Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

Cairnsmore and Black Craig/Coran of Portmark

Loch Finlas from Craiglee

Sunset over Loch Riecawr and Shalloch on Minnoch

SW from Craiglee: Merrick to Shalloch on Minnoch

Awful Hand hills from Craiglee


Craiglee summit and Loch Doon

West from Craiglee

Back at the car, I was going to just swap rucksacks and start walking from there, as the forest drive through to the Bridge of Stinchar isn't officially open until May. However, I thought I'd see how far down the road I could get, and was rewarded with open barriers 8) .

Tunskeen Bothy: 5km; 100m; 1 hour

I probably could've driven most of the way to the bothy, but logging lorries had churned the track a little, and I was mindful of the £1000 excess on my hire car, so I stopped at the playpark by Loch Riecawr and walked from there. Still halved my walk-in, which was nice. Although the light went from twilight to dark, it was a nice evening (aside from the cold wind) and I didn't use my torch until I was trying to avoid falling in the burn right next to the bothy. There were lights on and I wondered what sort of crowd would be in.

I hit the jackpot as there were only 2 occupants, and one of them was Sparky. I knew I'd be guaranteed a nice warm evening now - Sparky doesn't do bothy fires by halves :lol: . My 5kg of coal, another 15kg plus god knows how many logs were dispensed with in pretty quick succession. More than made up for last week's miserable fire in Wainhope!


Before the night was out, another 9 folk piled into the bothy, and I was glad to be on a nice sleeping platform, as the floor was filled. There wasn't a great deal of sleep to be had (I think I managed 3 or 4 hours) and since there didn't look to be much space to spread out my stove, I opted to get up and onto the hill early while everyone else was still slumbering. I made it onto the hill just before 7:30am, planning to have breakfast back at the car.

Tunskeen the following morning

Sunday 18th - Shalloch on Minnoch and Caerloch Dhu: 10km; 550 m; 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Another reason I had chosen to stay here was the chance to pick up a stray New Donald. Caerloch Dhu isn't worth an ascent in its own right, but combined with the good side of Shalloch on Minnoch from Tunskeen, it would make a good short walk.

Shalloch map.gpx Open map in GPS Planner  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

A bit cloudier and windier today, and still fecking freezing, but things felt promising as I set off from Tunskeen. The way to the Shalloch is typically rough Galloway terrain lower down, something that the frost helped with a lot, but still couldn't smooth out completely. However, much of my ascent towards the Nick of Carclach was mostly assisted by the easterly wind. On my 2014 trip I had camped there on a lovely evening rather than descend to Tunskeen. This time I cut onto the S ridge of the Shalloch a little above the Nick, noting that the icy patches on the ground could be entertaining when combined with the wind.

Looking back to Tunskeen

Kirriereoch Hill and Shalloch on Minnoch

Loch Macaterick and the Rhinns of Kells

Kirriereoch Hill

Kirriereoch and Tarfessock

Rhinns of Kells from Shalloch on Minnoch

Still, the wind added to the wild feeling, and looking south from here towards the Merrick is pretty wild anyway. There was no pausing on the summit, from where I was blown onto the lower western top which contains the trig point. Caerloch Dhu could be seen spread out underneath - didn't look very exciting, it's fair to say!

Although I couldn't pick it up with the camera, there was sunshine over Ayr and Troon, and Ailsa Craig was just about distinguishable through the murk.

South from Shalloch on Minnoch

Shalloch summit

Trig point which isn’t he summit

Caerloch Dhu

The descent to Caerloch Dhu was rapid, across large patches of hard snow. I didn't have my axe and crampons again (story of my winter, but they are in a cupboard in Inverness :roll: ) - they weren't necessary, as it was possible to kick into the snow for some purchase, however I did need to face into the wind when doing this otherwise I would've just been blown down it on my arse.

Craiglee from Caerloch Dhu

With the hard ground, Caerloch Dhu was probably as appealing as it was ever going to be, and I was soon making my way across the rough ground to the east of it to pick up the Craigencoof Burn. Some lovely colours and views of the NE aspect of Shalloch on Minnoch here before I popped out on the track about a mile down from Tunskeen. A further 45 minutes saw me back at the car.

Shalloch on Minnoch and the Big Meowl

Shalloch from Craigencoof Burn

Merrick and Shalloch from Loch Riecawr

Obligatory middle-of-nowhere playpark photo

It was nice to warm up at the car, where I thought about my next move. My plan had been to pick off the Donalds that extend north of Corserine, but I felt like I'd already had my fill of wind today - it was stronger than yesterday, and there looked to be more hard snow up there than I had just encountered on Shalloch on Minnoch. Perhaps if I'd just walked straight out from the bothy I'd have gone for it.

What to do instead? I had screenshots of a few quick Marilyns NW of Dumfries, but I had time for a slightly bigger one - seemed like the perfect chance to go up Criffel, which I have fancied for a long time but never been anywhere near. The adjacent Bainloch Hill looked nice too so I decided to do that first. Unfortunately the maps are rather out of date for tracks in this area, and my intended route of ascent passed through a deep park. I'm not sure about the legitimacy of locking off this area and preventing access, but the owner described what sounded like a sensible alternative to me, so I went to try that.

The track wasn't on the map, and I couldn't immediately find anywhere to park for the alternative route. I'm sure it would've been easy enough, but my lack of sleep was causing a lack of motivation, and in the end I couldn't be bothered getting out of the car again in the cold wind. I decided to just head straight for Criffel, which was a straightforward route at least (Doesn't sound like me - I must have been tired!).

Criffel: 6km; 520m; 2 hours.

By the time I had parked up under Criffel, the sunshine seemed to have vanished. It is a steep but simple ascent from the Ardwall carpark, with a good path within the forestry area, then a swamp outside of it. Again, the swamp was frozen, so it was probably way more pleasant than usual.

Criffel map.gpx Open map in GPS Planner  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Mouth of the River Nith from Criffel

Although I didn't pass anyone on the path, I could see many figures on the skyline. Turned out I was going up at the tail end of the annual Criffel hill race. The last runner had departed by the time I reached the summit cairn, but a trio of cold-looking marshalls were still there, about to leave. While the views were limited today (a shame as I was hoping to see the Lake District, having often spotted Criffel when looking the other way), there was a bit of a glow in the sea out to the west, and some interesting looking coastline.

Towards Dumfries

West across Auchencairn Bay and Rough Firth

West from Criffel summit

To vary things, I did a short circuit over Knockendoch before crashing through heather to rejoin the upward path. It had been pretty breezy on the top, but nowhere near as bad as earlier on.

Knockendoch and the River Nith

Mouth of the Nith from Knockendoch

North across the Mabie Forest

Some more small Marilyns could've been included, but since the weather was duller now, I opted for some strong coffee in Gretna and an earlyish drive home (got home at 7pm, so not that early really), finding snow and ice back on the east coast. Quite a pick 'n mix weekend with some great moments and a welcome return to the Galloway Forest area.

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Comments: 4

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Attachment(s) Date walked: 11/03/2018
Distance: 8.5km
Ascent: 400m
Comments: 1
Views: 96

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Attachment(s) Wainwrights: Carl Side, Dodd, Latrigg, Long Side, Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man, Ullock Pike
Hewitts: Carl Side, Long Side, Lonscale Fell, Skiddaw, Skiddaw Little Man
Date walked: 04/03/2018
Distance: 32.5km
Ascent: 1840m
Comments: 7
Views: 314

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Attachment(s) Hewitts: Burnhope Seat, Chapelfell Top, Dead Stones, Flinty Fell, Great Stony Hill, Killhope Law, The Dodd, Three Pikes
Date walked: 24/02/2018
Distance: 36km
Ascent: 1045m
Comments: 6
Views: 198

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Attachment(s) Munros: Meall a'Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each
Date walked: 11/02/2018
Distance: 17.5km
Ascent: 1180m
Comments: 8
Views: 440

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Attachment(s) Corbetts: Hart Fell
Grahams: Capel Fell
Donalds: Cape Law, Capel Fell, Hart Fell, Herman Law, Loch Fell, Swatte Fell, Under Saddle Yoke, Whitehope Heights
Date walked: 04/02/2018
Distance: 36km
Ascent: 2440m
Comments: 2
Views: 335

Going soft - a Ramble through Amble

Attachment(s) Date walked: 27/01/2018
Distance: 32km
Ascent: 170m
Comments: 3
Views: 243

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Attachment(s) Wainwrights: Fleetwith Pike
Hewitts: Fleetwith Pike
Date walked: 21/01/2018
Distance: 22.5km
Ascent: 1065m
Comments: 4
Views: 345

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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
Attachment(s) Grahams: Carn na h-Easgainn
Date walked: 06/01/2018
Distance: 12km
Ascent: 330m
Views: 17

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Attachment(s) Grahams: Creag Dhubh Mhor
Date walked: 02/01/2018
Distance: 26km
Ascent: 1470m
Comments: 4
Views: 404


User avatar
Location: Inverness/Sunderland
Occupation: Civil Engineer
Interests: Walking, Scrambling, Cycling, Mountain Biking
Munro rounds: 1
Corbett rounds: 1
Graham rounds: 1

Munros: 282
Corbetts: 222
Grahams: 219
Donalds: 58
Wainwrights: 93
Hewitts: 222
Sub 2000: 195

Filter reports



Trips: 10
Distance: 263 km
Ascent: 12210m
Munros: 3
Corbetts: 2
Grahams: 3
Donalds: 11
Sub2000s: 2
Hewitts: 14
Wainwrights 9


Trips: 59
Distance: 1009.8 km
Ascent: 54765m
Munros: 27
Corbetts: 11
Grahams: 9
Sub2000s: 36
Hewitts: 23
Wainwrights 9


Trips: 55
Distance: 1132.8 km
Ascent: 59985m
Munros: 18
Corbetts: 20
Grahams: 20
Donalds: 4
Sub2000s: 33


Trips: 50
Distance: 1009 km
Ascent: 58815m
Munros: 10
Corbetts: 18
Grahams: 35
Donalds: 5
Sub2000s: 26


Trips: 52
Distance: 1143 km
Ascent: 56245m
Munros: 11
Corbetts: 23
Grahams: 43
Donalds: 33
Sub2000s: 23


Trips: 45
Distance: 1121.2 km
Ascent: 52310m
Munros: 9
Corbetts: 23
Grahams: 36
Sub2000s: 26


Trips: 61
Distance: 1911.9 km
Ascent: 64050m
Corbetts: 8
Grahams: 16
Sub2000s: 19
Hewitts: 95
Wainwrights 16


Trips: 49
Distance: 867.2 km
Ascent: 45165m
Munros: 5
Corbetts: 21
Grahams: 31
Sub2000s: 11
Hewitts: 18


Trips: 45
Distance: 987.3 km
Ascent: 49290m
Munros: 7
Corbetts: 33
Grahams: 32
Sub2000s: 10
Hewitts: 4


Trips: 43
Distance: 741 km
Ascent: 35725m
Munros: 8
Corbetts: 35
Grahams: 14
Sub2000s: 5
Hewitts: 1


Trips: 47
Distance: 540.5 km
Ascent: 37865m
Munros: 15
Corbetts: 22
Grahams: 18
Donalds: 3
Sub2000s: 6


Trips: 40
Distance: 471.5 km
Ascent: 30550m
Munros: 22
Corbetts: 19
Grahams: 7
Donalds: 3
Sub2000s: 4


Trips: 36
Distance: 472 km
Ascent: 32785m
Munros: 39
Corbetts: 6
Grahams: 4
Hewitts: 1


Trips: 29
Distance: 464 km
Ascent: 27635m
Munros: 29
Corbetts: 7
Grahams: 1
Sub2000s: 2
Hewitts: 5
Wainwrights 8


Trips: 43
Distance: 839.4 km
Ascent: 47975m
Munros: 60
Corbetts: 6
Grahams: 2
Donalds: 2
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 1


Trips: 45
Distance: 798 km
Ascent: 51905m
Munros: 68
Corbetts: 5
Hewitts: 5


Trips: 47
Distance: 634 km
Ascent: 42245m
Munros: 46
Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 3
Hewitts: 24


Trips: 61
Distance: 738.5 km
Ascent: 59035m
Munros: 45
Corbetts: 1
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 52
Wainwrights 23


Trips: 51
Distance: 512.5 km
Ascent: 42190m
Munros: 19
Corbetts: 2
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 55
Wainwrights 27


Trips: 47
Distance: 504 km
Ascent: 43786m
Munros: 23
Corbetts: 1
Hewitts: 49
Wainwrights 4


Trips: 37
Distance: 378 km
Ascent: 33525m
Munros: 12
Hewitts: 46


Trips: 43
Distance: 512.1 km
Ascent: 44205m
Munros: 19
Corbetts: 4
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 2
Hewitts: 62
Wainwrights 6


Trips: 40
Distance: 476.5 km
Ascent: 40740m
Munros: 12
Corbetts: 2
Hewitts: 74
Wainwrights 17


Trips: 2

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