Grahams: Cairnsmore of Fleet, Millfore
Donalds: Cairnsmore of Fleet, Millfore
Date walked: 20/10/2021
Time taken: 7 hours
I set out with the intention of climbing Millfore. With sunset at 6pm, I didn't think there would be enough time to fit in Cairnsmore of Fleet as well, although the prospect was tempting, as I didn't fancy another three-hour round trip to do a mountain climb that might only take three and a half hours.
And I have an excellent head torch.
The traffic around Ayr was so slow that I didn't arrive at the Black Loch car park (starting point for Millfore) until 10.20am, so I thought I'd be making another lengthy trip south to climb the most southerly Graham and Donald.
The weather forecast was for winds gusting up to 35 or 40mph, so I was pleasantly surprised to experience a lovely autumn day.
The Eye sculpture by Colin Rose looked perfectly autumnal reflected in the loch.
I had thought it was made from copper, but it's actually very small bricks, a bit like a conic brick kiln.
I kept stopping to admire the various shades of green and gold.
The path is really a surfaced vehicle track that winds upwards through the forest until the top of Millfore starts to appear at about 3km in.
Eventually the ridge becomes visible, the ground looking rough but not steep.
It's easy to miss the bit where you step off the surfaced track and onto a very faint ATV track. I stopped to chat to a couple who were having a rest at the junction. If I hadn't paused to talk to them I might have missed it.
The ground gets rough from here, but not as rough as the long tussocky potholed hell of some of the Galloway ground! There's only one section where the path disappears, but the way is signalled by cairns, and it's easy to see where the path resumes in the distance.
At the approach to the final summit bump you can head straight up over steep, rough ground, but I chose to follow the track round to the left (west) then turning northeast, for a more gradual ascent.
The views were a bit misty but much better than the cloud and 40 mph gusts forecast by MetOffice.
I decided to take the steep way back down from the summit bump, but the ground was really rough and full of scree – it would have been quicker and easier to take the slightly longer way round to the west. A big cairn looked like the way to go, but it just led me on to steep, rough ground.
After that I made rapid progress back over the rough ground, back to the surfaced track.
I was soon back to the Black Loch, crunching my way through the autumn leaves.
When I got back to the car it was only just after 1.30pm, and Cairnsmore of Fleet was only a 20 minute drive away! I had some lunch, and headed off.
I parked my car in one of the bays in the long parking area, and started crunching through the autumn leaves on the path that leads towards Cairnsmore House, and the hill. I almost missed the turnoff track, as the sign I was expecting to see was no longer there.
I enjoyed some more of the colours and sights of autumn.
Some of the trees had a deliciously eerie mossy appearance.
I got some good views when I finally broke out of the forest, and the path to the top looked fairly straightforward.
As I approached the summit plateau, it clouded over and the rain started to fall, the first rain of the day. It got pretty heavy and I had to stop and put on my waterproofs.
The final section is pretty boggy, and it suddenly felt very misty, chilly and inhospitable. A hazy blob appeared through the mist.
I'd read that there was an ancient cairn at the summit, and I decided to climb it – after all, it was the highest point. As soon as I set foot on it, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. As it turns out, the cairn is a prehistoric burial mound dating back to somewhere between 4000 and 1500BC.
There was also a much smaller cairn, a stone shelter and a trig point, and a monument to the people who died in several air crashes on the hill. Maybe that explained the "haunted" feeling?
I splashed my way back through the wet bog, and soon emerged from the raincloud. Lovely views opened up once again, out to Wigtown Bay. The best photos I took were distorted by a strange misty patch...
... which I'm sure can be explained by meteorological phenomena!
It was already after 5pm, and sunset was just before 6. There was a lovely early evening glow.
As I re-entered the forest there was a distinct mistiness just ahead of me. I wondered if it was an isolated bit of cloud, or even a fire – except there was no smell of burning.
The mist soon disappeared, and although darkness was approaching, and there was a bit of an eerie feeling, it was quite enjoyable.
At a clearing, I watched the sun sink behind the trees.
At the edge of the forest, the lovely evening glow returned.
Walking back through the Cairnsmore estate, I watched the last embers of sunlight dipping through the trees.
Glad to have not even needed to use my headtorch, and feeling really satisfied at the day's Graham/Donald bagging achievements, I set off for home – not realising that my satnav, which seems to have a preference for back roads, was taking me over the narrow, high, bendy and isolated Newton Stewart road. There seemed to be no escape from this road. At one point I pulled over to check my phone in the hope that GoogleMaps might have a better option, but I couldn't even get a signal!
However I did get some great views of the rising Harvest Moon.
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- Activity: Hill Bagger
- Pub: Crask Inn
- Mountain: Beinn Alligin
- Gear: Map
- Member: Scottish Hillwalkers, Mountaineering Scotland, MTA
- Ideal day out: A great scramble with clear views
- Munros: 200
- Corbetts: 59
- Grahams: 36
- Donalds: 56
- Sub 2000: 13
- Islands: 6
- Filter reports
- Trips: 1
- Distance: 24.4 km
- Ascent: 1217m
- Grahams: 2
- Donalds: 2
- Trips: 2
- Distance: 41 km
- Ascent: 600m
- Joined: Aug 21, 2015
- Last visited: Jan 25, 2022
- Total posts: 5 | Search posts