The Merrick: overcoming aches and pains

Corbetts: Merrick
Donalds: Merrick

Date walked: 17/01/2019

Time taken: 4.15 hours

Distance: 13.5km

Ascent: 880m

I’ve got sore big toes, squeaking knees and I now know how Andy Murray feels when he puts on his socks.

But, what do you expect when you haven’t set foot on a hill for over six months?

Fortunately, The Merrick is my go-to hill to kick-start the year. I can see it from the village and a dark early morning departure in the winter isn’t needed. And, as the drive home is barely an hour, I don’t have to unfold stiff legs from the car to the chorus of, “well, it’s your own fault” from the other half.

It had been two or three years since I’d ventured up Glen Trool and approached the Corbett from the south; the quaintly named Little Spear had been the route from Kirriereoch previously. As a result, the walk to the cottage at Culsharg was surprisingly open. Plenty of forestry clearing has clearly taken place and a scattering of rowans are beginning to establish themselves. In time, I’m sure it become a far more attractive walk-in, with more open views to Benyellary and The Merrick itself to be enjoyed.

Benyellary above Culsharg and The Merrick in the background - above Glen Buchan

The inevitable Christmas and New Year man-flu had taken its toll on my attempts to keep fit and make regular visits to the gym, so I wasn’t looking forward to the slog up through the forest. How well I felt on reaching the deer fence, and then the wall above, would be a test of how much catching up was needed. It’s always useful to have a familiar work-out against which we can monitor advancing old age.

Above a sort of snow line the fine line of a wall leads to Benyellary

In the end, I was pleased at being able to reach the wall and carry on climbing beside it to the jumbled cairn on Benyellary. Only the cold and biting wind spurred me on after the briefest of rests, and I wasn’t experiencing the puffing and blowing I’d anticipated.

You have to go a long way to better the views from Benyellary: south across the Irish Sea - to the Isle of Man and Ireland, and across the Solway Firth - to the Lake District. Looking north along the sweeping Neive of the Spit to the dome of The Merrick itself is simply alluring: there’s only one way to go.

The Neive of the Spit and The Merrick from Benyellary

If it wasn’t for the distant haze, it was almost an “I can see our house from here” moment on reaching the trig point on The Merrick. Alisa Craig, Arran, north up the bay: Ayr and beyond, and beyond that ...

A sandwich, a banana and bar of chocolate and ... well, there was time to appreciate being on the top of a hill again before the shivers set in.

Summit shelter and trig point on The Merrick - with Kirriereoch and Shalloch on Minnoch behind

I decided against returning to Glen Trool over Buchan Hill, preferring to stay high as long as possible, even if it meant shunning my normal choice of a circular route. The main purpose of the day had been achieved: half a year’s worth of cobwebs had been blown away.

Despite everything that had kept me from the hills since last July, they were still there and able to reinvigorate and replenish my mojo. A half-hearted winter may be just round the corner, but I’m already itching to get out again - provided my toes have recovered and I’ve been able to put my socks on.

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Comments: 1

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old danensian

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Location: Ayrshire
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