The first walk of the year, so something not too demanding to break us in. These are the middle hills in the “Awful Hand” stuck between Shalloch-on-Minnoch (highest in Ayrshire at 768m) and The Merrick (highest in south-west Scotland at 843m). (You’ve just got to love the names of the hills in this part of the world).
We followed a forestry track and parked at NX389881 in the middle of no-where. Superb. This walk is a nice circuit that we did clockwise onto Tarfessock and then Kirriereoch and then back to the start. The first section is along the edge of the forest onto the long ridge leading onto Tarfessock. With the ground nice and icy this was easy walking.
Tarfessock has a nice drop away to the east giving great views over to the magically-named Rhinns of Kells. Now we head south-east and straight up Kirriereoch. The view of a lochan between the two hills was superb: it looked like a puddle of Mercury glinting in the sunlight 1 The north face of Kirriereoch had a lot of hard snow at a steep angle and while Jazz could bolt across on her four-foot drive, I had more problems: without crampons I’d have a fast trip to the boulders at the bottom and ankle-crunching fun – not something you want in the Galloway Hills with no phone reception. So discretion+valour prevailed and I took a non-snowy detour back down the hill, much to the chagrin of the canine.
Eventually we got up onto Kirriereoch and the view was just unbelievable: stretching across all the hills of Galloway to the Lakes and southern Highlands. The closest is The Merrick and its Spear which looked close and inviting: for another day. After a great lunch-stop we head west along the ridge heading for the Carnirock Stone – one of the big erratic boulders you get in these hills. This is easy walking with stunning views. Half-way along I noticed something big flying along the ridge. It passed without a single wing-beat: a juvenile Golden Eagle! As it hugged the Ayrshire side of the ridge this was a wonderful addition to my Ayrshire birding list: number 200 to be exact 2.
From the Carnirock Stone we drop down and cross the Cross Burn and then through the marshy fringe of the forest back to the car. This was seriously squelchy even on a icy day: as luck would have it I was pretty dry until within 5m of the car when I ended up knee-deep in a forestry ditch: Jazz laughed; Anglo-Saxon expletives were used.
- If you are my age then can probably remember when school Chemistry let you play with seriously fun chemicals. One of these was Mercury. I remember sticking my hands into a beaker of the stuff – totally unique. Obviously the whole thing left me as mad as a hatter but it was a cool sensation. ↩
- As if anyone counts or cares? – Jazz. ↩
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