Cairns of Queensberry

Forest of Ae from Wee Queensberry

Queensberry is a Donald and was the last in the Thornhill area that we needed to do.  It looked pretty dull from neighbouring hills so it was left.  Mistake. Although the hill itself isn’t great, the walk has lots of interest – in particular the cairns. It is also on the edge of the lovely Forest of Ae and we got great views over this expanse of wilderness in the late afternoon sunshine.

Capel Burn looking towards Earncraig Hill

Burleywhag bothy

We started the walk at Mitchellslacks: a farm at the end of a long narrow road at the back of Thornhill. 1 We parked in a small lay-by beside a Scottish Rights of Way signpost.  We didn’t follow this path but instead branched off to the left at the farm and followed the track beside the Capel Burn heading for Burleywhag bothy.  This tiny place nestles beneath Earnscraig and Gana Hills and is maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association.  Inside it was dry and inviting: if I got caught out in these hills this would be ideal. We had lunch here in complete silence (apart from a mad Springer devouring a sandwich) and then headed for Queensberry.

Jazz on summit of Queensberry

The climb to the summit is straightforward.  The view from the top is nice, especially over to the Lowther Hills to the east.  There is a nice cairn at the top with shelter from the wind. Although we hadn’t booked it turns out there were no other diners so we managed to get the table with the view.

On heading down towards Wee Queensberry we started noticing lots of cairns.  However, these aren’t your usual “just put another stone on top if you pass” cairns: if these were exhibited at the Edinburgh Festival they’d make someone a fortune.  One in particular was an engineering and artistic masterpiece: see the one on the left below.

Jazz and cairn on Queensberry

Cairn on Wee Queensberry

Jazz at cairn on High Church

We headed over Wee Queensberry (Jazz can’t resist a trig point) and then towards High Church, again with nice cairns. Here we found the source of the material. There is a hanging valley filled with glacial spoil ideal for making nice cairns. But there was more to entertain a young Springer: game birds. Lower down were feeders for Partridge but up on the tops near the forest edge we have the real thing: Black Grouse and lots of them. Jazz managed to find four females. It was great to see them doing so well here.

Shieling at The Law

By this point the sun was getting low in the sky giving a great light, but in half-an-hour it would be gone and the temperature would plummet. So man+dog started heading down for the shieling at The Law and the track back to the car.


  1. When we left I noticed a “No Dogs” sign – just as well I didn’t see this at the start or it would have put us in a bad mood.
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