We’d tried to walk these hills last year but a strong wind made me worried that Jazz’s ears would catch a strong gust and she’d end up on the Antrim coast. Now we were back, but still the wind was pretty strong. Only later did I discover that Curleywee comes from the Gaelic cor na gaoith meaning “point of the wind”. So it would be a windy day – but the good thing is: it would be a warm wind! Incredible to remember that only a fortnight ago we were in multiple layers in the snow: today it was shorts+T-shirt with SPF15 liberally applied.
We’d parked at the Bruce Stone car-park at the end of Glentrool. This being Good Friday the top car-park was already full of people heading for the Merrick – it’s great how it acts as a magnet sucking the tourists away, leaving the other hills free for us to enjoy. 1 So very quickly we leave the hordes and head down into the sublime Glentrool Oak Woods. The place was alive with birds (including Nuthatch, Cuckoo, and assorted warblers) – honestly, if you were flying north and spotted this place would you go any further?
We follow the SUW/cycle path up to the pass at the head of the Glenhead Burn where we catch sight of Loch Dee. Just past the 7 Stane Axe-head with its runes we head up White Hill via the Corse Knowe of White Laggan (this is a long way of saying “bloody steep”). Today was pretty hot and it was here that Jazz started getting seriously interested in any hill pool for a refreshing dip.
After the steep climb we get to the top of White Hill and its bunch of feral goats. Luckily these guys stink and Jazz’s early-warning system picked them up giving me time to get her back on the lead. From here it’s an easy climb up to the lunch-stop on the summit of Curleywee. Although it was pretty hazy we still got great views over to Millfore and Cairngarroch, Cairnsmore of Dee, and Craiglee – all old friends.
Now we head over for Lamachan Hill via Bennanbrack. This looked a bit nasty for someone like me with no head for heights, but it turns out the path skirts the crags and even gave us a bit of shelter from the wind. Lamachan itself is a bit on the dull side, despite being the highest of the day’s climbs. It is a broad summit with the occasional boulder to liven things up a bit – it does have some nice crags away to the south-west and a nice chocolate-stop cairn, but nothing special.
From the summit we were heading back along the Scars of Carnine before dipping down to the Nick of the Lochans 2 beneath Mulldonoch. We dropped down through the boulder field taking care to avoid breaking an ankle. In the rocks I noticed a Weasel poking up from a rock staring at us. I can’t imagine it gets many human or canine visitors. When we reached the first lochan the team decided it was time for a cooling dip. Jazz headed straight in to give the sediment a good stir, while I stuck to paddling the feet and calves 3
After a refreshing dip we decided to head back to the SUW at NX435790 by following the Sheil Burn as it follows various waterfalls. We like this burn: we always stop at this point for a snack on the track and wanted to see the waterfalls. They were great with cascades dropping into lovely pools: you expect to see shampoo commercials getting filmed. Sadly, no cameras were around as a peat-encrusted Spaniel jumped in and ruined the purity of the water. Unfortunately the terrain was awful with lots of “Doreen” grass, heather, and old tree stumps and branches to make progress a real pain. Not recommended.
This just left us with an hour or so back to the car. It doesn’t take that long, but one of the team wanted to play with assorted sticks and go paddling in the Glenhead Burn (again). This was a surprisingly tough walk once we leave the SUW. The hills don’t have great paths and they are steep enough to give the knees and calves a bit of a workout. It was unfortunate that the weather was a bit hazy as the views weren’t great, but this is still a lovely part of the world.
- Yip, total hill snobbery – but we like to get a bit of solitude and it is very depressing arriving at a hill car-park to find it looking like Sauchiehall Street. ↩
- Who could resist a name like this? ↩
- Although the air temperature was in the 20s, the water temperature was much cooler – still, “invigorating” as my wife would say – but then she swims in Loch Lomond in March! We have words for people like her… ↩
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