Sanquhar to Muirkirk Drove Road

After spending yesterday avoiding the Royal Wedding, today was spent avoiding the post-wedding analysis. So with warm, sunny weather in store Jazz and I headed off to Sanquhar to walk the drove road over to Muirkirk. I’ve always been a sucker for the historical and love the idea of going where people have been walking over the centuries. The only problem was that this old road is pretty dull with little to recommend it other than the sense of achievement of walking 25km in hot weather.

Jazz heading for Fingland

Sanquhar and Mennock hills

We took the train to Sanquhar to boost our green credentials and then headed through Crawick to get to the start of the hill road. The Scottish Rights of Way Society thoughtfully have a sign showing the way. The first 8km is on road: easy to walk on but hard on the feet/paws.   The road climbs up from the Nith valley and you get a nice view back towards Sanquhar and the hills above Wanlockhead and the Mennock Pass.  This road ends at Fingland – a place whose sole claim to interest is being at the end of this road, and has obviously seen better days.  Here the path splits: one heading off for Wanlockhead and our one heading north for Muirkirk.

Aircraft vapour-trails

Yes, it's pretty dull

Threeshire Hill

It was a beautiful day but a bit on the warm side for a Spaniel, so every watering-hole was used to cool off and drink.  The moorland up here is (how to put this delicately) dull. The hills aren’t high or shapely, and the moorland itself is devoid of wildlife 1  To pass the time we try to ID the various jets heading for North America and leaving vapour trails in my nice blue sky.  There was something vaguely interesting in this part: Threeshire Hill, where Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Dumfriesshire meet.  Unfortunately, the best bit about this hill is the name.

Drove road around Stony Hill

Erosion on the drove road

The drove road itself does have a feel of history about it, but it is suffering a bit from quad-bikes eroding away the track leaving big ruts. In the worst places the track is over 10m wide where the bikes have tried to go round the worst ruts only to spread them wider.  I don’t imagine the hooves of all those cattle and sheep that have passed this way made as much mess.  However, we soon reach the pass beside Wardlaw Hill and start heading down to Muirkirk. Cairn Table dominates the view 2  and the heather looks nice but again we found no wildlife at all.

I found the area around Muirkirk much more interesting.  The place is just heaving with industrial archaeology and has lots of interesting paths and artefacts with information boards. 3 An example is the memorial to John Loudon Macadam, “the famous road-maker”. It seemed ironic that the bit of this walk I enjoyed least was along the tar-maced road at the start.  So it was a lovely day and the walk gave a nice sense of achievement because of its length, but I won’t be herding any livestock along it in the future (or Springer Spaniels for that matter).

Kev’s Royal Wedding Analysis

It is just me or did anyone else think that the best bit about the whole thing was the fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight?   Then the commentator rudely started speaking as the Merlin engines were in full song – and so spoiling the best music of the day.


  1. The best we could come up with was a few Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and a Buzzard who obviously hadn’t set his sat-nav properly.  This area should be heaving with Grouse, Hen Harriers (and there are CCTV notices to say this is so but wildlife crime is a big problem), and the upland stuff like Curlew and Golden Plover. No sign of them today.
  2. This was one of Jazz’s first walks with me and sticks in the memory because she ate my tuna mayo sandwich I’d put down to take a photo of an Aussie visitor at the summit.  Kev’s Second Rule: never offer to take photos for others – your dog will just eat your lunch.
  3. Which the faithful reader will know is something I just can’t resist going to read and then in the future boring anyone who is within ear-shot.
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