Mullwharchar apparently comes from the Gaelic meall na h-adhairce meaning “big lump of granite sitting in the middle of nowhere” (I’m paraphrasing here). It’s the remoteness rather than its height that makes this a challenge (although it is a Donald). No matter which way in, it’s a slog. Jazz and I did a reconnaissance back in January using the route over the Wolf Slock and thought a trek in from Glentrool would be the better bet. Well, today was the judge – and, guess what, we were right – just.
Our route started along the Merrick tourist path heading for the Culsharg bothy and when we reached the forest road we turned right to take a “path” through the forest along the Buchan Burn. I don’t know how a path qualifies to get on the OS map but this one must have bribed the surveyor because it would be invisible from 4m away. Eventually it emerges onto open moorland beneath the Merrick and at last we got a decent breeze that blew the flies away. Almost immediately we came across a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (it’s an exquisite butterfly and a new species for us). I managed to get a few (out-of-focus) photos before it darted off across the heather.
The path then heads up to a pass before dropping down to Loch Enoch. Here there is a famous rock formation: Grey Man of the Merrick. You have to catch it at the right angle and so is easy to miss. (It’s here.) It makes a decent lunch stop. The path continues onto Loch Enoch which by some accounts is the highest loch of its size in Scotland. Along with its neighbours it has small beaches of golden sand that apparently were prized for sharpening knives.
We skirted around the loch to the Sluice of Loch Enoch where Jazz could get another cooling dip before the climb up Mullwharchar. The hill is strewn with granite boulders and slabs that are easier to walk on than the path-less grass. Near the summit we came across a herd of feral Galloway goats. Jazz decided that they had too many sharp pointy bits for her liking and so kept a respectful distance. The summit is flat with some great erratic boulders and the view is terrific: north along the Ayrshire coast and Arran, west to Ailsa Craig, east to the Rhinns of Kells and south to Curleywee and beyond.
From here we headed south for the wonderfully named Dungeon hill. This too is a Donald and is an easy climb through the usual erratic boulder fields. The view from the summit was even better as we are now above the Silver Flowe: a national nature reserve and infamous for its bog just waiting to suck in unwary travellers. We looked down onto its various lochs: Dry Loch (looking pretty wet to me), and Round Loch and Long Loch of the Dungeon. It’s just a pity that blanket forestry was planted on the Rhinns side of the valley. The summit was also the first time we’d had a mobile phone signal and a bunch of messages from the Missus kept us up to date with the progress of the Wimbledon Ladies’ Final. Bizarre to be so remote and yet in touch with a tennis match.
We were now heading for the Nick of the Dungeon at the foot of Craignaw. This is another Donald and looks a nice hill but will have to wait for another day. The path then drops down towards Loch Neldricken. Judging by the marks in the sand here, this is a place that only the Red Deer visit to drink. We skirted the loch and joined the main “path” heading down the Gairland Burn. This is a rough, eroded, squelchy trudge with plenty of opportunities to twist your ankle. Near Glentrool the bracken is taking over the hill and it’s easy to lose the path and the dog. 1
This was satisfying walk in that a goal for the year was achieved. However, it was hard work as we were following “paths” that even the goats would find rough. The scenery was enhanced by the remoteness and knowledge that very few people pass this way. It was a pity we didn’t have the time (or energy) to include Craignaw but that is something for another time and I’m already working on a route that minimises the walking along the Gairland Burn path!
- So it is best to do walks here in the spring before it becomes too tall. ↩
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