The Rhinns of Kells

Awful Hand, Mullwharchar and Wolf Slock

There is something about the name “Rhinns of Kells” that is just lovely.  A quick check through my beautifully arranged and catalogued photo collection shows that it is 5 days short of four years since I last walked on this ridge and it was long overdue for a repeat. Last time I did it on my own 1, but today I had two companions: Stuart and her Jazzness.  Both had been making noises about doing “The Rhinns” for months now and today was the day.  This time was special because we were aiming to do the whole thing from ’Coran down to ’Meikle in one jaunt.

Tree at lead mine with Cairnsgarroch beyond

From past experience I knew that the southernmost hill Meikle Lump lived up to its name and would be much easier to descend than climb, which meant a north-to-south traverse would be the logical choice.  This was confirmed when the forecast showed a nice high pressure system blowing a stiff NW breeze so we’d have the wind to our backs.  Clearly our detailed planning worked because we were treated to one of the best days I’ve had in D&G.

Jazz looking down on Loch Doon

We parked at Green Well of Scotland just north of Carsphairn and headed up past the old lead mines at Garryhorn.  The path then heads up onto Coran of Portmark for the start of the range.  Once on the ridge the view just explodes. Just below us is Loch Doon and today it looked blue, which is a strangely odd colour for a Scottish loch.  The weather was just gorgeous and we could spot hills across half the country.  It was only towards Northern Ireland that we had a bit of haze, but even here we could see the Antrim Hills floating on the horizon.  We could easily spot Paps of Jura,  Ben More, the Lakeland Fells, and Ben Lomond among all the others.

Dungeon Hills, Loch Enoch and the Merrick from Carlin's Cairn

Loch Doon and Craiglee from Meaul

Our walk over The Rhinns would take in eight tops (from north to south:   ’Coran (623m),  Bow (613m),  ’Meaul’ (695m),   (807m),  Corserine (814m),  Millfire (716m),  ’Milldown’ (738m) and  ’Meikle (746m)).  Seven of these are Donalds and Jazz would get three new trig points to add to her collection.  I had mentioned to Stuart that the section after  Corserine was a downhill saunter to give the lad a bit of reassurance 2.  It turns out that a bit of work is required! 3  We had booked an east-facing table on Carlin's Cairn for lunch and this proved an excellent choice: the stiff breeze was keeping the bugs away and the view was stunning as the hill drops away steeply so you have the world at your feet.  Amazingly we spotted a group of other walkers – unheard of in D&G – but they were only doing a part of the ridge, unlike pure athletes such as ourselves.

Mullwharchar, Merrick and Wolf Slock from Meaul

This area of Galloway has three parallel ranges of hills lying in a north-south orientation: The Awful Hand (taking in The Merrick, Kirriereoch and Shalloch on Minnoch), the Dungeon Hills (with Craignaw, Mullwharchar and The Wolf Slock) and the Rhinns of Kells.  All old friends, and it was great to see them looking wonderful on such a great day.  While we were admiring this, we realised we were under surveillance: an adult Golden Eagle had us in view.  This is one big bird!  As we watched, it closed its wings and accelerated into Ayrshire airspace (and hence onto my county year list!) and disappeared.  Magic.

Looking south from Corserine

Loch Dungeon from Millfire

Grasses in lochan, Milldown

We reached the high-point of the day at the trig-point on Corserine.  This is only 30m shorter than Merrick and so makes it one of the top five highest hills in south-west Scotland.  But boy is it dull: you can see why they put a trig-point here just to give it something interesting.  Unfortunately it is about now that Stuart realises that my “it’s all downhill from Corserine” motivational chat was from the drawer marked “bullshit”.  Dissension in the ranks ensued but was quickly dealt with by Sergeant-Major Jazz who confiscated his paté sandwich as punishment.  The last three tops are not too bad and do give great views down onto Loch Dungeon set in the Forrest Estate.

Kev and Jazz on Meikle Millyea

Looking towards Clatteringshaws from Meikle Millyea

As we get to the last top at Meikle Millyea we realise that we are still pretty high and the forest track we are heading for seems immediately below us: this means the knees are in for a bashing.  However, once again, the view changes and this time we are looking south towards Cairnsmore of Dee and Millfore with the Lake District and Solway beyond.  While the human members of the team are exhausted, the canine is off chasing Red Grouse across the hill – where does she get the energy? 4   We quickly descend over Meikle Lump (including one section on all fours holding onto heather) to reach the forest track and the walk back to the car park at Forrest Estate where the spousal support team picked us up 5  We celebrated with a very pleasant meal at the Kenbridge Hotel that was washed down with a couple of pints in insufferable smugness.

This was a long day – it took us just short of 9 hours – but was extremely satisfying and enjoyable.  The weather was just superb and we had excellent and varying views.  I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a walk in D&G as much.  The only problem was the tail-wind was a bit strong and so our time didn’t count as it was wind-assisted: just means we have to do it again on a calmer day!

Notes:

  1. Jazz being but a twinkle in her Dad’s eye
  2. He took this at face-value and didn’t see Jazz’s look saying “Sucker!”
  3. Kev’s First Rule is to never show your companions the map, or if they do see it, explain that the brown lines are just where the map-maker was colouring in a boring bit.
  4. Probably paté sandwiches.
  5. Just as the midges were starting to bite!
Distance:25km
Effort:
Scenery:
Do It Again: