It has been a month since we were last in the hills, so my legs had gotten use to the easy life. Time to get some altitude, and the Lowther Hills seemed like a good idea with a circuit from Enterkinfoot on the A76 beside the River Nith up to East Mount Lowther. We’ve climbed this Donald before from the easier Wanlockhead side and the views were stunning, so we were looking forward to the view with our lunch. Unfortunately, the rain thought otherwise – probably just a result of me saying only a month ago that the weather was always great in this area: I should learn to keep my mouth shut.
We headed up the lane towards Kirkbride Kirk. This is an old covenanter church that sits high above the Nith valley and gives lovely views of the valley and the hills to the south-west. It’s an ancient place with some interesting gravestones. One caught my eye where a chap Robert Dickson died roughly two years before his daughter Helen was born: interesting story or stonemason’s mistake? There were a nice couple of ancient stones with skulls and crossbones: a reminder of our own mortality or, as some have it, symbols of the Knights Templar who came to Scotland? I like the idea of my tombstone having the reaper motif but as my funeral arrangements involve being left on a remote hill as Raven food, it is unlikely to happen.
From Kirkbride the path continues up through fields with lots of new fencing and gates. Interestingly it was mostly double fencing to protect newly laid Beech and Hawthorn hedgerows: makes a nice change from digging them up. However, our approval was not total: the old fencing, including discarded barbed wire, was left littering the fields just waiting for some poor animal to get tangled up in it.
We headed along a “path” to the foot of the Lang Cleuch going up the side of Threehope Height. The hills here were covered in heather in full bloom and in combination with the grass made the place look like Wimbledon. It made an attractive spot to have a break before the climb up the rather steep hill. Most of the hills in these parts have steep sides and flattish tops. This route is an old one that takes the least steep one, but still required quite a few stops to “check the map” – much to the annoyance of The Impatient One.
We reached the top for the wander over to the nice direction indicator on East Mount Lowther at roughly the same time as the rain. We did manage to get one nice look down into the Mennock Pass snaking up to Wanlockhead before the weather closed in. So no lunch admiring the view this time. We continued down to the bealach between us and Lowther Hill to reach the start of the Enterkin Pass.
Until the mid 18th century this used to be the main route between Dumfries and Glasgow. In 1726 Daniel Defoe wrote: ““Enterkin, the frightfullest pass, and most dangerous that I met with”. Big wuss. Today it is a sheep track down through a very steep sided valley following the Enterkin Burn, but it is spoiled by the string of electricity pylons feeding the radar station. I used a nifty inclinometer app on my phone 1 and it said that the side of Thirstane Hill was 42° – you can see why the Cleuch route was preferred! Nearer the bottom of the pass are some nice waterfalls and since the rain had stopped we decided this would make a good lunch-stop 2.
The path now takes the east side of the attractive Enterkin valley. There is a big Red-legged Partridge hatchery here and the bracken and air were alive with birds. This provided great frustration to Jazz who didn’t know which way to go. We followed the path south along the edge of the Dalveen Pass, the main route through these hills. The path emerges at a lane that wanders slowly back to the start at Enterkinfoot. Jazz had managed to get her lower half covered in thick red mud that had hardened into nice terracotta. This necessitated a dunking in the Nith to wash the worst of it off: we’d like to apologise to all the anglers downstream for turning this lovely river a red colour.
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