With the awful winter just past we’ve not ventured onto the hills and Jazz and I were both getting withdrawal symptoms, so when Easter Sunday coincides with a beautiful day then it seems like a good day to avoid the crowds at the garden centres and coast roads, and instead head for the wonderfully-named Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. Jazz was still a pup when we last did it so I thought a return visit would be a good first hill of the year.
After “Many a Mickle” this hill is probably the one I’ve climbed most, and today I would be following the traditional route. We park in the layby at the end of the track and then just head up the track until it peters out. At this point the hill is visible and we can see the route up beside the dry stane dyke that goes all the way to the summit. There are three stages: steep, shallow, steep. Well, ok, not Annapurna steep, but for a first hill of the year it was enough of a challenge requiring frequent stops to “check the wildlife”: mostly very smart Wheatears and occasional Curlews, with occasional butterflies sunning themselves.
We reached the summit at lunchtime 1 and so we stopped at the trig-point for sandwiches and water. It was surprisingly hot and the top of the hill is devoid of any streams so I did the responsible owner bit and shared my water with Jazz 2 Although a gorgeous day it was a little hazy so the view was a bit restricted: we could just make out the Ayrshire coast. However, we could see the local hills and it was good to get our bearings again. I had climbed this hill on a previous Easter Sunday 6 years ago and the conditions were slightly different as the two pictures on the right show!
The descent follows the Black Shoulder and its boulders. On the top the livestock of lower down were absent so Jazz could get off the lead and go off-piste. She was busy sniffing out a vole when a group of 5 Golden Plover in their summer finery dropped down just in front of her. Normally this would be cause for a perfunctory chase but I think even she was impressed by how smart they looked and so she just sat and watched them. After a few minutes they took off and disappeared over the shoulder. This is a species that looks so much better on their breeding grounds to the wintering version down on the coast: a real treat seeing them so close. The only disappointment was that it was so windy I couldn’t hear them call: a classic sound of the hills.
While it is lovely wandering about on the back of Black Shoulder there is a sting in the tail: the descent of Dunool is steep and and a real knee crusher, but it quickly gets you back on the track leading to the car. In the last field the Galloway cattle had made a right mess and I was having an uncharacteristic moan about having to make a detour to avoid the slurry ponds when I noticed some birds drinking in the small muddy pool in the centre. A quick view through the bins showed them to be Crossbills and in the sunlight the males looked as if they had been dipped in bronze: stunning. I thanked the cattle for helping make the pond. Once again this was a lovely walk that had enough challenges for the first hill: and we only saw two people in the distance – success.
|Do It Again:|