A friend mentioned he was going to Glentrool to walk the three hills of Craignaw, Dungeon Hill and Mullwharchar. He asked if I would like to accompany him. How could I refuse ? I love walking in the Galloway Hills. My first ever hill walk was up the Merrick with the school. The hills hold many memories of the past so I was ready and waiting for the "pick up" at 6.30am on Sunday morning. The weather was looking good for the day too.
We started the long hike from Glentrool and followed the dreaded Gairland Burn to Loch Valley. It's normally a very muddy path and I recall often ending up to the knees in a muddy hole, but surprisingly, it wasn't too bad this time. Perhaps my memories made it seem worse than it is ?
This photo was taken from the turn on Buchan Hill before entering the Gairland burn section. Loch Trool was looking blue in the valley below. The clouds were high but a slight haze hid the Isle of Whithorn. There was no chance of seeing Ireland.
We stopped for a photograph at the sheep pens between Loch Valley and Loch Neldrichen and I let Holly off the lead as there were no sheep in sight. We had passed a couple of wild Galloway goats on Buchan hill, but nothing in this area.
The Gairland burn was running at normal level for this time of the year so crossing by the stepping stones was no problem. Its here that we got our first views of the Merrick. I still have photos of that same clump of heather growing on that same rock from 30 years ago. Nothing had changed in the hills.. only me ..I was much older.
I took the lead and navigated up the slopes of Craignaw, following distant memories as landmarks. Surprisingly, I took the best route to avoid the boggy bits in the hollows before reaching the shoulder that runs to the summit. My memory was working well. The clouds often obscured the sun and a bitter cold wind was blowing across the tops but it was clearing the atmosphere. The far tip of Isle of Whithorn could now be seen.
We arrived at the summit of Craignaw in good time and sheltered from the wind behind a rock to have an early lunch. I looked for the memorial to the two US pilots who died near the summit when their F11 crashed into the hill..but I never found it. I guess it is further from the cairn that I thought ?
The views north to our next summit were as spectacular as I had ever remembered. The steep crags of Dungeon Hill make it look like a smaller version of the Buachaille.
Looking to the south east..the silver flowe shimmered silently in the sun with Loch Dee and Clatteringshaws sparkling like diamonds beyond that. I though of the White Laggan bothy and the smokey fire that made our eyes water. The sight of a beautiful sunset over Loch Dee and its island with the dark tree, had set on that memory a long time ago.
Over to the west, the Merrick and the rest of the "awfie hand" dominated the horizon. As I took it all in, I thought of an old friend who lived in the shadows of the Merrick. Its a long time since I talked to the Grey Man. I guessed he wouldn't look any older..but I knew I had a few more wrinkles.
Holly was doing well getting this far as the terrain is tough going for someone with six inch legs. The grassy tussocks pulled at her paws as she skipped and hopped through them. Her low swung stomach trailled in the wet moss and I could see she was feeling the cold so wrapped her up in her coat. She had a long way to go yet.. as we all did.
To be continued....