Although we were exactly 24 hours off what was fantastic weather, Sarah and I decided to head to the Galloway Forest Park for a spot of hill walking in a completely new area. We opted for The Merrick, Scotland’s most southerly Corbett and the tallest mountain in the Southern Uplands at 843m. We didn’t see a single thing for most of the day, but after visiting the summit, this hill could perhaps be in the running for a future summit camp! This was my 8th Corbett, so slowly getting there…
With nearly 9 miles walking ahead of us and a couple of hours each way in the car to reach Loch Trool – the start point for our walk – we set off bright and early and reached the car park near the loch just before 1000. It was very difficult to avoid the swarms of midges awating our arrival, so we quickly laced our boots, grabbed our packs and set off on the hour, heading up the well constructed track towards Culsharg bothy, which follows the very picturesque Buchan Burn.
The going was initially quite tricky, with damp and slippy boulders surrounded by puddles making up the path for some distance. We made slow and steady progress to the bothy where we stopped for a couple of minutes to rehydrate as although the weather was cloudy, the air was still very warm and humid – great walking weather…
We pushed on and began the hard slog through woodland following another rocky and slippy path, but soon found ourselves above the tree line, met with a much needed and very refreshing breeze to keep the army of midges at bay. Stopping once more, we pressed on again and soon reached what appeared to be a fairly recently developed section of gravel path, which meant we made good progress towards Benyellary on our way to the day’s objective.
Once on the ridge, the well constructed path disappeared but a dry-stone wall can be seen that goes over Benyellary and can be followed until around half a mile short of the summit of the Merrick. In a whiteout, this would have been a fantatsic navigation aid, but there were signs of footprints and a well worn path in places, so despite the cloud we had little trouble navigating.
Before long we had reached the point where the wall disappeared away from the path – which could still be seen quite clearly – so we stopped once more for a final drink of water before pressing on to the summit. The gradient the whole way had never been too steep (other than the wooded section) and it was no different on approach to the summit, so we made good progress and reached the trig point at 1230, 2 and a half hours after setting off. We took a couple of summit photos and turned back into the cloud to make our way off the summit to find a spot to eat.
As well as being cloudy, the wind had also started to pick up, so we decided on a higher section of wall and huddled behind it in the lee of the wind to scoff a couple of sandwiches, before setting off once more back to the car. The cloud was now beginning to tease us by lifting and lowering and giving us glimpses to the north over more of the Galloway Forest Park, but the summit was still very much in cloud, so we hadn’t picked the wrong time of day.
Due to not being terribly steep, progress downhill was very good and we were soon over Benyellary once more and back down the well made path to the top of the tree line, where we stopped once more for some water and some photos as the clouds to the south had now lifted slightly, giving us good views of the hills and valleys beyond. We set off into the trees again and soon reached the “bothy” at Culsharg where this time we decided to go and have a look. Sadly, there were a few bags of rubbish – mostly beer cans – in the corner of one room and some bits and pieces lying around in the other. Only being a little over a mile from the car park at Loch Trool makes it the perfect hiding spot for those wishing a party in the “wild” I suppose, but this amount of rubbish simply ruins the wild feel of the place and encourages pests, so we didn’t hang around long and set off once more on the final stretch towards the car after what had been a pretty tiring day.
Just before the car park, we turned off the road at the start of the path signed for The Merrick and took a detour to “Bruce’s stone” a monument dedicated to the battle of Glen Trool between Scotland and England in 1307. Now that the cloud had lifted slightly, we were rewarded with lovely views over Loch Trool so we took a few photos before heading back to the car, now exhausted from a very warm and humid day in the hills.
We chucked our gear in the car, ditched the boots and set off home after what was a great day in an area of Scotland that I’m now desperate to explore more of! Hopefully next time we’ll be a bit luckier with the weather!