Wednesday 7 May 2014

An Easter Backpack in the Galloway Hills: Day 3 - The Southern Rhinns of Kells & Lamachan Hill

Sunday 20th April 2014

A slightly less sunny day to end an excellent backpack in the Galloway Hills 

Distance: 27km; Ascent: 1310m; Sunshine at first with a cold wind; Solo

I woke up at around 1:30am to the sound of the tent being blown about - it appeared that the wind had not only strengthened overnight, but also changed direction so that the tent was now no longer optimally orientated with respect to the wind direction.  After concluding that the wind wasn't currently strong enough to cause a major problem I went back to sleep until around 6:30am this morning.

Early morning light at camp on the Rhinns of Kells
After a breakfast of porridge, I packed the tent up and set off walking shortly before 8:30am.  It was nice to have camped so high last night as I reached the summit cairn of Millfire (Donald Top) in almost no time at all.  Again there were excellent views this morning, with barely a cloud in the sky :-)  There was however a noticeably stronger cold wind than on the two previous days.

Corserine from the south
Summit of Millfire
Continuing south along the pleasant Rhinns of Kells ridge, I reached my second summit of the day: Milldown (Donald, Graham Top).  A short descent to the SSE brought me to my original planned camp for last night at the Lochans of Auchniebut, although I was glad I hadn't ended up camping here as it looked like it might have been tricky to find a dry spot of ground!  Another 100m ascent lay ahead before I reached a trigpoint; a few hundred metres further on lay the summit cairn of Meikle Millyea (Donald, Graham Top, HuMP).

Summit of Milldown
The Lochans of Auchniebut and Milldown
Trigpoint on Meikle Millyea
Meikle Millyea summit cairn
There were excellent views SW from here towards my next range of hills, which included the hills of Millfore and Lamachan Hill.  In addition I could make out the Arran Hills and the Lake District hills in the far distance!  My original plan had been to continue along the ridge over Little Milyea and Darrou, but I realised that it looked relatively easy to gain the forest road to the SW of Meikle Millyea.  Therefore I decided to descend through felled forest towards the Green Burn and follow this down to the forest road, which should allow me quicker progress and allow me to catch up with my original plans.

Millfore, Lamachan Hill & Loch Dee
Green Burn
It was hot out of the wind in the forest as I followed the track for two to three kilometres to reach a bridge over the Black Water of Dee.  Around here I joined the main east-west forest road through the forest park, which meant I encountered a few vehicles and probably around a dozen cyclists.

Black Water of Dee
Forest Road in Glen Dee
The section of the forest road was also the route of the Southern Upland Way, a temping sounding long distance route across the Southern Uplands from coast to coast.  Soon I had a lovely view over Loch Dee towards Craiglee, so I decided to stop for lunch around here.

Southern Upland Way marker near Loch Dee
After lunch I left the main forest road and headed southwards through the area of forest marked on the map as Black Laggan Ward.  There had clearly been a lot of felling here in the last year or so as there were loads and loads of logs piles up in huge piles along the edges of the path.

Some of the many log piles in Black Laggan Ward
The felled forest north of Millfore
At the southern end of the track I had planned to follow the firebreaks up to reach the open hillside around 500m away.  However owing to the felling of part of this forest, the first section of the firebreak didn't really exist, which resulted in the unpleasant negotiation of a couple of hundred metres of felled forest.  Beyond here I picked up the firebreaks, but following these wasn't without difficulty as there were many fallen trees blocking the way.  However after much fighting my way through the trees I finally reached the open hillside!  By now I had almost run out of water so I re-stocked from a handy nearby stream before ascending up to the trigpoint and cairn on the summit of Millfore (Graham, Donald).

Cairn and trigpoint on summit of Millfore
Whilst I sat having a break here, it was clear that that I was enjoying the last sunshine of my trip as it was rapidly clouding over this afternoon.  The walk from Millfore to the bealach below Curleywee seemed to go on forever as it was very knobbly!  However I did pass the nice looking White Lochan of Drigmorn and the visited the summit of Gairy of Pulnee (Donald Dewey).

White Lochan of Drigmorn
Summit of Gairy of Pulney
Curleywee (Donald, Graham Top, HuMP) was my next objective and from here it looked very steep, and I can confirm that it was a very steep ascent!  However after much exertion I finally reached it's summit cairn perched on a rocky outcrop.

Rocky summit of Curleywee
The descent from Curleywee was quite steep with various craggy bits to circumvent, plus quite a bit of scree in places.  I continued west along the ridge over the minor top of the Scars of Milldown (Donald Dewey) until I only had one hill left to climb.

Curleywee from the west
I pushed on to the rounded summit of Lamachan Hill (Graham, Donald), where I took a short break near the summit cairn.  To descend from here I descended steeply into the coire at the head of the Sheil Burn, which I roughly followed down over unpleasant tussocky grass to eventually reach the forest track below.

Lamachan Hill summit cairn
My pace quickened now that I was on the homeward straight; the good track certainly helped with this!  I crossed the Gairland Burn and continued on to ascend back up to the Bruce's Stone carpark, which I reached shortly before 8pm after a long day's walking.

Gairland Burn
It had been an excellent three days of backpacking in what appears to be seldom visited hill country, and it didn't rain at all!  I decided to get some of the way home this evening so that I could join the rest of my family at Tatton Park the following day for some Easter fun :-)

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