The weather forecast was for snow to come in during the afternoon, with this in mind I thought that I should leave the van at home and do a walk from the front door of the cottage in Wanlockhead. It would be a bit daft to drive elsewhere and risk not being able to get back to the cottage.
8.5 miles with 670 metres ascent
One of the best things about starting from the front door at 1500ft above sea level is that it is pretty quick and easy to get up into the hills, not suprising really when you are surrounded by them on all sides. It had been raining the previous night and there must have been just enough of a chill in the air to give a light dusting of snow on the highest summits. The Southern Upland way runs pretty much past the cottage I was staying in and I was soon crossing stake hill with a view of Lowther hill straight ahead. The giant ‘golf’ ball was drifting in and out of the clouds and I spotted a car driving up the private road that leads to a couple of the summits and a motley collection of masts and buildings. Pretty unsightly but what a place to drive up to work in the morning!
A bit higher and the Southern Upland way joins the tarmac for a short distance before I left it to join a faint path that contours round the hillside to the Ettrick pass. The views below me were really beginning to open up and I could get a sense of the height that I was at, even though I had not done a great deal of ascent.
I followed an unsightly line of electricity pylons to the top of the Etterkin pass, a narrow neck of land between East Mount Lowther and Lowther hill. The views down the Etterkin valley were stunning and I was left pondering who decided that those pylons should run the length of this otherwise secret valley. The powers that be leave me feeling confused sometimes.
It is a short easy climb to the summit of East Mount Lowther which has a view point indicator. It was a shame that it was so cloudy as the views from the top should extend to the Galloway hills and beyond. Instead I began to wonder why this hill was so named considering that it is the most westerly hill in the group. At least I could see the hills that I had climbed the day before, which I noticed now had a light dusting of snow.
An easy descent leads to another narrow pass called Deils barn door before I crossed Threehope height and descended to a path marked on the map as Dempsters road. This must not receive much foot traffic as the line of the path is not much more than a sheep trod. It does however give stunning views down into the Mennock Pass and the road that runs along it. If you ever visit Wanlockhead make sure that you approach it via this road as it gives a dramatic entrance to the village.
The path descends on a contouring line across the hillside before disappearing in a boggy mess near the river. This was easily forded and I began the easy ascent of the hillside on the other side of the road. Grassy slopes gave way to burnt heather and I soon located the landrover track that leads pretty much back to Wanlockhead. However I had my bagging head on and decided to head for the Marilyn of Green hill where I had the usual optical illusion of all the surrounding ground appearing higher. I dashed across to the summit of stood hill that looked to be the higher summit but once there the hill I was just on appeared higher! All the time I was doing this I noticed the sky darkening and the clouds lowering over the Lowther summits. A cold sleety rain started to fall, specked with larger flakes of snow.
Feeling an urge to sit in front of a cosy fire I descended to Black hill which gives a good view of Wanlockhead nestling in its fold in the hills at the head of Wanlockhead water. From here I could appreciate just high the village stands, something that would be re-enforced over the next few days when the snow really started to fall.