Moorbrock hill and Clennoch Bothy

by backpackingbongos

Before I take you for a stroll around the Island of Mull we need to go back a few weeks in time to the last bank holiday………..

I had taken the Friday afternoon off work and the Bongo was ready and waiting for the long drive up north.  I had been planning to go to Dumfries and Galloway for a few weeks but my plan kept changing every five minutes, I just could not decide what to do!  I really wanted to walk the entire Rhinns of Kells ridge from south to north as a backpack but I could not work out a reasonable return route.  In the end I decided that it was possible to split the Rhinns of Kells into two day walks.  This meant that some luxury Bongo ‘wild’ camping would be the order of the day, this part of the Galloway hills being perfect for finding hidden out of the way spots.

It turned out that the Saturday was going to be a bit crappy weather wise, not a good day for the high hills.  A quick consult of the map before setting off from home showed a nice looking route that would take in a bothy to use as a lunch stop.  Therefore late Friday evening I found myself driving down the isolated glen called Water of Ken (brilliant name!) where I found a very isolated car park at the head of the glen.  Newly made its size was all out of proportion to the isolated valley and is a bit of a blot on the landscape.  However I was completely undisturbed all evening and night.

9.6 miles with 760 metres ascent

I awoke to dark cloudy skies and a little light drizzle.  The clouds were just skimming the tops of the surrounding grassy hills.  I drove back down the glen and tucked the van in at the start of the track a few hundred metres north of Craigengillan.  Initially through boring conifers the track gains a little height and exits the trees with a good view of the route ahead.  The skyline being dominated by Moorbrock hill directly ahead with the huge bulk of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn to the left, unfortunately today capped by cloud.

The route ahead was quick and easy and passed behind the large and rather extravagant new looking building of Moorbrock, its intended use possibly being that of a shooting lodge.  The track continues easily uphill gaining height slowly towards Moorbrock hill with the view behind opening up with a patchwork of moor and forest.  Not a particularly wild landscape as it has been shaped by the hand of man, but definitely a very empty landscape with hardly a building in sight.  In the distance on Benrack I could make out one of the striding arches made by Andy Goldsworthy, they definitely look like they are worth a visit.  Pete in his excellent blog ‘Writes of Way’ did a walk around them, you can access the post here.

It soon came to the point when I would have to leave the comfort and ease of the track and strike off up the pathless hill.  Steep grassy ascents do not usually fill me with the joys of spring and here the word ‘slog’ could definitely be used accurately.  However the views were getting bigger with each step as I walked through a deep carpet of bilberry.  If you fancy picking some in the autumn, here is the place to come.  My legs and lungs needed a brief rest and the bilberry gave a great bed to lie back in.  It was good to be still and watch the clouds drift by giving brief glimpses towards Cairnsmore of Carsphairn.

The walk across the summit plateau of Moorbock hill was pretty uneventful with distant views being blotted out by the cloud as it drifted past.  However close to the edge of Moorbrock Gairy there was a great feeling of space with the steep hillside plunging down to the conifers below.  The horizon ahead was now filled with the spinning blades of a huge windfarm on the aptly named Windy standard.  I feel that this is an unwelcome intrusion on what would otherwise be a very wild and empty place.  My map showed a dot called Luke’s stone which I thought may be worth a visit.  It turned out that it really was not.  It was simply a boulder no higher than my waist, although to be fair it probably is the only such feature for a distance here.  A quick squelch up and across Keoch Rig with the mist descending all the while made me start thinking about getting the compass out.  However the wide ridge of Hog hill was soon reached and I started the descent into the bowl that holds Clennoch bothy (a tiny spec next to the lone tree in the picture below).

A closer view of the bothy with the large bulk of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn in the background.

I was pretty wet as I approached the bright blue door of the bothy.  There were a few bird feeders next to it which were crowded with a large range of small brown birds and some small brightly coloured birds (you can tell that I am not a ornathologist!) darting between them and the tree next to the bothy.

Inside was really cosy and homely and it took me a few moments to realise that someone was on one of the bunks asleep.  I shuffled around as quietly as I could whilst I ate my lunch and read the bothy book.  The occupant stirred and upon chatting with him found out that he was the maintenance officer of this bothy which is maintained by the MBA.  He definitely has been doing a great job as this is one of the better cared for bothies that I have visited.  There is one downside which has probably contributed to it not being trashed by idiots.  It does not have a stove and is meant to be famously cold inside in the winter months.  For some reason bothies with stoves or fireplaces seem more likely to attract idiots, it is often only sheer remoteness that saves many bothies.  It is sad that two bothies located nearby in the Galloway forest park have been handed back to the owners by the MBA as they feel they are not worth maintaining any more.  Decades of misuse as party venues and drug dens meant that genuine hillwalkers were too afraid to spend the night there.  I remember years ago reading the bothy book in White Laggan where a hillwalker described characters not too dissimilar to those in the film Deliverance hanging out in the nearby Backhill of Bush.  There were large quantities of hard drugs and alcohol being consumed by the group of males.  The hillwalker retreated to White Laggan  as they feared for their  safety at Backhill.

It is with the hard work and dedication of people such as the maintenance officer of Clennoch that keeps many bothies going.  If you enjoy the wild places and spend the odd night in a bothy then you should definitely join the MBA.  Their website can be found here.

The MO was going to stay for a few days and do some odd jobs around the place.  I decided that I could not put off going back into the rain any longer so left him in peace.  Although it is not shown on the current 1:25,000 maps there is now a forestry track all the way back to the road.  This climbs to the head of a wild and desolate valley with Cairnsmore of Carsphairn dominating the view once again, a hill that is definitely on my tick list.

I was soon retracing my outward route, eager to get back to the van and out of my waterproofs.

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4 Comments to “Moorbrock hill and Clennoch Bothy”

  1. Always a pleasure to go on a vicarious walk in your company James. Walked the same route as you, over Moorbrock Hill etc to Clennoch, a couple of months back.Repeating your route to Clennoch, then launching up Cairnsmore of Carsphairn before descending via Beninner to follow Poldores Burn back to Moorbrock is a good route. The drug and booze-addled occupants of Backhill of the Bush were probably just the local branch of the Ramblers association out on a jolly!

    Really looking forward to the Mull posts. Thanks for the mention also!

    • Hey Pete thanks. I have to admit that I had to look up the word vicarious though! Cairnsmore of Carsphairn looks like a great hill, one I hope to climb sooner rather than later. Damn those ramblers spoiling everything for others…….

      Mull posts will be coming soon, just writing the Rhinns of Kells one at the moment though……………..

  2. James. As you shadow the rest of my life with the things that you do. Well on the evening of 27 June did you eat Christmas Pudding with custard from a stash of cheap puds bought soon after 25/12/09. I hope to be the only person in the world doing this and my wife said that I should check with you to confirm a moment of pudding singularity

    • You can rest easy there Warren as we had ran out of custard so had to eat our cheap Christmas pud this evening without…………….

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