On high empty rolling hills – a backpack south of Peebles

by backpackingbongos

Between the towns of Peebles and Moffat sits an area of high rolling hills. A constantly shrinking island of wild land circled by wind farms. The hills frequently raise their heads above the 800 metre contour, a place where you can often sit in solitude with just sheep and moorland birds for company. There is only one road that crosses these soft velvety heights and that is the single track one between Tweedsmuir and St Mary’s Loch. I was keen to explore the land to the north of this road, an opportunity to tick off a batch of Donald hills (hills in lowland Scotland that exceed 2000 feet). With it being the first weekend in August it was also an opportunity to avoid the silly season in the popular National Parks. The trip to Sarek was only a couple of weeks to go, so it was also a good reason to stretch my legs and try out the new Hilleberg tent.

Total distance – 46 kilometres with 2350 metres ascent

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 20.05.10

(Click for full size map)

As this trip was a couple of months ago I thought that I would do a photo post with some captions instead of a full trip report.

P1090595On the steep ascent of Black Rig, looking down to the grassy track up Mill Burn.

P1090598Climbing the final heathery slopes of the Scrape. The views across the Manor Water are to the hills around Hundleshope Heights.

P1090600The Hilleberg Enan pitched at the headwater of the Drumelzier Burn at the 630 metre contour.

P1090603The Enan is probably the easiest tent I have ever pitched. Up in a couple of minutes and a perfect pitch every time no matter how uneven the terrain.

P1090604Descending to Taberon Law, the Culter Hills on the horizon. The eleven turbines make up the Glenkerie wind farm, the proposed extension has thankfully for now been rejected.

P1090607The huge bulk of hills between Dollar Law and Broad Law, rising to over 800 metres. From this angle they reminded me of the Cheviots.

P1090613A fine cairn on the lower slopes of Dollar law.

P1090618Another view of the Culter Hills, this time looking down the length of the Stanhope Burn.

P1090622Having previously climbed Dollar law I missed out the summit sticking instead to the Thief’s road. The track is slowly being reclaimed by the moor. The body of water just visible is the Megget Reservoir.

P1090623Continue walking in this direction and you will cross some fine wild hills, eventually coming to Hart Fell before descending to Moffat. Peebles to Moffat is a walk I fancy doing one day. It’s a shame they are not linked together by public transport. Instead you would need to go in and out of Edinburgh, or use two cars.

P1090624Looking back at Notman Law. The grassy sections on these hills give easy walking, the rest is heather or tussocks.

P1090626An excellent pitch right at the head of the long and remote Manor Valley.

P1090630Looking down the ravine of Bitch Cleuch, Bitch Crag just out of sight.

P1090631Foulbrig is aptly named, an area of bog and tussocks, crossed so I could get another tick by climbing the small bump of Deer Law.

P1090632Looking back across Foulbrig,the bulky hill on the horizon is Dollar Law.

P1090634Tussocks are Latin for Hell.

P1090636This weathered stone contrasted sharply with the newly constructed track that I crossed soon afterwards, a jarring scar on the landscape.

P1090638The summit of Birkscairn Hill. There was a brief lull in the wind and rain that had battered me on the climb up. The shower was so violent that I expected flashes of lightning and bangs of thunder. Thankfully there were neither.

P1090644The passing storm did provide a great rainbow though.

P1090646An hour later and I was pitched in the sun at the head of the very scenic Glensax, a glen that would not be out of place much further north in the Highlands.

P1090648

P1090649I I half expected to see leather face from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre run out of this farmstead. An atmospheric building in a beautiful spot.

P1090652Looking back to the head of Glensax.

P1090653Looking north down to the lower reaches of the Glen, heather in full bloom.

P1090655The hills were full of Cloudberries which sadly were not fully ripened. I only found a couple that I could eat.

P1090657Steep heathery slopes led me to Stob Law, the final hill of the day.

P1090658Hundles Hope, with Peebles just out of sight on the right hand side.

P1090661

P1090663Across the Manor Water to the first hill of the trip.

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19 Responses to “On high empty rolling hills – a backpack south of Peebles”

  1. A couple of grand looking wild sites, like the last one especially. Elan Valley has some fine tussock examples as does Llyn Lluncaws in the Berwyns. I’ve fallen over them extensively in both locations

  2. A fine wee wander around some less visited hills.
    Looked very nice James.

    • I was going to head to the Highlands that weekend Paul but could not face the 1000 mile round trip. These were a fine alternative.

  3. This one has me all wanting to go back to Scotland.

  4. Nice one James. A real wide-open-spaces feeling.

    • Good backpacking land Geoff, I walked for 4 days and only saw one person. Just the ticket for antisocial types…….

  5. Terrific area and quiet too.

  6. A Beautiful area James. One I cycled many years back.

  7. Looks good James, Im looking forward to ambling around here over the new year period. The plantations are in fact welcome as I can source wood for the wood stove and hot tent to my hearts content!

    • It’s a great area Mark, will be interesting to see how the hot tenting goes during a few days on the hills. You should have a good scent of wood smoke on the train back home!

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