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First-bagging in the National Nature Reserve of Cairnsmore of Fleet

By Richard Law

Ever since seeing them from the ridge during a cold February walk with a friend on Cairnsmore of Fleet in 2009 NX5066 : Icy conditions just below the top of Cairnsmore by Richard Law, a group of 8 unGeographed squares in the valleys to the east had been winking at me. I’d rather assumed (wrongly) that they must have been protected by some sort of access restrictions into the National Nature Reserve, but a call to the warden at the Dromore Visitor Centre confirmed that those sorts of archaic conditions genuinely only affect us poor souls in England and Wales. Open access on the hill is pretty much the case in Scotland, subject to a few stalking closures and the like. But not in Galloway, and not in February, so it was ‘game on’ for a weekend.
On this occasion, my mate was struggling with a bad knee, which limited his walking distance somewhat, and he was most interested in picking off Curleywee and Lamachan Hill, the last two unclaimed Southern Upland summits in his copy of the Corbetts book. So he dropped me and a bike at the northern end of the forest track that runs through to Dromore, and went off to do his own thing, with a vague “Text me later, and we’ll sort out when we meet this afternoon”
So the day started with a ride south through the forests of Knocknevis on a well established and well used track, part of Route 7 of the National Cycle Network NX5473 : On the Cycle Route through the forest by Richard Law. At the junction with the track leading to the disused Grannoch Lodge, I hid the bike in a patch of heather (it’ll be fine, it’s hardly worth anything these days…) and walked west then north into the intriguingly-named Cleugh of Eglon NX5467 : The Cleugh of Eglon by Richard Law just short of Loch Grannoch NX5468 : Southern end of Loch Grannoch by Chris Wimbush.
Tough ground across half a mile of Molina grass and moor over Craigherron NX5367 : Across Craigherron towards Craigronald hill by Richard Law led to the foot of a 700’ climb (including a brief rocky scramble) onto Craigronald Hill NX5268 : Up towards the summit of Craigronald by Richard Law, where at least the conditions underfoot became much easier; the sub-zero conditions undeniably helped in that respect. A steady walk west then south in improving weather, past NX5168 : A cairn where it has no business being... by Richard Law led up onto Meikle Mulltaggart, which needed photographing for the Hill Summits website LinkExternal link as well as Geograph.
Being a summit, the next section was inevitably downhill, back down towards the damper moorland and Little Mulltaggart NX5267 : Little Mulltaggart by Richard Law between the Carrouch and Mid Burns, passing a well-sited marker cairn NX5167 : Across the Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve by Richard Law and some small rocky outcrops on the way NX5267 : The best crag I could find by Richard Law. Thence into the corrie of the Mid Burn, with a great view of the Clints of the Spout, an area of steep ground on the east side of the main Cairnsmore of Fleet hill NX5166 : The upper corrie of the Mid Burn by Richard Law. This corrie is rather boggy, as the contours suggest, but a couple of hundred yards of tussock-hopping saw me to the small lochan NX5166 : The lochan in the corrie by Richard Law, which issues the Mid Burn NX5266 : The Mid Burn in the NNR by Richard Law, and a choice of dry rocks for lunch a bit further downstream.
A little more bog-trotting NX5265 : Cairnsmore of Fleet NNR by Richard Law as far as the Cardoon Burn NX5265 : The Cardoon Burn in the Cairnsmore of Fleet NNR by Richard Law NX5264 : A tributary of the Cardoon Burn by Richard Law, and then it was back onto well made forest tracks for the long walk back to the bike via assorted signs of a working forest NX5364 : Your globetrotting days are over, mate... by Richard Law TV5496 : South Downs Way looking towards Birling Gap by Elliott Simpson and the farm at Cullendoch NX5565 : Cullendoch Farm by Richard Law.
The main walk picked up 8 Firsts; there were also 2 just on (or very close to) the cycle route near Craigwhinne Hill NX5569 : Uphill across clearfell by Richard Law and NX5568 : The valley of the Craiglowrie Burn by Richard Law which fell victim to this long day out. Overall it comprises about 12 miles of cycling and the same amount of walking. Quite a result, but tiring. By the time I’d ridden back to the A712 road at Clatteringshaws dam, my mate had been waiting in the car for little more than 15 minutes.
The whole trip, slideshow and route, is documented fully on Rudi's Geotrips site at LinkExternal link

Thu, 14 Mar 2013 at 10:50
Chosen Photo

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