10-mile B Grade walk to Bennan for ramblers

Some of the ramblers on Saturday's walk.
Some of the ramblers on Saturday's walk.

This week’s walk for Wigtownshire Ramblers on Saturday 9th September is a 10 mile B grade walk taking in the Fell of Eschoncan, the Bennan and Caldons. Meet for car sharing at the Breastworks, Stranraer at 9.00am and the Riverside, Newton Stewart, at 9.30am, or the start of the walk (NX 416 804) Bruce’s Stone car park at 10am. New members are always welcome but must contact the walk leader on 01988 403407.

Last week a sunny Saturday greeted 21 Ramblers meeting at the car park at Stinchar Bridge. The group split into two, the first hardy walkers to scale the heights of Shalloch on Minnoch and the rest of the “Amblers” doing a figure of eight taking in Cornish Hill and the lower banks of the River Stinchar.

Nine of the assembled Ramblers set off from Stinchar Bridge to conquer Shalloch on Minnoch, a hill reaching to 775 metres (2542 feet). In hillwalking terms, it qualifies as a Corbett, being over 2500 feet, but under 3000 feet, the qualifying height for the much better known Munros. It is also distinguished as the most northerly peak in one of Galloway’s best known hill ranges, The Awful Hand, which stretches south to the Merrick, the highest of the Galloway Hills.

The last time they attempted this route, we were beset by rain and thick mist and so curtailed our climb at Loch Girvan Eye, well below the summit, but the forecast of fair weather promised success as we walked past the picturesque falls and along the forest paths to reach the clearfell below Cornish Hill. A brief climb uphill brought Cornish Loch into view, to which we descended towards the site of the old boat house, no longer apparent, followed by a tussocky tramp across boggy ground to reach the headwaters of the Water of Girvan. Beyond this point, the going became steeper and harder.

On a clear day, such as this, our route affords panoramic views over the many lakes in this area, too many to list but the chief of which are Lochs Macaterick, Riecawr and more distant Loch Doon. Beyond the valley the ground rises up to the lower prominences of Macaterick, Hoodens Hill and Mullwharcher, the latter the site of a proposed nuclear waste dump, from which Galloway was saved by a timely earth tremor that rendered this plan untenable. Towering over these hills is the magnificent Rhinns of Kells, another of Galloway’s best loved ridges.

The views serve to distract from the climb that slowly relents as the summit plateau is attained, one of those hills where the trig point, at 768 metres, is below the actual summit at 775 metres. Not everyone is fussed by this point, just glad to have made the top to appreciate the fine all round views encompassing Ailsa Craig and Arran to the west and countless hills everywhere else. Of perhaps more interesting to some was the wreckage of an Avro Anson aircraft, crashed in mist in 1942 with no survivors among its crew of five. If only they had been twenty feet higher, they’d have passed safely on their way.

Our way down took the more traditional route on and off the hill, relatively steep and rocky at first onto a gentler and occasionally boggy descent to reach the sometimes indistinguishable path, past a small lochan and over the intermediate hills of Caerloch Dhu and Cairnadloch. From here it was just a matter of finding our way over the waters of the Splinty Burn to get back to dry land and the road taking us back the short distance to our parked cars, for which our feet, be they wet or dry, were very grateful.

Meanwhile the “ambling “ group had returned some two hours previously and were at that very moment sitting in the sunshine in the secret garden at Brew Ha Ha enjoying a not very well earned afternoon tea. Our walk had consisted of a leisurely climb up the well-formed path to the top of Cornish hill, following in the wake of the first group who had set off some ten minutes before. We were startled by the sudden appearance of two mountain bikers careering down the hill whooping all the way and and sending us scattering with much laughter to both sides of the path. Reaching the top of the hill we stopped to admire the view and eat sweeties. We could see our first group in the valley below making slow progress in the swampy ground. We congratulated ourselves on opting for the easier route and, using our new radios, contacted them to say that we were keeping an eye on their progress.

We followed the track downhill skirting Cornish Loch and having a Minnehaha moment listening to the laughing waters of the river Girvan burbling away alongside the path. On reaching the car park we sat on a sunny bank and ate an early lunch. Some of us could have drifted off for a little nap but our leader kicked us off into action and we set off to follow the banks of the Stinchar river before joining a forest track leading to the bridge further downstream. We passed an enormous sluice taking water from the river and sending it into Loch Bradan to augment the water supply to the good folks of South Ayrshire. At the bridge we took great delight in a game of Pooh sticks which sparked a heated discussion about which one won. It was impossible to say as all the sticks looked exactly alike.

Soon we joined the Straiton road and headed back towards the car park. On the way we spotted an ancient mile stone which had the old spelling of Newton “Steuart”. We took a picture and used our radios to contact the other group about our find. They were on top of Shalloch on Minnoch enjoying their second lunch. Well they were going to be too late for the usual tea and scones.