Ramblers tackle the Fell of Eschoncan

The ramblers at the Eschoncan summit
The ramblers at the Eschoncan summit

Saturday dawned a beautiful sunny day and the hills around Glen Trool stood out sharply against the sky as ramblers assembled to climb the Fell of Eschoncan above Bruce’s Stone.

Even the midges only made a desultory effort to irritate us. We were soon tackling the steep slopes above the car park along a path through the bracken which someone had thoughtfully trimmed back. After some effort we climbed above the bracken with the cars in the car park below us already looking like toys. Below us the Buchan Burn thundered down over its falls, emphasising the heavy rain of the previous night and how lucky we were with the weather that day. After pausing for sweeties to assist our efforts we tackled the tussocks and heather which covered the rest of the hill. The path was less clear here and a variety of routes were tried. They all seemed to be hard. At the cairn we paused to get our breath back and admired the views in all directions. Benyellary and The Merrick towered above us to the north and to the east and south the majority of the Galloway hills were bathed in sunshine with occasional cloud shadows emphasising the land form. Below us Loch Trool sparkled as the breeze ruffled its surface. To the southwest there were wide views over the Machars to Luce Bay and the Mull of Galloway. On leaving the summit we made our way over rocky mounds and damp hollows to the forestry road above Culsharg, where we paused for lunch.

Suitably refreshed we crossed the road and followed the deer fence upwards to a new stile, a most substantial structure which proved easy to cross. Above the fence we zig zagged up the hill going round the various rocky outcrops and scattered lochans. Along the way we spotted many newly planted broadleaved trees in drifts among the rocks. Most were surviving well and should provide interesting habitats as they grow. As we approached the summit we were intrigued by numerous circular pits in the rocks, similar to but more pronounced than the cup and ring marks found near the coasts. Apparently these are natural features caused by gas bubbles on the granite as it solidified. Eventually we reached the radio mast on the top of the Bennan with its diesel generator throbbing in the silence. The views were magnificent in all directions. The various lochs sparkled in the sunshine; Loch Moan, the source of the Cree was below us and Loch Maberry, the source of the Bladnoch just visible in the distance. The Ayrshire coast and Ailsa Craig stood out to the northwest and the Awful Hand range stretched to the north. The Rhins of Kells range dominated the eastern skyline and the Minnigaff Hills formed the southern horizon. All in all the views made the effort well worth it.

We then took to the forest road which circles round the Bennan and drops down to Stroan Bridge. On the way down we were amazed to find a slow worm sunning itself in the middle of the road. It was very torpid and only raised its head slightly as we paused to inspect it. As we followed the road down the hills seemed to rise round us and it became quite warm as we were sheltered from the breeze. The various small burns which cross the road were all in spate. We eventually reached the Stroan Bridge visitor centre where we enjoyed excellent tea and cakes beside the river. The repairs to the bridge here are ongoing but, when completed, should provide an attractive feature and much wider than the original.

On Saturday 16th, it will be a moderate 8 mile walk around the Mull of Galloway starting at 10:00 from the Mull of Galloway car park. (NX 155 304) Meet at the riverside car park in Newton Stewart at 09:00 or the Breastworks car park in Stranraer at 09:15 to share transport. New walkers are welcome but please contact the walk leader on 01776 840636 for full details. If going direct to the start please also contact the walk leader in case of any changes.