The four of us walked up the Merrick on Friday, and I have to say it’s taken the number one spot on the list of hills we’ve done so far, even though it wasn’t the best of days.
The Merrick, with Culsharg (?) bothy just visible in the shade below it.
The Merrick is the highest summit in southern Scotland, and although it’s not quite tall enough to be a Munro, at around 2800 feet it doesn’t fall far short. The route we took starts out in the car park near Bruce’s stone in Galloway Forest Park and is just over 13km long – that’s even longer even than Ben Lomond (11km) – but not nearly so tiring. It has a few steep sections, but you’re never forced into that relentless stair-climbing motion that hammers your quads on the way up and your knees on the way down.
It was obvious even as we headed out of the car park that this was going to be a very sniffy walk. Beagle noses were immediately raised for air scenting, like connoisseurs relishing the “nose” of a fine wine. Soon after and intermittently throughout the walk there was a fair bit of woofage from Mr. Biggles, but it was more like joyful exclamation than a frustrated baying frenzy. It’s worth noting that the Bigglet had been much quieter on Ben Lomond too, so I guess this is further proof that he’s calming down.
Buchan burn just above a waterfall
The early part of the walk is great fun – there’s a waterfall, a rocky path that has you hopping from one stone to the next, and already some great views to the front and rear.
You then head briefly into woodland before going past the window-less and door-less Culsharg bothy.
Then it’s into the woods again for a short climb. By the time you emerge back into the open you get another visual treat and the ascent starts in earnest.
The route isn’t big on signs, but it’s always obvious where the path is, and a fair chunk of it runs alongside a lovely dry stone wall.
As soon as we started getting height, mist and heavy cloud blew in and I was cursing the Met Office. The forecast had indicated mist in the morning and sunny periods in the afternoon so we’d deliberately delayed our walk until later in the day. As it turned out the weathermen had got it back to front, but even with limited visibility there were some very pretty views.
The ascent was interrupted once or twice when we went through a sniffing hot zone..
They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Apparently the sheep are smellier on the other side too.
..but it didn’t take too much effort to get back underway.
There’d been rain recently but the path never got too muddy
Looking back at the initial “hump” on the way to the summit
When the path eventually departs from the dry stone wall it’s obvious (even to us!) which way you should go..
As we neared the top a cold wind blew in more mist. When it thinned again we spotted the white-washed summit marker, and quickly took shelter behind the curved wall that surrounds it.
We put on extra layers of clothing but it didn’t do much to keep the cold out. Biggles bravely ventured out above the wall in his thick fur coat, but after a couple of minutes even he’d had enough if the wind chill!
Oi Dad! I’ve explored the summit and eaten more than my fair share of your ham sandwiches, and now it’s time to go back down!
I got a couple more shots from the summit before my fingers stopped working due to the cold, then we packed up and headed back down.
By the time we were approaching the woods the cold and the wind had gone, but the mist and the clouds decided to hang around a bit longer. That didn’t matter though; even on a dull day the Merrick offers great variety and beauty.
We finished the walk feeling satisfied but not burned out, and after allowing our pups one more round of connoisseur sniffage we bundled them into their crates and headed home. We’ll definitely be doing the Merrick again!