The Mighty Merrick (Route 1) -
via the Gairland Burn

Distance: 15km

Ascent: 915 metres

Grade: Strenuous

Terrain: Poorly defined mountain paths on the ascent. Fair to well define paths on descent. Steep rough terrain throughout

Start: NX 415 804

The Merrick dominates the hills around Loch Trool and this 'branched finger is the highest of the 'Range of the Awful Hand'. At 843 metres, it is the highest summit in the Galloway Hills and indeed the highest peak in South West Scotland. There are many and varied routes which include a visit to the summit, but this route is by far one of the most popular and better trodden paths. We approach the summit via the four lochs (there are actually five lochs as the island on Loch Enoch has its own!) to the east of the hill and then follow the Redstone Rig to the trig point on the summit.

At the head of Glen Trool there is a monument commemorating a historic clash with English forces in 1307 when Robert the Bruce was just beginning his campaign for the Scottish throne. He knew these parts well and the rocky outcrops of Mulldonoch combined with the surrounding woodlands were idealy suited to his guerilla warfare.

Our trek today follows a valley which runs off Glen Trool in a north-east direction. From our start at Bruce's Stone Car Park descend eastwards beyond the start of the 'main trail' to the summit. Cross over the Earl of Galloway's bridge nearto Buchan House and continue eastwards along the track. After passing through a gate continue over the stile and follow the path signposted Loch Valley and the Gairland Burn. The route gains height fairly quickly as it traverses the face of Buchan Hill, towards a gate in the wall at the top of the field.

Pass through this gate and continue upwards over a normally wet but distinctive path. Gone now are the sylvan pleasures of lovely Glen Trool in favour of empty uplands, a glaciated wilderness of moor and mountain. The path follows the Gairland Burn, rising steadily to the south west outflow from Loch Valley. The rugged landscape of Craig Neldricken to the north and the Rig of the Jarkness to the east unfold before you. From here we follow the western shore of the loch on a wet but clear path which takes us to a new level and one which opens out to reveal Loch Neldricken.

A wet and less distinct path now follows the south-west shores of the loch and crosses a wall by the 'Murder Hole' an area of deep water which is said to never freeze over. The Murder Hole was made famous by the Galloway author S R Crocket in his book 'The Raiders'. The path runs along side a wall which follows the western slopes of the Ewe Rig to the smaller Loch Arron. Glance over to your right or you'll miss it! Head towards a small col overlooking Loch Enoch with its reflections of Mullwharchar rising beyond. Mullwharchar is derived from the Gaelic, Maol Adhairce, meaning the Hill of the Huntsman's Horn. It is said that the silver sand of Loch Enoch's beaches was once collected for sharpening knives.

After we take breath and absorb the solitude of this Galloway Heartland we continue beyond the south-west shores of Loch Enoch up the Redstone Rig. It looks more intimidating than it actually is but there is no path from here to the summit. The pull to the summit across is worthwhile effort as the views to Craignaw to the east, the broad ridge of Tarfessock and Shalloch on Minnoch to the north and Mulldonoch and Lamachan to the south all unfold.

On a clear day the views from the summit are quite remarkable and you share the tranquility and remoteness of this south west corner of Scotland.

A grassy descent contours the Neive of the Spit and a short rise leads to the cairn on Benyellary, the eagle's hill. Follow the path steadily downhill beside the Whitehead Burn to the bothy at Culsharg. From here the very distinct but rocky path leads southwards alongside the Buchan Burn, back to the car park at Glen Trool.

Route Summary

Descend E along the road from the car park. Cross bridge and continue along track through a gate before traversing a stile and following path signposted to Loch Valley and Gairland Burn. Cross a field across the face of Buchan Hill. Go through gate then continue into hanging valley that contains Gairland Burn. Follow path to outflow of Loch Valley and then to Loch Neldricken, cross a wall by the Murder Hole and follow the W slopes of Ewe Rig to the smaller Loch Arron, before continuing to a small col above Loch Enoch. Climb Redstone Rig to the Merrick summit. Descend by the Neive of the Spit and Benyellary, following the path downhill beside the Whitehead Burn to the bothy at Culsharg. Follow path that follows the Buchan Burn back to the start.

Walk 3 - The Mighty Merrick

Map Images are produced from the Harveys Superwalker 'Galloway Hills' Map.
Image reproduced with kind permission of Harveys Maps Ltd.