Walk 89 – The Merrick, Dumfries & Galloway – 8.4 miles

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The hike up to the top of the Merrick (843 m / 2765 ft) is a wonderful day out on varied and interesting terrain with lovely views for almost the entire way. It is a fairly long walk in, starting alongside a burn with lovely waterfalls, past Culsharg bothy, through a short section of forest and then onto the open hillside on grassy footpaths.  From here it is a pretty gentle ascent  to the summit of Bennyellary (719 m / 2358 ft) followed by a fabulous wide ridge walk to the summit of the Merrick. 

parking-available-icon  Car park at Bruce’s Stone, Loch Trool (DG8 6SU is nearest postcode). No public transport to start point.

black icon of a figure walking, a zig zag line with arrow on one end and a location pin on the other end Route:  From Bruce’s Stone car park, continue North-East along the road. 200m along you have the optional short detour to visit Robert the Bruce’s Stone itself then return to this point. If you’d like to do that, turn right (South) and you will find the stone 100m down the path. A further 30m along the road you will see start of The Merrick Trail at a large information board. The first section of the trail winds its way uphill on a well-defined path alongside the pretty Buchan Burn. It then levels out, passing through an area of forestry, and arriving next to Culsharg Bothy 1.75km up, at 260m elevation. From here the path starts a fairly steep ascent, arriving at a forestry track after 260m. The continuation of the route is through a gate in the deer fence at the other side of the road. You will enter a small forest which is probably the steepest section of the entire walk. Emerging from the forest, the path heads out onto open hillside. At 515m elevation (approx 1km from the forestry track), there is another gate to go through. The track then begins to bend to the right and at 620m elevation it meets up with an old dry stone wall which it follows North East up the hillside. The summit of Bennyellary is reached, marked by a large cairn. Continue past this summit, heading North to descend slightly then cross a wide grassy ridge with a steep drop on your right-hand side. You are still following the course of the dry stone wall, which should be on your left. After beginning another ascent, the path begins to come away from the wall (heading North East) at 710m elevation. It is then an easy final ascent to the top of the Merrick. This summit is marked by a trig point surrounded by a walk-in cairn. Return via the same route to Bruce’s Stone car park.

os-logo  Buy the Ordnance Survey map for this area

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WALK REPORT: 25th September 2016

It’s my 35th birthday!! What else would I choose to do on this sunny weekend afternoon but go on a hillwalk?! Even better – childcare had been arranged and hubby was coming too 🙂

We had arranged to meet up with Neil, David & Andy at the car park beside Bruce’s Stone however on approach we saw them walking along towards us to let us know that a fallen tree was blocking the road. Unfortunately this situation meant that our 8 mile hillwalk was starting to look more like a 12 mile one!

When we reached the tree we met a group who had stayed in Culsharg Bothy the previous night during a storm and were now unable to get their cars past the tree. They assured us that help was on it’s way and so we moved quickly on.

Bruce’s Stone
View down to Loch Trool
Information board marking the start of the trail
Culsharg Bothy

The first part takes you uphill alongside a lovely burn and it was in full flow today making for some impressive waterfalls!

Certain members of our party were suffering the after effects of a night on the booze  and after the steep forest section one such group member decided not to continue (a painful leg was the culprit, not the hangover mind you!) It was the right decision for him but such a shame as the second half of the walk was definitely the most interesting and much easier going. Not to mention the stunning views over Loch Enoch, Loch Neldricken and Loch Valley which accompany you for much of the higher sections.

Waterfalls in the burn
The forest section is short but pretty steep. If you step away from the main footpath the forest is simply beautiful and a haven for wildlife. We found lots of bright red mushrooms 🙂

My absolute favourite part was the ridge walk between Bennyellary and Merrick. Super wide and grassy, flat and high, easy-peasy walking and amazing views! What’s not to love!? By this point we had lost our second walking companion: he had completed this hike many times before so called it a day atop Bennyellary.

View from the top of Bennyellary

After a sunny and surprisingly warm day, we were met with strong winds and low cloud just as we were approaching the summit of the Merrick. Typical!  No views, however we were able to test out the shelter around the trig point and I am delighted to report that it is extremely effective at blocking out even gale force winds 😉 What started as a day for a t-shirt ended with fleece, wooly hat and gloves. Having said that, the cloud didn’t stay for long and sure enough by the time we were back down from the top and away out the wind the cloud had cleared away and remained away for the rest of the day….. Just our luck!

I was super grateful for this windbreak at the top! It’s amazing how such a simple structure can bring such relief, and make it possible to take the time to enjoy a bite to eat in a place where otherwise you would struggle to stand 🙂
Looking back over to the ridge between Bennyellary and Merrick, the sun’s rays shining down from behind the thick band of cloud which was soon to descend upon us!

The highlight of the day was on the way back down when Neil disappeared into the bothy, asking my husband and I to wait outside…. We wondered what on earth he was doing, plus it was raining and we were in a bit of a rush to get back home to free our babysitter of their duties. Our confusion and slight annoyance disappeared  when he nodded for us to come inside, revealing a tray of Mr Kipling French Fancies complete with candles which he had carried all the way! So very thoughtful and appreciated. He even sang me “Happy Birthday” as I blew out my candles. Something to remember for years to come 🙂

Birthday cake(s) in the Bothy!

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