Trip Report – Southern Uplands

Southern Uplands

I had to give a presentation to a group of my customers in Glasgow on Friday morning.  Mary had suggested that I combine it with a walk on the way back as I had not been out for a while.  I decided not to go for the whole weekend as she is still recovering from her operation on one of her discs in her back.

I decided to walk the Southern Uplands – a range of hills, I suppose small compared to the Munro’s, with the highest point on the walk to be 821 metres (2694 feet).

The Route: Car Park at Moffat Water Hall – Swatte Fell – Hart Fell – Hart Rigg – Raven Craig- Rotten Bottom – Frithhope Rig – White Coomb – Frithhope Rig – Head of Midlaw Burn Gorge – Loch Skeen -Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall – SNT  Car Park – A708 back to Car Park at Moffat Water Hall.

25.7km (16 miles in distance)

Day 1 – Friday 17th September 2010

I parked the car up at Moffat Water Hall (150 metres- 492 feet)  in the late afternoon and made my way up a wide grass track, which soon disappeared after crossing a small stream onto open fell.

On to the open fell

Not long after, I came across an electric fence  which I was not sure whether it was on, so I walked along for a while and crossed the fence near the corner where the fence was insulated to avoid an electric shock.

Once over the fence I rounded a deep corrie, with the path running very close to a hell of a drop – one slip !!

Looking down into Black Hope

After walking around the corrie rim, the path reached the top of Swatte Fell – 729 metres (2392 feet) and eventually after battling a strong North wind  I arrived at the trig point of Hart Fell Rig (808 metres (2691 feet).

Hart Fell trig point

From here I walked along a level  path by the boundary fence and then a decline to Hartfell Rig with great views from this commanding position to Fruid Reservoir and numerous hills into the distant.  What was wonderful was not the scale of the mountains, but as far as the eye could see in any direction was any sign of a building, farm-house or road , only a lonely long line of fencing heading off into the distance, giving a sense of complete solitude, something you do not experience in many places south of the border.

Fruid reservoir

It was now time to find a place to stop for the night before I got too far to my next  point in my walk , the boggy morass of Rotten Bottom – didn’t sound like a particularly appealing place to spend a night.

I followed the boundary fence and found some reasonably level and dry ground to pitch my tent for the night , near a small stream with a great view looking back towards Black Hope. Soon I was out of the wind, kit laid out for the night and using my new Primus  Express Spider Stove,  tucking into dinner.

I settled down by  9 pm , it had been a long day and the early part of the night brought temperatures down to 4 or 5 degrees and a clear sky.   I woke up sometime around 2 am and noticed it was much darker in the tent a strong wind had picked up – the weather was on the change.  I had for this trip purchased 2 Ti V pegs for the end poles of my Vaude Power Lizard.  I am concerned with the supplied pegs that these might pull out in a strong wind.  Was this then a good test for them – I am glad to report, the pegs held firmly in place.

Day 2 – Saturday 18th September 2010

Towards dawn there was some light rain, and when I got up the clouds had come down somewhat, with a cool breeze blowing. I packed up after a quick breakfast and after a while stopped to take some photos.

I soon arrived at Rotten Bottom, low-lying land, made famous by a walker who back in 1990 found a 6000 year old hunting bow made out of yew. Turned out to be the oldest hunting bow found in Britain.  All I found was a sopping wet mass of peat bog, I didn’t stop to carry out an archeological dig! , but moved swiftly on as it was now starting to rain.

Looking Down To Rotten Bottom

Having cleared Rotten Bottom, I made my way up to Frithhope Rig, (800 metres- 2625 feet) with the cloud coming and going and the sun desperately trying to come out and only partially succeeding. It was pretty easy-going and walking by the fence, easy navigation.

From Frithhope Rig on the way to White Coomb

From  Frithhope Rig it was a quick hop to the highest point in the trip – White Coomb at 821 metres ( 2694 feet)

White Coomb

Back tracking half way to Frithhope Rig I headed off in a North East direction across the heather and bog down hill to the top of Midlaw Burn gorge. This is a narrow steeply sided slash in the hillside, where the burn tumbled down to ultimately meet Moffat Water far below.

Midlaw Burn Gorge

Making my way carefully around the top of the Gorge, I headed for the top of a grassy knoll, from where I got a fine view of the valley below and the burn winding its way through the landscape and then my first view of Loch Skeen.

Midlaw Burn

Loch Skeen

Loch Skeen hidden away from view until this stage of the walk, is said to be at 520 metres(1700 feet) the highest situated Loch in Southern Scotland.

From here I started down the steep rocky and well used path to the Loch side, it was half way down that I meet the first people since I started my walk – a Dutch couple who were on holiday.

Soon I was down by the Loch, a small stretch of water ringed by Loch, Water and Mid Craig.  I found an ideal place to stop for lunch and spend awhile at this tranquil spot.

Loch Skeen

After lunch, I crossed the outfall of the Loch and down the steeply sided valley in which the Tail Burn runs.

Tail Burn at the outflow of Loch Skeen

Tail Burn

The Tail Burn goes through a series of waterfalls and then you get to the big one – Grey Mare’s Tail. This is one of biggest waterfalls in Britain, a hanging valley waterfall falling about 300 feet down a sheer cliff face.  More and more of this impressive waterfall is revealed as you walk down the steep path, I stopped a number of times to take photographs. I needed to, as by now my left knee was really painful , it suddenly came on, I have noticed this a bit on the last couple of walks I have done, but this was in a different league.  I gingerly walk down to a view-point which showed the waterfall at its very  best.

Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall

By the time I got to the valley bottom and the  NTS Car Park, my knee was really painful and my right one was starting to hurt as well – what the hell have I done ?

After a rest for a while I started the 7km walk back on the A708 along Moffat Dale  to the car.  This was actually a pleasant walk, as the road is relatively quiet, the scenery beautiful and by now the sun was out and it was pleasantly warm.  The only thing spoiling the experience was my knee, but on the flat, it eased somewhat, but I need to see the doctor about this, I don’t want this turning into a problem!

Back long the A708 in Moffatt Dale

After about an hour and half, I arrived back the car, my knee sore. I was glad I have an automatic gearbox, the drive was to be 4 hours back and would not be much fun with a manual shift.

My first experience of walking in this area, great scenery and splendid isolation for most of the trip. I am sure I will return to this area.

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8 Responses to Trip Report – Southern Uplands

  1. blogpackinglight says:

    Wild and lonely!

    Hope your knee is OK and best wishes for your wife’s recovery.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. Going to the doctors today, see what the problem is. Still a bit uncomfortable, but not really hurting that much at the moment. Mary is getting better gradually, thanks for asking.
      Wild and lonely – good description. Certainly would like to do more in Scotland.

  2. GeoffC says:

    The Moffat hill country is a much underrated area, we did a backpack around there a while ago and really enjoyed it. Not many people either once away from the waterfall, and Loch Skeen is a real highlight.
    Ouch!. That’s a common knee symptom, when I suffered the same condition it was a couple of months plus a taping kit from the physio before I was halfway fit for hillwalking.

    • Geoff – yes great area for getting away from everyone. I think I will do more in the future as the journey time from home is about the same as going to the Western side of the Lakes – but you don’t get the crowds in the summer. Off to the doctor’s today – see what he says.

  3. Maz says:

    What a cracking walk! Take care of that knee Mark.

  4. Greg says:

    Every time I drive through the southern uplands I say ‘ must explore these some day’
    Great report. I started with a bad knee about 5 years ago . Went to Andrew Stanleys clinic in Settle. He made me some foot beds to make my knee more in line. I also now use two trekking poles. Hard to say if the foot beds made any difference but I’m still walking. Sometimes a couple of ibuprofen at the summit helps on the descent.

    • Thanks for your comments Greg. First time for me in the S. Uplands- it is a great place to get away from it. I will see how I get on with the quad exercises. Doctor suggested ibuprofen as well when walking next. I will look at your blog – not come across it before.

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