The walk La­nark­shire’s finest

The Herald Magazine - - etc OUTDOORS - ROUTE PLAN­NER

Lo­ca­tion: The Lowther Hills, La­nark­shire Grade: Mod­er­ate hill walk

Dis­tance: 8 miles/13km Time: 3-4 hours

I MUST ad­mit I usu­ally as­so­ciate La­nark­shire more with in­dus­try than high rolling hills but it’s a fact that Wan­lock­head is the high­est vil­lage in Scot­land. At 468 me­tres above sea level it’s only 264m to the sum­mit of 732m Green Lowther – that’s less than 1,000 feet! That’s what tempted me.

With a few hours snatched from a long haul up the mo­tor­way I made the most of a wan­der over Green Lowther and its near neigh­bours East Mount Lowther and Lowther Hill, a fine lit­tle ex­pe­di­tion at this time of the year with views which, in clear weather, ex­tend from the Lake­land Fells to the High­lands. Or so I’m told.

On this win­try day the vil­lage had a typ­i­cal Sun­day af­ter­noon feel to it, cold and empty, and from the road above the vis­i­tor cen­tre I fol­lowed South­ern Upland Way sign­posts out of the vil­lage for about 1.5km. Back­pack­ers hik­ing the en­tire 200-mile plus length of the South­ern Upland Way prob­a­bly ap­pre­ci­ate Wan­lock­head more than I did, for the Lowthers mark the halfway point of their route – and the high­est el­e­va­tions. From here it’s all down­hill to the North Sea.

I warmed up a bit as I climbed Stake Hill to where the path joins a wider track and then, shortly after, makes a very tight bend to the left. I left the South­ern Upland Way here and fol­lowed the old right of way to the En­terkin Pass that runs be­tween Wan­lock­head and Duris­deer. Many have been the itin­er­ants who have passed through this nar­row slot in the hills – Covenan­ters, trav­el­ling priests, mer­chants and, it is said, the army of Charles Ed­ward Stu­art en route to its fate­ful ap­point­ment at Cul­lo­den in 1746.

At the head of the pass I left the com­forts of the path, took to the heather and climbed to the sum­mit of East Mount Lowther but my ar­rival co­in­cided with a bank of mist so I saw very lit­tle.

I hoped for bet­ter things on Lowther Hill so I re­turned to the pass and climbed from there to pick up the track that runs to the sum­mit of Lowther Hill it­self.

This sum­mit was once used as a burial ground for sui­cides, the be­lief be­ing that such a sin barred these poor folk from the con­se­crated church­yard. The ac­tual sum­mit has a fence around it, pro­tect­ing the radar mast, and the wind was howl­ing through it like a de­mented ban­shee. It sounded as though a thou­sand sui­cides were howl­ing in an­guish in their eter­nal pun­ish­ment.

On the other side of the fence a road runs over an in­ter­me­di­ate rise to the sum­mit of Green Lowther where, be­cause of the in­creas­ing gales, I dropped quickly down the wide ridge to the mine work­ings just south of Lead­hills, from where it was an easy wan­der along the B797


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