Shalloch on Minnoch - 774m
Sunday 13th January 2019
Weather/Conditions: Really blowy, wet and misty at the start (car is already above 400m...). Streams in spate and flooding so difficult to cross, bogs flooded. Windy on the tops, but a couple breaks to surrounding lochs. A mega rain shower to our backs on the way up Shalloch, windy on top, then turned into the wind and slightly improving conditions for the way out. We were at the tail end of a front; half an hour later and slightly further north was bright sun and wide blue skies!
Distance/Ascent/Time: 9.5km / 440m / 2h 12m
I don't have much of a history with Galloway, truth be told. Mackenzie and I first walked through it in 2010 and I thought the place to be incredibly desolate; in some ways more so than the Highlands. But perhaps that was my inexperience of 2010 talking. At the end of 2010, I revisited when Mackenzie had his 'leaving Scotland' bothy weekend. That time, everyone forgot the map (about six of us), so I headed up Curleywee in thick mist, not keen to go any further without something to navigate by. Since then I hadn't been back.
I met Struan in Ayr and we sat and had a Tim Horton's breakfast, which all felt strangely civil and commercialised for a hill day. The bacon roll and cups of tea were needed after my early start... Heading south, we passed through all kinds of villages I didn’t recognise. Some of these roads I can't ever remember going down. This is how little I’ve gone to Galloway! It’s a rather empty corner of Scotland, much altered by farming and conifer plantation. But now having made a day trip, I really should go back for more soon.
Shalloch on Minnoch geographically sits at the end of a chain of hills leading north from the Merrick. Shalloch forms the northern termination, and on a better day, the whole range would be a good walk. Just as well for us that the summit is less than 800m, the road above 400m: it is accordingly a pretty short day – the weather was pretty naff. Parking up, the wind boomed outside and the waterlogged moors were brushed with mist. It as waterproofs on from the outset; but within ten minutes of moving the jackets were coming off again. So it wasn’t incredibly cold.
Galloway also has a reputation of man-eating tussocks; probably deserved. I thought it a hard country when I came by in 2010, but there were reasons for that: 40km days, 25kg rucksacks and what amount to a starvation diet and ensuing hypoglycaemia... Today, the moorlands were like snow in consistency: soft and deep. We trudged over moor, having to go quite far before the terrain thinned on the higher slopes. Caerloch Dhu is a top en route, so we went over this, picking up a path on the way. We saw little in the way of views; certainly not the Ailsa Craig or Arran that Struan had hoped for: only the mist blasting by, and grey views leading down to the lochs to the east.
Shalloch on Minnoch has a gentle mossy summit. We arrived to a cairn at the edge of a drop, windy again – so we got a comedy picture of Struan blowing away. Then we turned around, went to the trig point and headed down the way we came, face-on into the blasting wind.
The day was almost over as soon as it had begun, and we were walking back on waterlogged moors toward the car. Chinks of blue sky were opening up. The bad weather was passing, just as our hill was coming to a close. We thought for a moment about Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, and then thought better of it - for another day.
Driving back toward Ayr, the skies became bright and blue - we were obviously a few hours too early. It was a nice hill though, and certainly one of the easier Corbetts around. I might well get back to Galloway soon...
(0.00) 10.20am Parking (verge)
(0.50) 11.10am Caerloch Dhu
(1.12) 11.32am Shalloch on Minnoch
(1.36) 11.56am Caerloch Dhu (again)
(2.12) 12.32pm Parking