Quaerentes in Extremis
The Galloway Hills are part of the Southern Uplands of Scotland, comprise an area of several hundred square miles of largely uninhabited wild land and form the northern boundary of Galloway. The Merrick is the highest point in the Southern Uplands.
One of the fascinating features of these hills are the unusual place names, often a mixture of Old Norse, Gaelic and Brythonic languages. A few examples include the Rig of the Jarkness, the Rig of the Gloon and the Dungeon of Buchan.
The greatest of the Galloway Hills (in order from highest to lowest) are:
The Three Ridges
There are three ridges which run northwards from the Loch Trool/Loch Dee/ Clatteringshaws area – The Awful Hand on the west, The Rhinns of Kells to the east, and the Dungeon hills in between.
Taking the Awful Hand from north to south we have the following tops Shalloch on Minnoch (768 metres), Tarfessock (697 metres), Kirriereoch (786), Merrick (843 metres) and Benyellary (719 metres). Merrick is the highest hill in the south of Scotland though at less than three thousand feet it is not a Munro. These five hills have ridges running off them to the west making the “Awful Hand”, Benyellary being the thumb. This hand is best seen from near Waterhead on Minnoch as you head south from Stinchar Bridge towards Glentrool village. The Awful Hand ridge is 9 kilometres in length as the crow flies; from the top of Shalloch on Minnoch to the top of Benyellary. This sounds like not very much but there are some stiff climbs along the route especially around Kirriereoch and the Merrick. Also you have some 3 kilometres walk in to the two terminal tops from any road.
Rhinns of Kells
Taking the Rhinns of Kells from north to south we start on Black Craig (528 metres) on the east bank of Loch Doon, followed by Coran of Portmark (623 metres), Meaul (695 metres), Carlin’s Cairn (807), Corserine (814 metres), Millfire (716 metres), Milldown (738 metres) Meikle Millyea (746 metres), Little Millyea (578 metres) and Darrou (479). Darrou lies about half way between Loch Dee and Clatteringshaws. The Rhinns of Kells is 15.5 kilometres as the crow flies from Black Craig to Darrou and the ridge has a double curve on it making it somewhat longer than that. It tends to be a gently undulating ridge along its length making for relatively easy walking.
Taking the Dungeon hills from north to south we have Craigmawhannal (357 metres) just south of the south end of Loch Doon, followed by, Hoodens hill (568 metres), Mullwharchar (692 metres), Dungeon hill (610 metres). Craignairny (595 metres), Craignaw (645 metres), Snibe hill (533 metres) and Craiglee (531 metres). Craiglee is to an extent an outlier from the main ridge lying as it does at the eastern end of the Rig of the Jarkness which runs east to west. Craiglee is just north of Loch Dee. The Dungeons, as they are often called, are 11 kilometres from the top of Craigmawhannal to the top of Craiglee as the crow flies. None of these hills get to the same heights as some hills on the other two ridges.
The hills are among the most sparsely-inhabited areas of all Christendom. However, from time to time people will be found living in amongst the dense woods of the valleys and hillsides. These people are, without exception, of a solitary disposition, but the hunters, charcoal-burners, hermits and occasional folk witch are often of use to lost travelers and those seeking hidden things in the wilderness.