Geo-Trips :: A very scary walk on Criffel

Criffel

A walk from New Abbey, Fri, 7 Dec 2007 by Oliver Dixon

My scariest outing in pursuit of Geographs. I had climbed Criffel some thirty years previously, and felt that it was time to climb it again as it offered some green squares which were rapidly disappearing from the map. Albeit it was the middle of winter, I caught the early morning train from Hexham to Dumfries and took the bus out to just beyond New Abbey where I started climbing. It was a beautiful clear day but very cold and with a biting wind. First intimations of trouble came when with a full frontal climb up Cairn Knockendoch - very difficult tussocky heather. Once I gained the summit ridge, I enjoyed fantastic views along the length of the Solway coast.

I had planned on a broad sweep to the south and west of Criffel over Boreland Hill to Meikle Hard Hill and then down to the forest road. What I hadn't planned on was the appallingly hard going - unmanaged heather overlying peat bog. And then I lost my map. Common sense would have dictated that I call it a day, and turn round and retrace my steps back to New Abbey and catch the bus from there back to Dumfries. Unfortunately - and I mean unfortunately in the light of subsequent developments - I had a spare map and decided to soldier on. Once on the shoulder of Abbey Fell, I could see a path ahead of me and made for that - only to discover that it was a ditch!

At last, as light was beginning to fade I reached a semblance of a real path at the summit of Meikle Hard Hill and walked down through the forest to the forestry road. I was really tired by this time, despite the modest distance covered, so imagine my relief when I heard a truck coming down the road. I waved frantically - and the driver waved back and drove on! I set off down the road, and another van came along - I waved frantically for him to stop and they drove right past! So there was nothing to do it but to walk nearly 4 km down to the public road in the dark.

At last as I approached the road, I saw a light through the trees and made for it. It was an old farmhouse, now occupied by a fish farm. I threw myself on the occupant's mercy and asked him to summon a taxi as I had by now long missed the last bus from New Abbey. I had also missed the through train, so it was altogether a long journey home with waits at both Dumfries and Carlisle.

Looking back on it, it was a very scary experience. My wife was away in Germany and wouldn't have missed me for several days. No mobile phone signal, and if anything had happened to me, I would have been a goner in that remote and desolate country. Thereafter I decided to leave the glory of capturing the more remote green squares to those younger, fitter and braver than I.

Click the blue circles to see a photograph taken from that spot and read further information about the location. The blue lines indicate the direction of view. There is also a slideshow of this trip. ( )

↓ Scroll down here ↓

NX9263 : Forest clearing at Thorter Fell by Oliver Dixon
Forest clearing at Thorter Fell
This clearing in the Forestry Commission forest to the west of Criffel is unusual... more

NX9263 : Fence and path at Little Hard Hill by Oliver Dixon
Fence and path at Little Hard Hill
This rough path offers a reasonably passable route through Forestry Commission... more

NX9361 : Abbey Fell by Oliver Dixon
Abbey Fell
Extremely wet and difficult heather moorland. Criffel [[NX9561]] lies on the horizon.

NX9362 : Meikle Hard Hill by Oliver Dixon
Meikle Hard Hill
Extremely wet and difficult moorland country on the ridge between two tongues of forest.

NX9362 : On the way to Meikle Hard Hill by Oliver Dixon
On the way to Meikle Hard Hill
Extremely wet and difficult moorland. What I had hoped to be a track (see middle... more

NX9363 : Fence posts on Meikle Hard Hill by Oliver Dixon
Fence posts on Meikle Hard Hill
A line of fence posts (the wire has long since disappeared) on Meikle Hard Hill,... more

NX9461 : At the head of the Glen Burn by Oliver Dixon
At the head of the Glen Burn
Impenetrable forest and very wet and rough moorland make this an area not be... more

NX9461 : The valley of the Glen Burn by Oliver Dixon
The valley of the Glen Burn
Looking down into the valley of the Glen Burn. Forestry Commission forest to the... more

NX9460 : Wall on Boreland Hill by Oliver Dixon
Wall on Boreland Hill
Criffel [[NX9561]] lies on the horizon.

NX9561 : Douglas's Cairn, Criffel by Oliver Dixon
Douglas's Cairn, Criffel
A stunning commanding viewpoint on a clear day, giving unrivalled views of the... more

NX9561 : Cairn on the western shoulder of Criffel by Oliver Dixon
Cairn on the western shoulder of Criffel
A path leads from the summit to this point - beyond is wet, difficult, trackless moorland.

NX9562 : The slopes of Criffel by Oliver Dixon
The slopes of Criffel
Seen from the path linking Criffel with Knockendoch. Loch Kindar [[NX9664]] can be... more

NX9563 : The summit of Knockendoch by Oliver Dixon
The summit of Knockendoch
A subsidiary peak of Criffel.

NX9563 : The slopes of Knockendoch by Oliver Dixon
The slopes of Knockendoch
A few conifers seem to have escaped from the forest below.

NX9662 : Footbridge over the Criffel Burn by Oliver Dixon
Footbridge over the Criffel Burn
The path to Criffel keeps to the left of the burn. The substantial footbridge just... more

NX9663 : Ardwall by Oliver Dixon
Ardwall
A farm nestling at the foot of Criffel.

NX9663 : Criffel Burn by Oliver Dixon
Criffel Burn
The path to the summit of Criffel crosses and recrosses the burn. The lower of two... more

NX9663 : The track up to Loch Wood by Oliver Dixon
The track up to Loch Wood
Looking back on the way up Criffel. The big farm in the middle distance is Ardwall... more

NX9663 : Criffel Burn by Oliver Dixon
Criffel Burn
The burn is followed by the path up to Criffel through Loch Woods.

NX9763 : Cottage at Ardwall by Oliver Dixon
Cottage at Ardwall
Beyond, Loch Woods rise up towards the summit of Criffel.

NX9763 : Loch Kindar by Oliver Dixon
Loch Kindar
Seen from the road to Ardwall.

All images © Oliver Dixon and available under a Creative Commons licence external link.