Challenging Criffel

After ten days at Quarryhill CL we packed up yesterday and started our journey back South. The weather was miserable, not a great day for travelling, but by the time we were south of Glasgow the skies started to clear and thankfully it was dry when we arrived at our pitch on Landis Farm CL, close to New Abbey and a few miles from Dumfries.

This is a new part of the Country for us that we are looking forward to exploring. In 2014 we visited Abbeytown on the other side of the Solway Firth and looked across the estuary and thought it was a place we should visit before too long. We have a cracking pitch at Landis Farm with our view dominated by Criffel. It is one of those hills that stands there boldly challenging you. We have just spent a few days walking Munros. So a hill of 1,870 feet should be a doddle.

The weather has cleared today and it seems like the perfect day to tick off Criffel. If we don’t tackle it early in our stay it will always be there challenging us! It is always good to walk directly from a CL; from the main entrance gate at Landis Farm we head downhill on the tarmac road keeping straight on when there is a turn to the left. We soon cross New Abbey Pow on a footbridge alongside a ford and then follow the way-markers through a couple of gates and take the footpath on the left that leads to the village playing field.

After following the path besides a school we arrive at the A710 and turn right walking through New Abbey, passing Sweetheart Abbey and continuing on to the Abbey Arms pub, here we take the road that forks left passing the pub. Very soon we reach the millpond and turn left to head up a tarmac lane.

We continue on this road around a couple of bends and start to get a good view of the Waterloo Monument. This is on my places to walk later in the week.

On reaching a small car park we go over a bridge on the left (way-marked for Criffel) and then pass through a gate on the left into a field. We continue to the next gate and walk down a track and on reaching a gate in front enter a marshy field. The footpath leaves this field by a kissing gate on the right, but to get there we first walk on the track and then just before reaching the gate in front of us turning right to follow a raised path with a drystone wall on our left.

I am striding out in front with Crosby when Lynnie calls from behind; she wants me to take Dexter as she has seen snakes she wants to photograph. I don’t like snakes and this looks like adder country to me. By the time Lynnie returns to the snakes she can only see one (a bit worrying, where has the other one gone?). Catching up with me she shows me the picture; it is definitely an adder and a big one!

We carry on the few yards to the kissing gate and just as we are about to enter a herd of bears spot us. These are very inquisitive steers and immediately we put a foot through the gate they start charging towards us. A hasty retreat is called for; our nerves are already frazzled from the adder.

I look for an alternative route, I can see that others have climbed over the wall to our left and there is evidence of a pathway along the edge of the field. We decide to take this option although reluctant to enter what is obviously adder habitat. It is soon clear that we cannot cross the wall on our right so we walk around the margins of the field until we reach a metal gate that rejoins the track across the very marshy field. Here we turn left along the track to the gate and then follow a footpath sign directing us to the left to start walking uphill.

After the marshy land it is a relief to have a firm gravel track beneath our boots. As the track sweeps around to the right we carry straight on following a way-marker. This leads through fir trees and then starts to climb.

Initially the path is dry with occasional boggy patches, but as we progress it becomes boggy with occasional dry patches. It is a warm afternoon and soon we have attracted a large following of flies. This is not one of the most pleasant walks we have done!

I keep encouraging Lynnie by promising that we will soon be through the boggy section. Getting above the tree line I think things will improve, but I am soon proved woefully wrong. The only compensation is that the emerging views are stunning.

We are walking with a drystone wall to our left, as this joins a fence we carry straight on up towards Knockendoch. There are good views from here over Loch Kindar and the Nith Estuary.

The route is hard going; very steep and very boggy and we are still being pestered by flies, but we soon reach the cairn on the top and are pleased to have a breeze to clear the flies.

After stopping to take in the views we resume our walk still on an obvious path heading towards Criffel and quite quickly we are making the final ascent to the summit trig point.

At the top we are 1,870 feet above sea level and the views are stunning.

From here we can look across to Skiddaw in the Lake District. We walked it a couple of years ago and it is on my list of walks to repeat.

The small islands along the coast to the southwest look interesting we will have to explore that area in the next few days.

At the top of Criffel along with the trig point is a very large cairn known as Douglas’s Cairn.

We have a look at the map and contemplate our options and decide that the best route back to New Abbey is retracing our steps. So we are soon heading over Knockendoch and descending through the steep boggy section. The only benefit of going down is that it is quicker; the disadvantage is that it is so boggy and muddy that we have difficulty remaining upright.  Care is definitely needed; even so we both slip, Lynnie spectacularly with mud oozing over her boots and spilling her phone into the mire at the same time – she is not best pleased!

Thankfully we are soon through the boggy section and following the path through trees to reach the forestry track where we turn right to head downhill. At a way-marker on our left we leave the track to follow the marked route. We follow the markers down through the trees crossing a footbridge and continuing on to pass a house and then reach the footbridge we crossed earlier.

From here we rejoin the tarmac lane and head back into New Abbey. On reaching the Mill Pond we wander around to look at the Mill. At this time of the afternoon it is closed but it is still an interesting building to view from the outside.

Historic Scotland run this site and they state that the Stewarts who resided at nearby Shambellie House built the mill in the late 1700’s. It is thought that an earlier mill stood on the site dating to the late 1200’s when the Cistercian Monks established Sweetheart Abbey.

We walk through the village, taking care on the narrow sections without pavements. There are numerous houses here that are of interest. Later in the week we will have to wander around for a closer look.

On reaching Sweetheart Abbey we go into the car park and turn into the graveyard following a footpath through the headstones. They certainly go in for grand headstones in these parts.

Leaving the graveyard on the footpath a herd of bears poke their heads over the wall to watch us intently.

Soon we reach a gate into a field and turn right to walk along the edge of pasture to another gate that we came through earlier, from here we retrace our steps back across the stream to return to Landis Farm CL.

Our walk up Criffel has covered just over eight and a half miles. It is good to have ticked it off, but it is not a walk I want to repeat unless after a prolonged dry spell. It will certainly stay in our memories and at least for the rest of our stay I can look at it knowing we have conquered it! As for now, we have the task of washing smelly, muddy dogs, walking boots and trousers!

To view this route in OS Maps Click Here

To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 313 – Dumfries & Dalbeattie

10th July 2017

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2017)

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