Walk: The Merrick, Murder Hole & Range of the Awful Hand!

[Benyellary from the ascent path]

Nowhere does place names like Galloway! The Range of the Awful Hand is a chain of five hills stretching across a large swathe of Galloway Forest Park. The two southernmost "fingers" comprise the lofty peak of The Merrick and lower Benyellary. "A walk of two halves" perfectly describes this circuit of these two hills, with a straightforward path providing the direct way up from the popular beauty spot of Glen Trool. This route alone seems underwhelming for an ascent of what's Scotland's highest hill south of the Central Belt though. Who likes linear routes anyway? Returning via four lochs amongst craggy moorland could be the perfect tonic... perfect apart from boot-swallowing bogs which often characterise the middle section. We can confirm the going's largely fine after a dry spell, but still beware of the Murder Hole: the stagnant western fringe of Loch Neldricken, rumoured to be a past dumping ground for human corpses. Charming... best not to go swimming here. Back at the base, don't miss out on the Bruce's Stone, overlooking a battle site from the Wars of Independence as well as the glittering waters of Loch Trool itself.

[Neive of the Spit connects Benyellary to The Merrick: from the summit you can easily see Arran, Ailsa Craig, Kintyre, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Lake District on a clear day!]

Name: Walk: The Merrick, Murder Hole & Range of the Awful Hand! ★★☆☆
Length: 15 km / 9 miles
Ascent: 880 metres
Main summits: Benyellary (719 metres); The Merrick (843 metres, Corbett / Donald)
Points of interest: Bruce's Stone; Buchan Waterfall; Loch Enoch; Loch Neldricken & the Murder Hole; Loch Valley
Start / finish: Car park at minor road end in Glen Trool, G.R.: NX 416805 / happen distilled maps

Route: Car park & Bruce's Stone - Buchan Waterfall - Culsharg - Benyellary - The Merrick - Redstone Rig - Loch Enoch (southern end) - low bealach immediately to west of Craig Neldricken - pass to east of Loch Arron - Murder Hole - Loch Valley - start.
Terrain: Good paths (some tracks) all the way to The Merrick, often surfaced although with some steep sections. Pathless descent to Loch Enoch; intermittent, faint and potentially wet paths follow, gradually becoming clearer as progress south is made.
Wildlife today: First cuckoo of the season heard. A few grouse and lots of curly-horned sheep.
Weather today: Mostly sunny although cloud filling in through the afternoon. Around freezing at the top with a cold northerly wind and the odd very light snow flurry on descent. A few small snow wreaths remaining on The Merrick's northern slopes.

[Several picturesque lochs vie for attention on the return leg: this is Loch Valley, the fourth one]


Route credit: Walkhighlands (modified)

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