Whippet up and start again

Whippet whipped into a frenzy on the Ettrick Hills

Saturday morning, myself, The Lovely Fiona and the Hideous Mutt set off for a daunder around the Ettrick Hills accompanied by Young Finlay and Graeme Devo. Graeme is a whippet more usually known simply as Devo. ‘A non-usual name for a whippet’ I hear you chorus and can only agree. Graeme suits his moniker though and was so named, as many of you will already have twigged, in honour of the song ‘Whip It’ by the eponymous lampshade-wearing American punk wierdos. Young Finlay is Devo’s homey.

That’s the introductions dispensed with.

So we parked up at the south-eastern end of the Talla Reservoir and set off up Games Hope, following the old drove road alongside the fast-moving burn.

There was a lot of water thundering down the glen for obvious reasons given the recent weather and we were unable to cross over to the lovely bothy, which is a mile or so up the glen. I’m sure there was a bridge over the Gameshope Burn here the last time we passed by, but there wasn’t one any longer.

We squelched our way along the left bank of the burn sure that we’d be able to cross higher upstream. The plan was to make for Gameshope Loch then climb Din Law before taking in Cape Law, Hartfell Rig and Hart Fell. However, the burn was a frothing tumult and opportunities for crossing weren’t presenting themselves.

We were soon presented with the minor challenge of crossing a burn feeding into Gameshope. We weren’t going to get across with dry feet so I gave TLF a piggy back across the calf-deep burn and Young Finlay carried the water-shy Devo across. If only I’d taken some pictures!

The dogs had been leashed because of the woolies around, but we came to a sheep free stretch and let them off for a wee while. Joy was unconfined as they tore up and down and back and forth. Dougal is never, ever going to catch Devo, but attempting to do so on a regular basis has made him without doubt the fastest Labrador in Scotland!

We schlepped across the wet and springy morass of the appositely named Crunklie Moss until we were opposite Loch Burn, flowing down from Gameshope Loch. We looked for a crossing point, but the burn was just too deep, too wide and too fast flowing. The bed of the burn also seemed full of awkward boulders and pebbles. We weren’t getting across so we did what we had to do: change of plan.

We decided to launch ourselves up the steep and tussocky flank of Great Hill, a good old fashioned slog if ever there was one!

At the summit (774m), Finlay decided to demonstrate his prowess at canine rodeo:

The weather looked rather brooding over to the south-east, so we didn’t feel so bad at having to change our route.

We continued on our way, skirting around Donald’s Cleuch Head then perching on the collapsed remnants of the dry-stane dyke along the ridge for a spot of lunch. The dogs tried everything from abject pitifulness to  cold-eyed menace in an attempt to win some scraps, but we weren’t having any of that nonsense.

Off we set again along the ridge, taking in Firthybrig Head before descending precipitously into Talla Nick then climbing steeply up the other side to Lochcraig Head (810m).

The view over Loch Skeen from the summit is rather fine.

We dropped back into Talla Nick before continuing on a rising traverse around to Moll’s Cleuch Dod (785m). This is the view into the glen of Talla Water from Talla Nick:

As we climbed toward Moll’s Cleuch Dod, the sun put in a welcome appearance from behind high, scudding clouds.

Once on the ridge, we continued along in the lee of the dry-stane dyke towards the top of Carlavin Hill (736m).

The view back up the Gameshope glen with the burn and loch lit by the afternoon sun:

It was an easy and very pleasant walk out along the ridge in the sparkling afternoon light and soon enough we found ourselves beginning to descend along the dyke as the Talla Reservoir came back into view.

We were fast running out of hill yet still had 300 metres to descend, this could mean only one thing: we were going to have a very, very steep drop down into the glen. Sure enough, we were soon looking down a very steep hillside indeed.

Finlay and Devo brace themselves for the descent

We teetered down alongside the tumbling March Sike burn and all made it down without mishap. Other than the descent and the failure to cross the Gameshope Burn, this had been a remarkably uncontroversial day out on the hills.

The drive back through the rolling Southern Uplands was rather lovely and we were all feeling rather relaxed – especially Dougal who had a very comfy cushion for the journey home.


22 responses

  1. Pete
    That is just about my fave area in the Borders. I almost bought a house in the valley at the end of the Talla road. I hope a few more people get to the area after reading your post. I fancy doing the Southern Upland Way at some point, just to bring the area together in my mind. The fall colors are with us now – beyond our expectations – amazing.

    • Hello Warren, it really is a wonderful area and I can feel a few more visits coming on over the months ahead. I fancy buying a house at the end of the Talla road too!
      We’re starting to get some autumnal colours here in God’s Own Country, but sounds like the fall is really working its way through the palate at the moment.
      I’ve walked bits and bobs of the SUW and it’s certainly on my (vague) list to do the whole thing at some point. In one go, of course.

  2. Before I say wot a lovely trip report and photos I am going to have to be really picky. You were not on the Ettrick hills! The Ettrick hills are further to the south and circle the rather lovely Ettrick Water. You dear sir were on the Moffat / Tweedsmuir hills.

    I do highly recommend a walk in the Ettrick hills as they are very superb.

    Anyway, lovely trip report and photos. Jealous that you have got these hills on your doorstep as they are amongst my favourites. Nice to see that Devo has got a natty jacket a bit like Reubens. I see from one of the pics that a windfarm that was being built during my visit in May is progressing along nicely. Booooooooo.

    • Damn! I was about to write ‘Tweedsmuir Hills’ and I thought I’d better make sure so I checked the map, looked on t’internet and thought: ‘hmmm, seems like these must be the Ettrick Hills then’. Bloody hell! Would you by a guidebook written by a clown like Dr Edwards then?
      Anyway, yes, I must visit the bleeding Ettrick Hills at some point, despite imagining for a full 24 hours that that was exactly what I’d just done.
      Yes, windfarms popping up like a very aggressive rash all over the Southern Uplands. Someone’s making a lot of money out of some dubious old rope.
      Devo used to have a fetching tartan coat, but Dougal just thinks that dogs in coats look a bit, well, girly.

      • Hello Alex! As I was saying to James, I must actually visit the Ettrick Hills… Took us 1hr 20mins from Glasgow, but well worth the journey. It’s a lovely drive once you’re off the ’74.
        Dougal just managed a few sheep turds on this trip as there wasn’t anything more disgusting on offer. Hideous Mutt.

  3. Gorgeous landscape images here, Pete, in that clouded light. And I can hear that torrent of water. If I’d ever needed a further reason why I’ve never fancied walking with a dog, your previous post has provided me with it!! Good luck!

    • Thanks Hoff. It is a lovely area,especially when the light is up to to the kind of tricks it was playing that afternoon.
      Apart from the unsavoury dietary predilictions, there’s a lot of pleasure in walking with a dog – not least because of their tangible enjoyment in being out amongst the landscape with all its smells and sounds. The way they interact with the world is fascinating at times.
      What happened to Hector the Half a Dog (was that what you called him?) – did we have a chat about him recently (my memory is a bit delapidated these days)?

  4. Yes, Hector the Half a Dog died a couple of years ago after a venerable life. Sadly he was kept pretty much locked up by his other half-owners during his last year. But we had some good romps. Though I’m sure I’d enjoy aspects of taking a dog out, my love of birdwatching was always severely curtailed whenever Hector was along as the feathered tribes took to the air with such alacrity that they were a constant blur one step ahead of us! Hector, of course, loved that part the most!!

  5. I was half way down when I suddenly realised from the photos that our recent posts have overlapping hills. I was a bit luckier with the weather on Lochcraig Head though you had the benefit of being paced by a whippet. My canine pacemaker is somewhat more pedestrian. That first photo – the demented whippet – is a cracker.

    • Hello Kenny, indeed and that’s a fine day’s walk you had there in sublime conditions. Funnily enough, when we were stood up on Lochcraig Head admiring the view down over Loch Skeen we were chortling away at the prospect of hapless walkers being swallowed up in that morass of peat hags on the edge of the loch…
      It’s a wonderful area and there seems to be a huge amount to explore; I’m very excited at the prospect of a few more visits. Off down to Biggar and Ettrick tomorrow…

  6. We,re lucky to have so many wild,different and contrasting hill ranges in Scotland.Great photos Pete that capture the empty feel of that area. We(Alex and myself) once met three lurcher type dogs running flat out over remote hills south of Edinburgh.No owners.It looked like they,d been out running the hills themselfs for days but they were still going strong and were not interested in us or the sheep.Very strange sight.They disappeared within minutes heading into an even remoter area of hills.Still Haven,t a clue why they were there or who owned them.

    • Hello Bob, there really is a grand feeling of emptiness in the hills here. I’m looking forward to doing a bit more exploring of the country in these parts.
      Seeing those three lurchers bounding along oblivious to sheep and people out on the hill sounds a strange sight indeed – maybe they’re still going?!

  7. Hi Pete – I’m finding this is the problem with reading these blogs, so many fantastic areas to visit and not enough time to do them all. I’m finding that I get more enjoyment from the lesser known quieter hills these days so these are another to add to the list. My mate GM lives near the Cheviots so I’ve done some nice routes there but very little else in the Southern Uplands. Quality write-up and introduction to another canine star of the blogoshere

    • Hello Andy, the Southern Uplands are just rammed full of ‘lesser known quieter hills’. We were driving at length through the Borders yesterday and I was astounded by how much fine hill country there is here.
      Devo may feature in another post soon, frankly that’s one bizarre mutt…

  8. My memories of those particular hills are of very steep up and downy bits with lots of glorious marching along the tops bits.
    Just the few occasionally wonderful gloopy bogs. (I really *like* walking through bogs)

    Just sheep turds this time. That’s a relief.

  9. Hello Alan, yes, the ‘glorious marching along the top bits’ are sublime. Sheep turds seem positively wholesome when compared with some of the more challenging matter the Hideous Mutt likes to ingest – given half a chance. Sunday morning pavement vomit is a favourite…

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