North Rhinns of Kells Hike
Where: North end of the Rhinns of Kells,
from Casphairn, Dumfries & Galloway
When: October 4th 2012
Who: I Parker
Why: Good weather so a day out
Weather: Sunny spells
Distance: About 9 miles, 7 hours
The car park for this hike is next to a
cottage about 23 miles southeast of Ayr next
to the A713, about half of a mile west of
The range here is known as the Corserine range or Rhinns of
Kells, containing from the north, the 1,732
ft Black Craig, 2,043 ft Coran of Portmark,
2,011 ft Bow, 2,162 ft Cairnsgarroch, 2,280
ft Meaul, 2,648 ft Carlin's Cairn, 2,671 ft
Corserine, 2,034 ft Meikle Craigtarson, 2,349
ft Millfire, 2,421 ft Milldown, and 2,457 ft
This photo tour covers the north end of
the range going round Cairnsgarroch, Meaul,
Bow, Coran of Portmark, Black Craig and
The image below is from the place to park
next to the A713 road, by the bridge over the
Water of Deugh. There is a cottage here and a
hill road leading up to Cairnsmore of
Casphairn. There is room for a few cars
parked close to the fence. There is also a
car park across the road where the farmer
stores large hay bales. The parking here can
be popular at times with hikers, fishermen,
and people exploring the legendary cave, old
bridge, and The Green Well of Scotland, a
place in the river with stories of giants and
The view below is from the park place
looking towards Cairnsgarroch on the left and
Knockower on the right. The stone dyke across
the road runs down the side of the farm road
to the hills.
Road Map .
click on Map . Large Hill Route Map
The image below is of the farm road
leading to the Old Led Mines. There is a
bridge about half of a mile down this road
with a sign stating it is 1 mile from there
to the Lead Mines. Garryhorn Farm is mid way
between the bridge and the mines.
The image below is of a map showing this
road leading to the Lead Mines. The green
lines show the hiking routes from the
I decided to go over Cairnsgarroch first
as it was early in the morning with the sun
shinning right on its east side. I calculated
that by the time I got to Meaul, the sun
would be round more to the south shinning
along the route I would take north across Bow
and Coran of Portmark. I try to figure out
routes so I am not taking pics into the
The image below is from just past the farm
looking towards the Old Woodhead Lead Mines,
with Bow and Coran of Portmark where the
rainbow is, and Knockower on the right.
This is a working sheep farm. The farmer
has no problem with hikers as long as they do
not take dogs. The farmer also asks hikers to
try and avoid this route during the lambing
season, March and April. There are other
routes during those months. All Routes Map.
The first building at the mines is the one
seen below, the only building still complete,
although abandoned. Not sure if this is a
mine building that was named Smelters
Cottage, or a shepherds building.
The lead mining started in 1839 and by
1851, there were about 50 houses with a
population of over 300. As well as houses, a
school and a library were built. The lead
mining stopped in 1873, leading to the miners
The last residents left in 1954, there are
only ruins of the buildings left.
The view below is on the crossing to
Cairnsgarroch following a quad bike track.
The wall of the building here has four
windows, it may have been the school. If it
was the school, it had a fantastic view.
The image below is from just after
crossing the Garryhorn Burn, looking to the
east side of Cairnsgarroch.
There had been a lot of rain over the
week, so the burn was about 2 feet deep in
places. The quad bike tracks lead across the
burn at its shallowest point, a small ford,
about 7 feet wide, and 4 or 5 inches deep in
this wet spell. There were no stepping stones
anywhere so it was a matter of walking across
the water. Had yeti gaiters on so was a good
test for them, the feet remained dry. Need to start carrying 2 heavy duty bin liners in the backpack to be used as waterproof boot covers for crossing shallow burns.
The view below shows the quad bike track
leading to a gate at the east side of
Cairnsgarroch. There is a quad bike track
that follows the fence left in this image to
another gate about 2 hundred yards south.
There is then a track across onto the hill
I decided to take the direct route up the
steepest part, to hopefully get some good
pics. From just past the gate to the side of
the hill had no track, so it was through the
dreaded thick stuff for about 150 yards.
The image below is after clearing the
thick stuff and looking at the route up.
Think there may be a trail up over to the
left of here where the other gate leads to. I
decided to go straight up, the steepest way
possible to hike, normally the best way to
get good photos.
The image below is from close to the top
of the second ridge, looking down to the top
of the first ridge and the Old Lead Mines.
This hill is in three parts, the first part
up through the rocks, the second part to
here, and the third part still a good hike to
go from here.
The image below is towards a large anvel
shaped rock at the top of the second ridge,
northeast side. I saw this rock from the
mines so had to make my way over for a
The image below is from the anvel rock
looking north to Bow and Coran of Portmark,
Black Craig can just be seen in the
I liked the look of this ridge leading up
onto Bow. Not sure if there are any trails
out to that ridge.
The image below is from the anvel rock at
the top of the second ridge, looking to the
first cairn on the summit. It was still a
fair hike from here to the top, and there
were no trails here. The cairn up there is
not the top, there is another cairn about 100
yards further on, next to a stone dyke.
I decided to head over to the left here to
see if I could pick up a trail to the top.
There was a trail over to there so it made
the rest of the hike a lot easier. Not sure
if that trail came all the way up the
The image below is from the cairn on the
summit of Cairnsgarroch looking back towards
the other cairn on top of the east side.
You can see the 2,614 ft Cairnsmore of
Casphairn in the clouds in the distance. That
is also a popular hike with a hill road
leading up to it from the same car park.
From the start of the steep part of this
hill, it was about 1,300 feet of testing
hiking to the summit.
The view below is from Cairnsgarroch cairn
looking south to Carlin's Cairn and
Corserine. Those hills are normally hiked
from Forest Lodge or Loch Doon.
The whole range is a long hike in one day,
so most hikers try to do this north section
in one day, and the south section another
The image below is from the route from
Cairnsgarroch over to Meaul. It is about 460
feet from the lowest part here to the top of
Meaul. The Kings Well and Kings Stone are on
the right side of the trail up Meaul.
The image below is from Trig Point on
Meaul looking north to Bow, Coran of Portmark
and Loch Doon. This is the main Rhinns of
Kells ridge with 5 hills directly south and
these 3 directly north.
The view below is from Meaul northwest
side to Loch Doon. The views from here are as
good as they get in southwest Scotland, East
to the Cairnsmore of Casphiarn Range, south
to Corserine and Carlin's Cairn, west to the
rocky Mullwarchar Range, and the Merrick
Range behind the Mullwarchar Range.
There is a quad bike track all along this
range. The farmers could be missing an
opportunity as many people would probably pay
a considerable fee to be taken along here on
quad bikes. Not everyone is fit enough to
hike up to here for the incredible views.
The view below is from Meaul north side to
Bow. It is about 460 feet down to the low
part here, picking your way round a soggy
patch half way down, about 50 yards long. The
steepest hiking is past from here as it is
only about 170 feet up to the top of Bow, on
a fairly long steady climb.
The image below is from the second cairn
on the north side of Bow, looking north to
Coran of Portmark. Again, there are great
views all around. It is a leisurely hike
along here so great for taking in the
The view below is from the lowest part of
the hike across to Coran of Portmark. It is
only about 160 feet up to the top of Coran of
Partmark, spread over a fair distance, so is
an easy hike.
The image below is from the main cairn on
Coran of Portmark, looking north to Loch
Doon. To the right in this image, is the
route down the east side ridge to the Old
Lead Mines. This is a steady route down to
the bottom of the ridge, then you follow a
quad bike track through the moorland to the
Old Lead Mines. This is the easy way down,
probably making the hike about 5 to 6
Heading north here to Black Craig, adds
about two hours to the hike.
You get great views over Loch Doon from
The view below is from the north cairn on
Coran of Portmark, looking towards Black
Craig hill and Loch Doon. There is a quad
bike track down to the left here, but that
leads to the southwest side of Black Craig
There are no trails up the southwest side
of Black Craig hill, only moorland and deep
heather. The main hiking trail follows the
fence down over to the right here, then up
the east side of Black Craig hill.
The view below from the steep north side
of Coran of Portmark, looking to the route
alongside the fence to the east side of Black
Craig hill. Its about 580 feet down here,
with the lowest part looking boggy.
The narrow trail leads through the wet
patch in a way that is hard to beleive, a lot
easier and drier than it looks.
The image below is of the route up the
east side of Black Craig hill. It is about
255 feet to the top, following a narrow path
up this ridge, that makes the hiking fairly
The image below is from the cairn on Black
Craig hill looking north over Loch Doon. You
can see the forest road down to the right in
this image. That road leads to the A713 about
4 miles north of Casphairn, at the entrance
to the forest and a Hydro Pumping Station, at
an area named Drumjohn.
There is a well worn path up the north
side from that forest road, so it must be a
popular route onto this hill. I would
imagine, that would be the fastest route onto
this range if you were planning to hike the
whole range in one day. It is about 748 feet
from the forest road up to here.
The view below is from Black Craig south
over the other 10 hills on the Rhinns of
Kells range. Nine hills here are in a line.
Cairnsgarroch leads off to the east at Meaul,
and Meikle Craigtarson leads off to the west
at Corserine. Getting dropped off here,
hiking straight down the middle, then getting
picked up at Forest Lodge, is said to be a
long testing day. Taking in the other two
hills off to the sides, would be a really
The view below is from Black Craig hill
heading over to Knockower hill. There is not
really a trail over Knockower, just faint
trails now and again where a few hikers have
left their mark. This is tough going, was
starting to wish I had taken the route down
off Coran of Portmark.
I made the top of Knockower hill after
what seemed like a long hike through the deep
stuff, occasionally picking up faint trails
I then decided to head over to the south
side to pick up the trail down off Coran of
Portmark, as can be seen in the image
This quad bike trail makes the descent of
this lower part a lot easier, as the deep
stuff is not the easiest hiking without a
trail like this. The image below shows the
Old Lead Mines where the quad bike tracks
end, and the village of Casphairn in the
This was an interesting hike with great
views in all directions. The hike over to
Black Craig made the hike a bit on the long
side for me, would have been better to have
come back down from Coran of Portmark, but
then I would have been wondering what Black
Craig was like. The hikes up from the Old
Lead Mines, and between the hills, added up
to about 2,500 feet.
Remember you have to cross the Garyhorn
Burn that could be up to 6 inches deep at the
crossing, so either take waterproof boot
covers, or be prepared to take the boots off
for a bit of paddling. Two heavy bin liners
do the trick and are easy to keep in the back
If you only have about 4 hours to spend
visiting the lead mines and one hill, this
route up to Coran of Portmark is probably the
best, with great views all around from the
If you are thinking about doing the whole range, see the Corserine to Meikle Millyea Photo Tour of the south side or this range.
Large Map of the
whole range . Corserine to Meikle Millyea Photo Tour .