North Rhinns of Kells Hike

AS Walking

Where: North end of the Rhinns of Kells, from Carsphairn, 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 Carsphairn.

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 Meikle Millyea.

This photo tour covers the north end of the range going round Cairnsgarroch, Meaul, Bow, Coran of Portmark, Black Craig and Knockower.

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 Carsphairn. 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 treasure?

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

Large Hill Route Map

Green Well of Scotland car park image

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.

Garryhorn farm road image

The image below is of a map showing this road leading to the Lead Mines. The green lines show the hiking routes from the mines.

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 sun.

North Rhinns of Kells Map image

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.

Woodhead Lead Mines Road image

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 moving on.

The last residents left in 1954, there are only ruins of the buildings left.

Woodhead Smelters Cottage image

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.

Large Image

Cairnsgarroch from the Lead Mines image

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.

Cairnsgarroch Garryhorn Burn image

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 from there.

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.

Cairnsgarroch east side steep route image

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.

Cairnsgarroch steep east side image

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.

Cairnsgarroch view down the east side image

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 view.

Cairnsgarroch Anvel Rock image

The image below is from the anvel rock looking north to Bow and Coran of Portmark, Black Craig can just be seen in the distance.

I liked the look of this ridge leading up onto Bow. Not sure if there are any trails out to that ridge.

Bow and Coran of Portmark image

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 southeast side.

Cairnsgarroch Summit image

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 Carsphairn 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.

Cairnsgarroch Summit image

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 day.

Cairnsgarroch view to Corserine image

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.

Meaul east side image

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.

Meaul Trig Point view to Loch Doon image

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.

Loch doon from Meaul hill image

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.

Bow hill from the south image

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 views.

Bow hill cairn view north image

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.

Coran of Portmark south side image

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 hours.

Heading north here to Black Craig, adds about two hours to the hike.

You get great views over Loch Doon from this hill.

Coran of Portmark Cairn image

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 hill.

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.

Coran of Portmark north cairn image

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.

Coran of Prtmark steep north side image

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 easy.

Black Craig hill east side image

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.

Black Craig hill summit image

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 long day.

Black Craig hill view to Corserine image

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.

Knockower image

I made the top of Knockower hill after what seemed like a long hike through the deep stuff, occasionally picking up faint trails that helped.

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 below.

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 distance.

Knockower east side image

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 pack.

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 top.

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

Photo Tour Corserine to Meikle Millyea