The best destinations are often the ones that hide in the shadows of noisy neighbours…


The Merrick and Mullwharchar
An alternative to: Southern Highlands

The Range of the Awful Hand. What a wonderful name for a great little grouping of interesting hills, the highest of which, The Merrick, dominates the area around Loch Trool in Galloway in the south-west of Scotland. In the wider Galloway area there are a number of other hills that would also make a visit to this overlooked destination worthwhile. There’s something otherworldly about the region, a special characteristic that sets it apart. The tops stand aloof, like islands, from the serried waves of forestry plantations, and the placenames evoke hobgoblin plots of doom and disaster: Dungeon Hill, the Murder Hole, The Wolf Slock….

There’s a Tolkienesque mind-set at work here: Mullwharchar, Craigmawhannal and Craigmasheenie, Rig of the Jarkness, Curleywee, Lump of the Eglin, Shalloch on Minnoch and Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. Surely no other place in Scotland can boast such an incredible string of extraordinary placenames. Try an ascent of The Merrick and neighbouring Mullwharchar via the rosary of lochs that includes Loch Arron and the atmospheric Loch Enoch. If that experience doesn’t draw you back to Galloway time and again, then nothing will.

Hubs: Newton Stewart, Maybole
Tourist information: Newton Stewart, 01671 402431
Maps: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 318 (Galloway Forest Park North), Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 319 (Galloway Forest Park South)

Image by David Adamson