On a bright breezy 6th August, 17 walkers including a visitor from another Group, assembled at Stroanfreggan Bridge, beyond Moniave, for a ramble along the Southern Upland Way. As the party climbed up through the extensive remains of an Iron Age fort, wonderful views opened up all around. The Carrick Hills, the Rhinns of Kells, the Merrick and nearby, the bulk of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and numerous smaller hills were all there as a pleasing accompaniment to the rest of the walk. The party soon joined the Southern Upland Way which, at this point, is quite rough and boggy and indistinct in places and continued to Manquhill Hill where a stop was made for lunch in the lee of a small hillock out of the brisk wind. At this point, some of the party decided to make a leisurely return to the start, while the rest continued on to Benbrack. After passing beneath Craigencarse and then a couple of dark hidden lochans, they embarked on the stiff climb to the 1900ft summit of Benbrack where they encountered one of the big red sandstone "Striding Arches" designed by Andy Goldsworth to celebrate his remote beautiful corner of Galloway. Two other arches could be seen on nearby hills and there is another down in the valley at Cairnhead. The party felt this was an impressive and fitting climax to the walk. After descending the hill, they followed an easy forest track for a mile or two before joining the SUW once more and following it slowly and carefully back to the car park. A tough but enjoyable 11 mile ramble in a beautiful part of the country- we will be back.
Walk Leader; Michael Heale