A Guide to the Corbetts of the Southern Uplands

Collectively they will take you to beautiful villages and through some spectacular scenery, with 6 of the 7 being in Dumfries & Galloway. Absolutely perfect if you are planning a holiday to the area.

It is so easy when thinking of ‘Scotland’ and ‘Mountains’ to immediately think you have to run to the Highlands, but I assure you that isn’t the case. You can start an amazing walking tour of Scotland from the very south of the country.

An Image of Scotland, Showing the Southern Uplands (From Wikipedia)

As much as I love the Scottish Highlands, they aren’t easy to get to. For most of us it means at minimum a drive of many hours while for others it can mean flights, car rental and terror at some of the narrow Highland roads! The accessibility of the Southern Uplands is a huge plus that shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Okay, okay” I hear you say. “You’ve convinced me. I will walk one of these southern mountains…but which one? Which one is the best? Which offers the longest views? Which is easiest? Which is longest?”

Those are all excellent questions and to help answer them, here is my little guide to the Corbetts of the Southern Uplands that I hope encourages you to visit these amazing hills and enjoy what the south of Scotland has to offer.

(The Corbetts are in alphabetical order but I have included a section at the end which has my own personal ‘ranking’ of these peaks)

1) Broad Law

Altitude: 2,756ft

Where?: North of Moffat, take the A701 to Tweedsmuir. Turn off to Talla Reservoir and follow the narrow road to the ‘Megget Stone’ and a small FREE parking place)

Read More HERE

My suggested Route: Walkhighlands

Route Length: 13 Miles

The Summit Cairn of Broad Law

Broad Law is an oft-criticised hill. Many places on the internet refer to it as ‘dull’, ‘ugly’ or only worth doing to ‘tick it off’. I’d originally walked Broad Law from the Megget Stone (as most guides recommend) and was underwhelmed and didn’t create a blog post for it.

It wasn’t until last year and my decision to write this guide on the Corbetts of the Southern Uplands that I decided to re-walk Broad Law and try to see if I could make it more interesting. The route I used started at the Talla Reservoir and bags the adjoining summits of Dollar Law and Cramult Craig turning what was once a dull ‘there and back’ walk into an epic 15 mile hike in beautiful surroundings.

“It’s the 2nd highest peak in the south of Scotland with sweeping views in all directions and, if walked the way I’d done it, makes for a tremendous day out in the hills in a secluded spot of the Scottish Borders.” – Me

2) Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

Altitude: 2,615ft

Where?: Galloway Forest Park – 1 mile North of Carsphairn (FREE Parking)

Read More HERE

My Suggested Route: Walkhighlands

Route Length: 7.5 Miles

The Summit Cairn of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

Cairnsmore of Carsphain is a remote hill in the north of Dumfries & Galloway, just south of Ayrshire. I always view it as the loner of the Galloway Hills Corbetts as it stands alone, looking over the the Rhinns of Kells, Corserine and Merrick.

It is, perhaps, a little overlooked because of its bigger, more famous neighbours but it’s a hill I have a huge soft spot for. Easy parking, a simple 7.5 mile walk and beautiful views in all directions (including to Arran and Ailsa Craig) makes it very worth while. The track and starting area have recently been rejuvenated and improved also.

“Cairnsmore of Carsphairn is one of those hills that isn’t going to be mentioned by many walkers. It’s not the biggest, the route isn’t the longest and even in Dumfries & Galloway it is overshadowed by neighbouring Corbett’s like Corserine and Merrick. Yet, I love it. It’s a great day out on the hills, with stunning views and a lovely feeling of remoteness.” – Me

3) Corserine

Altitude: 2,671

Where?: Galloway Forest Park – 5 miles North of New Galloway (Look for ‘Forest Estate’ sign on A713 – FREE parking)

Read More HERE

My Suggested Route: I suggest this route but in reverse (clockwise)  Walkhighlands

Route Length: 10 Miles

Looking Up To Corserine

Ah Corserine, perhaps the prettiest-named mountain in Scotland. This Corbett sits in the ‘Forest Estate’, a very well-maintained and peaceful forest that is like a walkers playground. A well signposted route will take you to the summit of Corserine and back to the little carpark in a wonderfully atmospheric 10-mile circular.

Corserine feels remote, nestled above woodland just north of St John’s Town of Dalry, and tends to always be quiet (in comparison to the noisy-neighbour Merrick). If you want a peaceful, isolated day then it is well worth your consideration.

“Is there a summit somewhere in the world that you have reached more than once? Is there a cairn somewhere high up, that you have gotten used to seeing? That you could happily climb to another dozen times and not get bored of it? There is for me and it is called Corserine, a Corbett in the Galloway Forest Park in Dumfries & Galloway.” – Me

4) Hart Fell

Altitude: 2,651ft

Where?: From Moffat, Follow the A708 for 6 miles (FREE Parking)

Read More HERE

My Suggested Route: Do this route in reverse (Do NOT cross back over the bridge) Walkhighlands

Route Length: 8 Miles

The Gloomy Glen at Hart Fell

When I think of Hart Fell I think ‘horseshoe’ as that is how I chose to bag this hill and I think it is the best way to guarantee yourself a wonderful day in the hills, just west of Moffat. What starts as a gut-punching ascent moments after leaving the car, quickly becomes a spectacular ridge walk around a beautiful glen.

Being such a prominent peak in the south of Scotland, Hart Fell gives fantastic views and rewards the initial effort to climb up onto the ridge with a relatively gentle ridge-walk for the rest of the day.

“Hart Fell may only be a small Corbett but it is big on enjoyment, especially if you follow the horseshoe route.” – Me

5) Merrick

Altitude: 2,766ft

Where?: Take the A714 from Pinwherry in Ayrshire to the north or from Newton Stewart in Dumfries & Galloway to the south. Take the turn for Bargrennan and head into Glen Trool. (Well signposted and FREE parking).

Read More HERE

My Suggested Route: Walkhighlands

Route Length: 8 Miles

The Curving Ridge to Merrick

Ah Merrick, the biggest and most famous of all the Corbetts in the south of Scotland. It has a wonderful reptutation, which is thoroughly deserved. At 2,766ft it has the distinction of being the longest uninterrupted viewpoint in the UK and gives views of England, the Isle of Man, Ayrshire (including out to Arran) and over to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Nestled in the heart of the gorgeous Glen Trool (with visitor centre and campsite), the walk takes in Loch Trool and Bruce’s Stane before ascending up the arching ridge to the summit. It may be THE definitive south of Scotland summer walk.

“Before you begin, make sure to stroll across from the car park and see ‘Bruce’s Stane’, a wonderful stone with a carved inscription commemorating a victory in the glen by the Scots against an English force prior to the Battle of Bannockburn.

If you love history it is worth the drive just to see the stone.” – Me

The Views From Merrick

6) Shalloch on Minnoch

Altitude: 2,543ft

Where?: North of Merrick, don’t turn in to the Glen Trool visitor centre. Instead, head north until reaching Stinchar Bridge. (FREE parking)

Read More HERE

My Suggested Route: Walkhighlands

Route Length: 6 Miles

The Desolate Summit of Shalloch on Minnoch

Shalloch on Minnoch is the runt of the litter. The smallest of the bunch, on the same route that takes you to the much bigger and mroe famous Merrick and in an awkward (rather horrid) road out in the moors. I suspect most people drive past it not even knowing that its there or what it is.

It doesn’t deserve to be overlooked though. This little Corbett makes for an easy day out and is one I would recommend for later in the year, with a touch of snow, which makes the summit plataeu an impressive, sweeping canvas with fantastic views into Ayrshire. It would make a perfect hill if one was on holiday in the area and wanted a wee day out in the hills.

“From the summit, you can see Ailsa Craig out at sea, you can see over to Merrick and northwards to Ayrshire. In all directions the views were stunning and a huge reward for such a short walk and relatively gentle climb.” – Me

The Views From Shalloch on Minnoch

7) White Coomb

Altitude: 2,694ft

Where?: East of Moffat along the A708 (Beyond Hart Fell) with parking at the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall. (Parking charge of £3)

Read More HERE

My Suggested Route: Walkhighlands

Route Length: 7 Miles

Loch Skeen Below White Coomb

White Coomb is another relatively easy day out with the hardest part being the beginning ascent of the beautiful Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall. It’s worth it though as you come over the ridge and are greeted with the beautiful Loch Skeen, nestled below the shoulder of White Coomb. After you have reached the loch, all that is left is a gentle anti-clockwise ascent of the rear ridge which swings up and around to the little summit cairn on the sprawling summit.

A popular walk with a gorgeous loch and impressive waterfall!

There are multiple viewing areas from the carpark and a track twists up the hill beside the waterfall giving fantastic views of both the waterfall and the hills behind. This is the track to White Coomb and, while being somewhat steep, it won’t be long before you find yourself at the top looking back down: a reward well worth the effort! – Me

 

How Do I Rate Them?

I know some people are going to think I am absolutely crazy for this list but…well…it’s my list! I’ve walked them all, I’ve enjoyed every single one of them, but this is my ranking of the Corbetts of the Southern Uplands.

1) Corserine

My favourite of them all is Corserine. I love the name, I love the 10-mile circular walk and I love how peaceful and walker-friendly the ‘Forest Estate’ is. A beautiful mountain with wonderful views, yet less popular than Merrick and thus much quieter. I think it’s the best Corbett in the region and the most remote-feeling.

Drive along the remote little road, over the little hump-back bridge into the cute car park, and spend a fantastic day on a quiet Corbett. Unlike the others on this list, I’ve bagged Corserine four or five times in my life. I’m sure I’ll make that ten at some point. I have such a huge soft-spot for it.

Climb it!

2) Broad Law

This is probably where you have showered your screen in coffee/juice and have declared me officially crazy. I know why you feel that way. The much-maligned Broad Law, with it’s ugly summit and short, forgettable walk being my #2? Above the famous Merrick!?

The thing is, the route I walked Broad Law encompassed 3 summits and was 16 miles of beautiful summer walking. I still vividly remember walking back to the car, beside the sprawling Talla Reservoir, as the sun set over the hills behind me. I was tired and I’d had a great day.

Broad Law is criminally underrated by those who walk it as a ‘there-and-back’ Corbett. Walk it from the reservoir and it becomes the perfect summer Corbett.

3) Merrick

The most famous of all the Corbetts on this list. The highest uninterrupted viewpoint in the south of Scotland, spectacular views in all directions (including to the Isle of Man, England, Ireland, north into Scotland), the wonderfully atmospheric Glen Trool with Bruce’s Stane…it really is a fantastic Corbett and one you have to bag in your lifetime.

Many will tell you Merrick is #1 and, following on from my last paragraph, it would be hard to argue. It is, however, a very busy Corbett which is my only real complaint with it.

4) Hart Fell

You simply have to walk Hart Fell via the Horseshoe route. It makes the start of the day quite punishing as you ascend up on to the ridge, when barely five minutes out of the car, but what follows is a fantastic ridge-walk for the rest of the day.

I loved Hart Fell and have walked it a couple of times now (each time in awful weather: I don’t think Hart Fell loves me as much as I love it) and can’t recommend it enough. When you finish your walk, make the short drive to Moffat for a bite to eat either at one of the local hotels or the great little chippy that is down one of the side streets!

5) Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

All the way down at 5th on the list is the loner Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, which is a fantastic Corbett and doesn’t deserve to be overlooked. Another I have walked multiple times, it is a wonderful beginner Corbett. Just a long enough walk to stretch the legs but nothing too punishing. Just high enough to give gorgeous views but not rivalling Ben Nevis by a long shot. The recently refurbished track (with signage at the start) makes the whole walk very pleasant.

If I was making a list of best Corbett’s of the Southern Uplands to do on a lazy Sunday where you don’t want anything too strenuous then Cairnsmore of Carsphairn would be #1.

6) Shalloch on Minnoch

Speaking of nothing too strenuous, Shalloch on Minnoch fits the bill. Probably the easiest climb on this list, the walk is short and the ascent is easy. I’d recommend doing it in autumn/winter when some snow has fallen to make it a little more interesting.

If you do, you’ll be rewarded with an easy day out on gentle slopes with lovely views in all directions.

Shalloch on Minnoch is more of a ‘lump’ than a daunting peak but it makes for a nice, easy day out. However, it IS a short day out and I don’t particularly enjoy driving on the road out to it which is pot-holed and has a few too many daft drivers on it!

7) White Coomb

Last but not least is White Coomb, the most easterly of all the Corbetts on this list. A nice day out above the impressive Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall and the stunning Loch Skeen. Unfortunately, I feel the hill is a bit overshadowed by the waterfall and the loch! The trip to the summit once you leave Loch Skeen is a boggy, heather-filled stroll to an unremarkable summit with a rather small trig cairn. Descent involves finding a way over the outflow burn from Loch Skeen which, if there has been any rain, can be an awkward afair also.

Finally, being the only Corbett on the list with a car parking charge and being a short drive further along the road from Hart Fell only lowers my rating of White Coomb even more!

It’s well worth doing, even if only to tick it off but I wouldn’t be surprised if after you do so, you never visit it again.

Conclusion

What do you think of my list? Do you agree? Do you think I’m delusional?

I can’t help but feel my views on Broad Law and White Coomb may cause some consternation.

If you would like to defend the honour of White Coomb, share some love for Corserine or explain to me why I’m wrong and Merrick is obviously the best then feel free to let me know in the comments below!

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