Hill walk routes to climb in SW Scotland - also coastal paths and National Scenic Areas with maps, pictures and other useful information based on extensive local knowledge
The Awful Hand
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We went on this walk 11-07-99. It was a really warm summer's day. We used 2 cars, one parked at Glentrool and one up by Shalloch on Minnoch. There were four of us Mark (left) and Stuart are in this picture. They are on the top of Shalloch on Minnoch and I am looking north east up into Ayrshire while taking their picture. Most of the pictures on this page have information hidden behind them - just Mouseover to get the information.
This was the first walk put on this website - autumn 1999.
As you can see they don't call this area Galloway Forest Park for nothing - there are plenty of trees to the north, south, east and west. But the whole central hill area of the Awful Hand and the Dungeon hills is clear of trees.
Between these ranges and the Rhinns of Kells is heavily forested though. We usually try to avoid Forest like the plague and go through it only when there is no other option. To see a map of this walk click here.

Looking north from Shalloch on Minnoch into Ayrshire
On the county bounday on top of Kirriereoch looking north .
In this picture we are on the summit of Kirriereoch. The wall the boys are sitting on is the boundary between Dumfries and Galloway, and Ayrshire.
Dry stane dykes are a characteristic feature of the Scottish countryside and they often come in very handy for navigation in very poor visibility as do fence lines - both are shown on the 1:25,000 OS maps. This dyke has seen better days. That's Jake coming towards us.
No chance of trees or anything much else growing in this spectacularly barren place. You can see that this route along the Awful Hand presents very easy going sheep cropped grassy terrain with little navigational problems, though it is quite a narrow ridge that runs up onto Merrick from Spear of the Merrick and you need to be careful here in icy conditions.
Leaving Kirriereoch heading for the Merrick
That's Jake having a wee pose to himself in the picture above as we head from Kirriereoch towards Merrick, with the bare rock of the Dungeon Hills showing behind Loch Enoch.
View of Loch Enoch from the saddle between Kirriereoch and Merrick
Mark in the saddle between Kirriereoch and Merrick. You can see that the forest is planted high up onto the Rhinns of Kells. The climb up onto Kirriereoch from Tarfessock was quite steep and the climb onto Merrick from this saddle is also quite steep - by comparison with the gentle rolling nature of the rest of the route anyway.
The pictures below show (left) the final ascent onto Merrick up the Spear of Merrick and then (right) Jake beginning to make the descent from the Merrick having gone to the eastern edge of the top for a good view down onto Loch Nelrdicken.
View of the final part of the climb onto Merrick up the Spear of Merrick
Leaving Merrick for Benyellary with a view of Loch Neldricken
When we got to the top of Merrick we found a dozen or so folk there - the first people we had seen all day outwith our own group. We felt that the journey was practically over at that stage - it would be a dawdle down over Benyellary, Bennan and Eschoncan - but it is further than you think. Coming down off Bennan was the most awkward terrain of the day, and then we should have come down to the east of Eschoncan rather than straight down the front of it - steeply down through fern which hides leg breaking boulders. Beyond the Minnigaff Hills you can see the top of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. There are three Cairnsmores in the area - Fleet, Dee and Carsphairn.
Between Bennan and Eshoncan with view of Bennan Hill, Merrick and Benyellary
Between Bennan and Eshoncan is the only bit of forest you have to go through all day, but it is not all that obvious where the path goes through the forest if you haven't been there before - keep to the east. The hill behind Mark is Bennan Hill, Merrick is on the right and Benyellary between them.
There is a fine view down onto Loch Trool from the top of Eschoncan.
Stuart and I went back to Shalloch and Minnoch to get my transport, Mark and Jake walked to the pub at Glentrool. We really did enjoy that pint when we met up with them there. It was a big day in the sun.
View of the Awful Hand from the west
The picture above shows the Awful Hand from the west just a few miles down from where we parked at the start of the day. The "fingers" of the Awful hand are the series of ridges running west from the main tops - see the map of the Galloway Hills

Awful Hand Maps - Site Homepage - Other Galloway Walks - Map of Galloway