Day 8 Easter Earshaig to Leadhills – about 18 miles

This wasn’t the longest day, but it felt like the hardest with twice the ascent of the walk from Tibbie Shiels Inn to Moffat. It began with a level plod on a reasonably made but inherently soggy path across the chaos of timber harvesting (see photo below). This would be a grim wallow after rain.

It seems, however, that foresters have something of the landscape gardener in their souls, because here and there one comes across a pretty pond surrounded by mosses that look very happy indeed.

The SUW crosses a large pasture beside the Rivox Burn, where a fox watched a flock of sheep with all the concentration, though none of the good intentions, of a sheepdog. It bounded away as I drew near, and I re-entered the world of the trees for the long climb to Beld Knowe and Hods Hill, close-cropped upland pastures fit for sheep and windmills…and walkers, of course.

Daer Reservoir with the Lowther Hills in the background

It was an easy stride along the ridge and down Sweetshaw Brae to the reservoir dam, where I took a break and changed my socks. The next stretch as far as the A702 followed stony forest roads through harvested timber. The visual impact reminded me of a restored opencast site. The bare landscape formed a broad valley floor with steeply sloping flanks. Here, as near as damn it, at the crossing of the Portrail Water, is the midpoint of the SUW.

Looking southwest up the valley of the Portrail Water near the midpoint of the SUW

Rising out of this bleak land, a steeply undulating ridge leads to the radar station on Lowther Hill, the highest point on the SUW at 725 metres above sea level. The initial climb to Laght Hill is followed by an unpleasantly steep descent/re-ascent to Comb Head and a steady pull to Lowther Hill itself. A rearward view (see photo below) shows the skyline of the hills climbed two days earlier en route to Moffat, the dark edge of the forest crossed this morning, the descent to Daer Reservor and the area of harvested timber between the reservoir and the A702.

A glance to the left (southwards) from Comb Head shows the contrast between the Lowther Hills and the green valleys. The British landscape delights the eye with the frequency of its changes.

The rearward view from Comb Head

The view to Lowther Hill from Comb Head

Looking southwards from Comb Head

Approaching Wanlockhead, a former lead-mining village

Descending happily to Wanlockhead, I was impressed. Former industrial villages aren’t all pretty, but this one has come through rather well. My lodging was further on, at Leadhills, so I hurried along the road only to find my landlady wasn’t at home. I wandered into the Hopetoun Arms for a brew, and I met up with three motorcyclists who had passed me on the road. I returned to the pub for my evening meal and a couple of pints of Guinness, by which time a host of contractors who lodged there had returned from working on a wind farm. They enlivened the place nicely, which it needed according to the landlord, who seemed to be struggling with bureaucracy and regulation in his attempts to attract SUW walkers to spend more time in his pub. He also runs a small shop.

Approaching Leadhills, Scotland’s second-highest village

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