The Galloway Forest Park in the county of Dumfries and Galloway is currently the largest forest park within Great Britain. The park itself covers a vast area of over 300 square miles. The area with its many hills gets nicknamed the “The highlands of the lowlands” This is due to the large hills that make up this part of the Southern Uplands that stride through the area. Within this forest park is the great ridge that makes up the range known as the Rhinns of Kells along with the summits of both Corserine and Meikle Millyea.
“The hills with there lochs and the clear sky's at night make the Galloway Forest a place of pure delight. So much to offer and so much to see, with memories totally unforgettable”.
The Galloway Forest and the Rhinns of Kells ridge in this enchanting part of Scotland are certainly worth a visit no matter what time of the year you choose.
Corserine is one grand summit and has to be one of Southern Scotland’s finest. The Rhinns of Kells is situated central within the forest park, being well isolated and Corserine being the highest and rising to an impressive height of 814 metres makes it a great summit to climb and the Rhinns of Kells is one of the most exhilarating ridge walks in this part of Scotland. Read on to find out more about these hidden gem's of Scotland.
Some pictures from around the Galloway Forest Park
The Galloway Hills
Grey Mares Tail waterfall
Not many people venture into the great wilds of this beautiful part of Scotland. The Galloway Forest Park is well off the main England to Scotland motorways as in the M6 and A74(M) and most people when travelling to Scotland on these motorways are heading for the mountains of the highlands region north of the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Galloway Forest is certainly an enchanting part of Scotland worth visiting as there are places and activities within this area to suit everyone.
Section-2 The summits of Corserine, Meikle Millyea and the Rhinns of Kells ridge:-
The name Rhinns of Kells is derived from the old Irish 'rind' meaning a headland, and the name of this ridge carries a link with the Irish who settled here in the south west and west of the country.
The summit of Corserine:-
Coreserine meaning The crossing of the ridges its name 'Corse' is from the common Scottish word meaning cross, and 'rinn' being an old Gailic word for ridge.
The summit of Corserine is part of a range of mountains connected by the impressive ridge that makes up the range known as the Rhinns of Kells or sometimes referred to as The Kells Range. Corserine is one of the highest mountains or in real terms large hills within the southern counties area of Scotland. It dominates the landscape in the shape of a giant whale back and its summit is marked by an Ordnance Survey trig point. OS Trig Number = S7972 at OS-Grid Ref = NX 497 870
The large open summit of Corserine seen here from lower Millfire
One thing is that Corserine is not the highest summit in the Southern Upland region of the Galloway Forest Park and being so remote and isolated means it gets very little attention. It has two other neighbours these being the highest and grandest of the Southern Upland summits known as the great Merrick part of The Awful Hand range which rises to a grand height of 843 metres over to the west of Corserine. Merrick if the weather is clear is always in view from the Rhinns of Kells ridge and due to its height and status receives the most attention of all the summits in this area. Then there is also the smaller but still isolated summit called the Cairnsmore of Carsphairn rising to 797 metres to the east of Corserine across the great open valley known as the Glenkens. Like Corserine due to its isolation and height the Cairnsmore of Carsphairn again does not receive the attention it deserves.
The next nearest mass of summits within the Southern Uplands to rise above the height of 800 metres are those of the beautiful Moffat Hills in the far east of Dumfries and Galloway and also cross into the Scottish Border County.
The ridge and Corserine
Summit trig point
Loch Dungeon from Millfire
The summit of Corserine and Meikle Millyea, or shall I say the range of them and the ridge that makes this range is a pleasant area to climb. The summits of both Corserine and Meikle Millyea both consist of a bleak and barren landscape of open grassland and has the impressive snaking ridge known as the Rhinns of Kells. This ridge has steep eastern banks and cliffs, the results of glacial action from the ice age that overlook the waters of the aptly and rather sinister named lake of Loch Dungeon.
The summit of Meikle Millyea:-
The Rhinns of Kells ridge connects Corserine to the summit of Meikle Millyea in the south at 746 metres. The summit of Meikle Millyea like Corserine is also marked by an Ordnance Survey trig point. OS Trig Number = S8292 at OS-Grid Ref = NX 518 828
Meikle Millyea seen across the waters of Clatteringshaws Reservoir
The summit of Meikle Millyea and the Rhinns of Kells are part of an exhilarating ridge walk that can be combined in a days hike across the two and covering the complete range. If you wish to continue on from Corserine heading north there is the shapely top of Carlins Cairn which from here takes the funny shape of a nipple. This top is marked by a large and lonely cairn. Like Corserine this is also over 800 metres and from Corserine actually looks higher, this is just an illusion due to the land formation as Carlins Cairn is only 807 metres. Carlins Cairn is still a registered Donald.
Some pictures of Meikle Millyea and its summit sadly whilst on the summit we had rain and low cloud
The summit cairn
From Cairnsmore of Dee
The summit trig point
Carlins Cairn has its own little story in that according to legend it dates back to the times of Robert the Bruce. The cairn marking it is said to have been built by a miller’s wife in gratitude for land given to her by the Bruce, after she had helped to shelter him prior to his victory over the English at nearby Glen Trool in 1307. There are other nearby sites, such as the King’s Well which also commemorate the three months he spent as an outlaw in whilst in the Galloway Hills.
From the Rhinns of Kells ridge when looking down into the lower valleys both to the east and the west are heavily planted with commercial forestry consisting of large Spruce and Fir trees. Some recent deforestation has sadly spoilt the area. This forestry area has some brilliant access tracks running through it which are great for fun when mountain biking and along with a bike as part of your journey you can make access to Meikle Millyea and Corserine that little bit easier as the main summits and ridge are a fair distance away from the many public car parks and roads.
Some pictures of the Rhinns of Kells ridge
Rhinns of Kells ridge
Millfire's lonely cairn
Rhinns of Kells crags
The summit of Corserine has the status of a Scottish Corbett, a Donald and is also a UK Marylin
The smaller summit of Meikle Millyea has the status of a Scottish Donald
You might want to know what do these names actually mean:-
This is the collective name given to the mountains in Scotland which are between 2,500 feet and 2,999 feet high, and which have a re-ascent of 500 feet on all sides. Any Scottish summit over 3000 feet is then known as a Munro.
A UK Marylin:-
This is a mountain or hill in the British Isles (including Ireland) with a relative height of at least 150 metres (492 ft), regardless of its absolute height or any other merit.
This is a mountain or hill in the Scottish Southern Uplands area with a relative height of just 30 metres (98 ft), like a Marylin this is regardless of its absolute height or any other merit.
With Corserine being one of the main Southern Upland summits and tops who's height is in excess of 800 metres puts it in the league with the summits of Merrick which is also in the Galloway Forest, Hart Fell and White Coomb in the Moffat Hills region and Broad Law in the Manor Hills region. These summits are all within Scotland but then there is the famous Cheviot in the Cheviot Hills area. This summit is in the area of the Southern Uplands but is just across the border and in England.
The views from Corserine at its summit trig point are highly rewarding in that The Merrick is in full glory dominating to the west when to the east is the smaller but still just as remote summit known as the Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. To the south the full Rhinns of Kells ridge with its craggy cliffs snakes away to the adjoining summit of Meikle Millyea when in the background of Meikle Millyea are the two smaller summits but still worth visiting of the Cairnsmore's, these being the Cairnsmore’s of both the Fleet and Dee also known as the Blackcraig of Dee, visible in the distance.
Some of the views from the summit trig point on Corserine
South Meikle Millyea
West Merrick & Kirrieroch Hill
North Carlins Cairn
TABLE OF THE MAIN SOUTHERN UPLAND SUMMITS OVER 800 metres
Below is a graphical panorama looking north-east to east from the summit of Merrick
This image was obtained for information only from the website Viewfinder Panoramas and is copyright to that web site.
The ridge walk - Rhinns of Kells:-
I did the full ridge walk across from Meikle Millyea via the Rhinns of Kells and Corserine on the 18th September 2009. This was truly a great ridge walk and now has to register as one of my favourites. Sadly the weather at the start of the day was overcast with slight drizzle so there where no views available from the summit trig point on Meikle Millyea. As Nick and I walked along the Rhinns of Kells the cloud level decided to rise and the summit of Corserine came out in full glory ahead of us. We hoped this window of weather would stay and lucky for us it did. No sunshine but the views across to the other summits where certainly worth the walk.
Below are some images of Loch Harrow from North Gairy and a near perfect reflection across the Loch
Loch Harrow and Cairnsmore of Carsphairn
Loch Harrow near perfect reflections
Loch Harrow from North Gairy
Section-3 Getting there:-
Getting to the Dumfries and Galloway forest park is not really that easy. It is a vast area of forest, upland and valleys and access to the summits of Corserine and Meikle Millyea can be done from many different starting points.
This is a section from OS-Landranger sheet 77 Dalmellington and New Galloway
The most common route for access onto the Rhinns of Kells, Corserine and Meikle Millyea is from a public car park in the Galloway Forest called the Forrest Lodge. Streetmap Link – Forrest Lodge
The best routes to get to these towns are as follows:-
The Sleeping Man rocks
Lochan rock reflections
Millfire rock and Merrick
From the east:-
By road, head first for the county town of Dumfries. This can be accessed from the M6 and A74(M) motorways respectively depending on which way come from.
When at Dumfries take the main A75 road west to the small village of Crocketford. From here you take a right turn onto the minor A712 road. This small road takes you to the quaint market town of New Galloway, and then from New Galloway you head for the next town called St John’s Town of Dalry. From here you pick up the minor A713 road head north towards Ayr for about 2.5 miles and take a small unclassified road marked in yellow on the maps to the left. Follow this road all the way to the public car park of Forrest Lodge at the end.
From the west:-
St John’s Town of Dalry can be accessed direct from Ayr via the A713.
From the town of Newton Stewart you can take the A712 to the east where it meets at New Galloway. From here take the A713 north towards Ayr for about 2.5 miles and continue as stated above by taking the unclassified road on the left. Follow this road all the way to the public car park of Forrest Lodge at the end.
The two nearest towns that offer train services are those of Dumfries and Stranraer. Sadly both these towns are a fair distance from anywhere you wish to be, so train service is not really advised as you will still need to find a way of getting from the nearest station point to where you wish to start your route. UK train details are available from the link below. UK National Rail Enquiries
You can purchase all of these maps direct from Ordnance Survey via the given links or go direct to there web site below for more information. Ordnance Survey
The Rhinns of Kells ridge seen from the summit trig point of Merrick
There is a brilliant little pocket guide book which is very informative and gives great detail into the many walks available across these Southern Uplands which also covers Corserine via Meikle Millyea and the Rhinns of Kells starting from the car park at Forrest Lodge.
The book is called:-
Pocket Mountains, Southern Uplands by Nick Williams.
ISBN = 9 780954 421779
Or check out there website:- Pocketmountains
Below is an embedded Google Earth map.
Some computers may not show this feature due to your current Java or Internet Security settings so if it does not show follow this link:-
Some on line mapping services such as the AA offer a route planner as in from and to. Put your starting place in then where you are going to and it should give you a good route.
The other option is to use a satellite navigation system which a lot of cars today have built in but if not and you have a separate one, use it.
Section-4 Access and Red Tape:-
Access throughout the open countryside of Scotland and these summits within the Galloway Forest Park is free to roam. There are NO RED TAPE issues within this area. When walking in the area please take into account any farm land, and / or private estate land that you may have to cross. I when walking always leave gates as found. If open I will leave them open if shut then I will leave them shut.
A typical cottage who's land you have to cross when walking these hills
Section-5 Mountain conditions and weather:-
The summits of Corserine, Meikle Millyea and the Rhinns of Kells ridge can be climbed any time of the year depending on your skills and experience.
The conditions and weather on these summits like any other area can change very quickly and dramatically.
The main reason that these summits of being such isolation can be so nasty especially in the wrong weather is that all the interconnecting hills and ridges are of a large round undulating character and in the really low cloud line or thick fog one can easily be mistaken for another.
This if you do get lost and take the wrong route, can take you down into some of the really deep and isolated valleys. These are a long distance away from any roads or population making the escape more difficult. Also in weather involving bad visibility when walking the areas forest tracks, again one track can and believe me does look like another, so make sure you know your route.
Although if you are like most people as in sensible with plenty of forward planning including the skills of a compass, map reading and a GPS at hand means you should not have any problems...!
Another good bit of advice to take is inform someone of your route and give them your moble phone number and a planned time to be back. One issue is that mobile phones do not always have coverage on these isolated hills.
Below are the main towns that encompass the area local to Corserine that are covered by the UK's BBC’s 5-Day weather forecast's.
This website is relatively accurate as is gives a detailed break down in 3hour intervals of the expected weather over a 24 hour forecast followed by five days. Follow the links below for more details of the weather for the stated local towns.
The geology of this area has many similarities to the regions of both the Moffat Hills and the Manor Hills as they are all within the Southern Uplands and are also part of the Southern Uplands fault line. Below is a geological map showing the area of the Southern Uplands.
A geological map of the Southern Uplands area
The Galloway Forest area is a vast rich and varied landscape. This is the result of aeons of geological activity combined with the relatively recent impact coursed by man. Continents have collided, volcanoes have erupted, ice ages have come and gone and mighty rivers like the Cree, Dee, Doon and Ken along with there tributaries have eroded the landscape. On a miniature scale, and in the last few moments of this story, farmers and foresters have begun to scratch away at the surface of the land.
In the Southern Uplands of Scotland, Devonian and Carboniferous rocks are found mostly in the south and east. A typical scene in Devonian times is thought to be that of powerful, fast flowing rivers bringing sediment into lakes. By Carboniferous times Scotland was near the equator and our landscape was one of rainforest and tropical seas. Thick red sandstones show that by Permian times the area had become a desert.
The last part of the ice age being relatively recent and lasting from about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago. At one stage and this is true, the whole of Scotland was under a great sheet of ice. Latterly the main ice accumulations in south Scotland were them north of Glentrool round Merrick and Corserine, the valleys that surround the Moffat Hills and Tweedsmuir.
Examples of glacially eroded valleys can be clearly seen both sides of the Rhinns of Kells where the view looking across to the west show the rugged cliffs of Dungeon Hill, Craignaw and Craiglee all shadowed by the summit of the mighty Merrick.
The large crag of Meikle Lump the result of glacial erosion
All the main hills within this area have evidence of glacial erosion and in most cases there eastern or northern sides are scarred heavily by the glacial action that eroded them. The best evidence of this is on the Rhinns of Kells range are where the crags on the north face of the North Gairy ridge come off from Corserine. The impressive crags of Polmaddy Gairy which are also on Corserine and then are the screeds of rocks that are on the east face of Carlins Cairn. Whilst walking along the Rhinns of Kells ridge itself there are the steep cliffs that fall away to the east along with the large crags of the Meikle Lump that are all evidence of severe glacial erosion.
Climbing and scrambling:-
Some technical scrambling and climbing is available on the glacial crags throughout this area and are of popular activity especially in the winter when ice climbing is available. The best web site to look up these activities is Needlesport. There link is given in the section useful links.
Section-7 Bed and Breakfast, Camping and Accomodation:-
Bed and breakfasts are available throughout the county of Dumfries and Galloway.
The scenery that this county has to offer is breathtaking in many ways. The impressive hills, the rugged coastline and the many pretty towns and villages that are dotted around it.
Camping is ok out on the mountains and to my knowledge there are no issues here.
When looking for Bed and Breakfasts and Hotels it is best to go via a search engine such as Google.
Local Towns, some of them full of history and character having these services are:-
Coral Fungus Forrest Lodge
St John’s Town of Dalry and New Galloway
Mountain Goats on Milldown
Add these towns into a search engine such as Google also include in the search bed and breakfast, hotel or camping and the list should be endless...!
Instead of the towns you can always try the complete county. Just put Dumfries and Galloway into the search bar instead of the town names.
The dramatic and impressive ridge known as North Gairy that runs off from the summit of Corserine
Natural History in Galloway:-
This is a very interesting and informative website about the wildlife that can be found in the Galloway Region. It has many sections about activities that can be done for all you nature lovers out there. Two rare animals that can be seen quite common throughout this area are the Red Squiirel and the Red Kite. Natural History in Galloway
This is an informative website about the various sports and activities that are available on the mountains and hills within the area of Southern Scotland. They have a very good detailed page dedicated totally to the Galloway Forest area. Needle Sports (Galloway Index)
Other information about the area can again be obtained via a Google search. Just add what you wish to look for such as the subject then Galloway Forest or Dumfries and Galloway, then go. Google
Section-9 The night sky:-
What you can see on a clear night sky:-
If you like the night sky then the Galloway Forest Park also has another claim to fame...! It is one of only three parks in the world to be given what is known as "Dark Sky Park" status. The reason for this is the area suffers virtually no light pollution. The sky here when clear is totally amazing. Snaking across the sky like magic dust is the Milky Way and all the main stars and any current visible planets are seen in great detail. Shooting stars that go zooming across the sky are also a regular sight. If you see a small bright dot moving at a fare pace, but not fast enough to be a shooting star you are possibly watching a satelite passing through the sky in orbit...? What is also amazing is that to see these you dont even need a powerful telescope. All you need is just a good set of binoculars and that should do the job.
Some pictures taken on a clear night
Only two other parks in the world, one in Pennsylvania, the other in Utah, have been recognised by the International Dark-Sky Association, a U.S.- based organisation that seeks to preserve and celebrate the darkest corners of the Earth.