Black Hill & Well Hill

This walk again starts at the scenic wee village of Durisdeer snuggling in the shadow of the Lowther Hills. The local kirk with its famous Durisdeer Marbles is the focal point of this community and it from there that we start this hike. There’s ample parking in the square at the beginning of the walk.

Durisdeer has a sleepy old world aura to it where nobody seems to be in a hurry but we have hills to climb so we had better press on. The going is good underfoot on these hills but there are several steep ascents and descents to be negotiated. Great care should be taken by any adventurous hikers who venture on to these braes as this is one of our more challenging walking itineraries.

Heading out of Durisdeer on the old road, that was once part of the holy pilgrims’ route from Edinburgh to St Ninians’ religious centre at Whithorn, we soon strike off to the north and cross over the self explanatory Kirk Burn. This is where the climbing really starts as we head on up the steep incline that heads on over many bumps and false summits on the one and a half mile ascent to Black Hill. If the weather is fine there is no need to hurry here and several halts to take in the view might be appropriate. The prospect unfolds as we climb and time is needed to take in the vista.

Bonnie Mid-Nithsdale lies before us to the south and west with Cairnkinna Hill and the flat summit of Tynron Doon showing above the Penpont and Shinnel glens and the wooded slopes of Drumlanrig. On our right the ancient road of the Well Path snakes up through the hills to join the modern Edinburgh road above Troloss Farm. Beyond that the southern Lowthers stretch off into the distance. The summit of Black Hill is again a welcome viewpoint and resting place. To the north of here is the Strange sounding hill of Pettylung and the famous Dalveen Pass.

Beyond the Dalveen Pass the rolling northern Lowthers dominate the scene with the giant white golf ball of the radar station awaiting some gargantuan club to send it spinning off towards Moffat. Heading over Black Hill’s east top we descend to a saddle then on and up to the Welsh sounding hill of Penbane. From Penbane it’s a descent northeast to another saddle. Then we climb north and east to the 2000 foot summit of Well Hill. The last time I was up here it was with a bunch of hill bagging fanatics. This was a 1000th peak for one of those hill walking extremists. I still have his picture smiling happily at the top with a celebratory cup of whisky in hand.

South-westerly off from Well Hill a steep descent leads down to the old Roman road and fortlet. This part of the route needs especial care and would be unsuitable in winter conditions. Once on the valley floor we can follow old road to the fortlet. What a grim posting this must have been guarding the route through the glen against the local bandit bad guys. Its quiet enough nowadays here with only the sheep, the whaups or the occasional walker or rough stuff cyclist passing through the glen.

Back at Durisdeer there’s a special treat in store if we do this walk in high summer. The local church sometimes lays on delicious afternoon teas for visitors. That’s just what we need after such a fine stroll in these hills a good brew and some home baking. The Landranger map for this walk is Sheet 78. Distance 5 miles approx. Ascent 2177 feet.

Dave McFadzean