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The Merrick: hiking Galloway’s highest mountain

by | Destinations, Scotland | 13 comments

The Merrick – have you heard of it? Perhaps not. When people think of Scottish mountains they usually think of Ben Nevis and the Cairngorms.  However, The Merrick is a Scottish mountain and, in fact, is the highest mountain in the southern uplands of Scotland. It is part of the “Range of the Awful Hand” in Galloway and if a name like that is not sufficient reason for climbing The Merrick, the fabulous views from the top should be. The Range of the Awful Hand? A series of 5 peaks, each forming a “finger” of the hand, of which The Merrick is the largest.

View over lochs and hills of Galloway

We hiked The Merrick recently whilst on a road trip around Galloway in the campervan. We were blessed with fabulous weather and loved hiking the coastal trails and biking through the forest. Our pup loved it too!

Our last port of call on this trip was Glentrool. We stayed in the Glentrool Camping and Caravan Site. There is lots of wild camping in the area, but this campsite is great. We were happy to stay there. (Review on its way!)

As the weather was so good when we were in Glentrool, we decided to hike The Merrick.

Where is the Merrick?

The Merrick is in Galloway, one of the regions of Scotland. It is about 80 miles east of the M74 motorway and will take a couple of hours to drive from the motorway. The nearest town to The Merrick is Newton Stewart and the nearest village is Glentrool on the A714.

This is a great hiking and biking area with forest trails and a path around Loch Trool. There is a Visitor Centre at Glentrool and the trailhead for The Merrick is not far from there.

Overlooking Loch Trool near The Merrick

Overlooking Loch Trool

The Merrick: elevation

The Merrick is 843 metres high (2,766 ft). It is not, therefore, a Munro. A mountain has to be at least 3000 ft to earn the title of “Munro” in Scotland.

The Merrick Hike

Most people who hike The Merrick start at Bruce’s Stone at the side of Loch Trool. Bruce’s Stone is a marker for the Battle of Trool, the battle fought by Robert to Bruce against the English army in 1307. There is a carpark here and the trailhead for The Merrick is clearly marked. Hiking from there and doing an out and back on the most direct route to the summit is about 12.7 km. From the summit, it is also possible to head down towards the Loch Enoch and complete a circular route. However, research suggested that there was no proper trail along this route and that it could be very boggy underfoot. We decided to do the out and back – but with a bit of a twist!

Bikes!

As we had bikes with us, we opted to take a longer route and cycle up the forestry roads and join the Merrick hiking trail further up. This was a longer option (about 29 km from the campsite at Glentrool) but the first few kilometers were to be on bikes – and yes, they are electric bikes! Before anyone jumps up and down and says “that’s cheating”, it absolutely is not. It is still quite hard work pedalling for several miles uphill. The electric bikes assist; they are not motorbikes: you stop peddling, they stop assisting! You can read more about electric bikes in I Love My E-Bike. 

The other reason for taking the bikes was because we had the pup. He loves to run with the bikes and would run until he wore out his pads. He had already covered many miles in previous days so we did not want him to run the whole way. Taking the bikes meant that he could go in the tag-a-long for some of the way. In fact, apart from the road from the campsite, he ran the whole way up the forest trail and the whole of the hike up and down Benyellary and the Merrick. He did, however, hitch a lift in the tag-a-long on the way down!

Peter and Jasper with the bikes and the doggy hut

Our route for the hike

This is the route we took as captured on my tracker:

The map below is a zoomed in version with the red arrow showing where we left our bikes at the base of Benyellary to commence the hiking section of our trek. If the choice is to hike from Bruce’s Stone by the side of Loch Trool, this is also the spot where the trail intersects with the forestry road. From this point, the hike follows exactly the same route.

The Merrick hike map

The arrow indicates where we left our bikes on the forest road to commence the hike.

Cycling the forestry roads

Cycling up the forestry roads was relatively straightforward from the Glentrool Visitor Centre. The roads were gravel, a bit rocky and uneven in places, but nothing a decent mountain bike could not handle. It was a steady incline the whole way with a few steeper bits. I was grateful for the electric bike!

Jasper on the gravelly forest trail near The Merrick

Jasper on gravel road

Hiking Benyellary

The route to hike The Merrick involves first of all hiking the smaller peak, Benyellary (which forms another of the fingers of the Range of the Awful Hand). Leaving the forestry road  and our bikes, we headed through the gate and up.

Rugged path up to gate with Peter and Jasper

The first part of Benyellary, I think, is the hardest part of the whole hike. The trail is very rocky, uneven and steep. Part of it had turned into a stream also. Waterproof hiking boots are definitely recommended for this hike.

Rugged path at start of The Merrick Hike

Rugged rocky trail leading up the Merrick

Fortunately, the terrain gets easier further up. The trail fairies had clearly been out and the some of the trail had been conserved with gravel. Parts of it were quite steep but for the most part it was a steady climb.

Peter and Jasper heading up the trial

View from Benelleray

Jasper posing at side of gravel trail

At the top of Benyellary, it was quite blustery, but Jasper always has to pose for a picture at the top!  The views were wonderful.

Jasper posing on cairn at top of Benyellary

View from top of Benyellary with lakes and hills

Jane and Jasper with wonderful mountain views in the background

And finally, the hike up The Merrick itself

We could see the trail we had to take to climb The Merrick quite clearly from the summit of Benyellary. It looks fairly flat in the pictures; it isn’t!

View of trail over ridge from Benyellary to The Merrick

View over to The Merrcik from Benyellary

We headed down first of all and it was a relief to be out of the wind at the top. Then we headed up.

This time we were scaling The Merrick itself. It was quite steep in places, but nothing too taxing and the trail was fine. It took about 45 minutes to climb this last section of the hike. At the summit, it was really blowy and quite cold, but fortunately there was a stone ring at the top which provided some shelter. We joined a couple of other hikers who were already seated in there for our picnic. We were well ready for it!

Peter in the stone ring at the top of the Merrick

Jasper with the summit marker on The Merrick

The views along the way were absolutely wonderful and from the summit we had a 360 degree view.  We could see the Isle of Man, the Lake District, Ailsa Craig and right across Galloway.

View over the hills from the top of The Merrick

View from over the landscape of Galloway

View over landscape with hills and lochs of Galloway

Ailsa Craig in the distance from the top of The Merrick

Ailsa Craig in the distance

Heading down

After our picnic and taking in the view, we started down. I actually find it harder going down than up when the terrain is steep and uneven so Peter and the pup soon left me behind. The rocky bit at the bottom of Benyellary required careful attention from me, but otherwise it was a steady descent down to where we had left the bikes. It was an opportunity to admire those views from a different angle.

Jasper was happy to go in his doggy hut at this point. He sometimes objects, but not this time. He stayed in the whole way down and back to the campsite.

We headed back to the camper for a well-earned cup of tea.

Inside the camper with tea and Tunnocks on the table

Tea and Tunnocks!

Hiking (and biking) The Merrick proved to me a fantastic day out. I would definitely recommend this hike.

 

Galloway

Galloway is in the southwest of Scotland, an area which one does not really pass through on the way to anywhere, so a special trip is required. For this reason, it is often overlooked by visitors to Scotland, who head to Edinburgh, the Highlands, the west coast and Skye. This is a mistake as Galloway is very beautiful with lots to see and do. The coastline and coastal walks are wonderful; the Galloway forest is fabulous with many hiking and mountain biking trails; the villages and towns are characterful and interesting; and the history of Galloway with its castles and monuments is also worth checking out.

View over the coast and cliffs in Galloway

Rockcliffe in Galloway

Jane on empty sandy beach

The beach at Port Logan

Galloway does not have mountains as iconic as Ben Nevis and other “Munros”, but it does have mountains like The Merrick. In short, Galloway is beautiful and it is one of my favourite areas in Scotland.

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13 Comments

  1. Scotland is perfect for Campervans! What a stunning hike!

    Reply
  2. What beautiful views and scenery. I assume this would be classified as the Scottish Highlands. I travelled thru Scotland but never hiked anywhere.

    Reply
    • Other end of the country, Rhonda! The Merrick is in Galloway, the southern uplands rather than the highlands in the north.

      Reply
  3. I had not heard about The Merrick before. It looks like an amazing spot to hike for great views. Great to know you had good weather to be able to do the hike. And I love the option of doing part of it on an eBike. Not cheating at all!

    Reply
    • A woman after my own mind!

      Reply
  4. Squeeee this looks amaaaazing! I LOVE hikes like this when you get to hike along ridgelines to several peaks. Plus the name “Range of the Awful Hand” is awesome – that would totally make me want to explore the fingers. 😀

    Plus you finished with Tea and Tunnocks. Winner winner.

    Reply
    • Gotta have a Tunnocks on a Scottish hike!

      Reply
  5. I know all about being left behind by Peter on the downhills! Great post! Looking forward to seeing the two of you this winter.

    Reply
    • Thanks Scott. Envious that you are already in Colorado! See you soon.

      Reply
  6. Reading this post has inspired me to pay a visit to Galloway as it looks beautiful. I hiked Pen Y Fan in Wales and this is a similar height so I would love to give it a go. It’s so worth the effort for those amazing views from the top.

    Reply
  7. Scotland is just beautiful isn’t it? Especially if you’re treated with great weather conditions during your hike. We have so many peaks on our wish-list we want to climb, and I’ll be adding The Merrick to our map too.

    Reply
  8. Oh wow the views are amazing and the dog is SO cute! It looks like an amazing place to hike.

    Reply
  9. This looks like an amazing hike! I’ve hiked in the Cairngorms but not to this part of Scotland! Adding this to my list!

    Reply

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Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

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