Galloway getaway

Heading up to the Arrochar Alps for Ros’ Rucksack Club meet over the Bank Holiday weekend, we’ve got a few days to kill, so we turned left at Gretna to explore the climbing in Galloway. Like most people, we’d generally press on up the A74 to the fleshpots of Glencoe and Fort Bill, bypassing this southernmost corner of Scotland, but we discovered it’s well worth exploring.The area doesn’t feature at all in the two volumes of Gary Later’s selected climbs guide, but we were fortunate to stumble across John Biggar’s excellent website which has all the information you need for a dozen or so crags in the area. http://www.johnbiggar.com/galloway-climbing-index.aspAfter a peaceful overnight at Caeravelock Castle (a beautifully maintained free campervan site amongst mature trees and lush bluebells)… our climbing plans got off to a shakey start: we woke to a gentle drizzle and then discovered a totally flat tyre. A bit of grappling (our van weighs 3.5 Tonnes) had the spare on and then a wild goose chase for the elusive Extra Load tyre we needed, chewed up the morning, and it was mid afternoon before we were passing Stranraer to head down the Galloway Peninsula towards the southernmost point in Scotland. Just before we hit the peninsula the “Gogarth effect” kicked in, the gloom evaporated and we arrived to stunning clear skies – next stop Crammag Head. There’s a great topo here http://www.johnbiggar.com/galloway-climbing-index/crammag-stranraer-rock-climbing.asp and perhaps the only thing missing is a map of the approach (although it’s fairly easy to find)… with the friendliest spot located immediately beneath the handy marker of a chuffing great lighthouse! A millpond sea and accommodating ledges meant we didn’t have to worry that we’d arrived at high tide, and after a short scramble down…… we were finally able to set boot to rock – gloriously rough and generally solid granite, though with somewhat fiddly and spaced gear.We managed 4 routes: Marine Boy, VSand Poisoned Ocean, Firefly and Lighthouse Wall (all HVS), basking in the glow of the setting sun as it gently turned the rock an ever deeper shade of red.A few miles further south we reached the narrow neck of land that joins the Mull of Galloway to the rest of the peninsula, and a contender for the best overnighting spot on the planet – just over a cattle grid and through a gate on the right (westward) side, a track leads down to a stunning bay.It’s completely legit – apparently the local farmer will occasionally turn up and relieve you of the princely sum of two quid for the pleasure of staying the night (though sadly he didn’t show up and we couldn’t work out which farm). What a spot, and the perfect end to a day that started with frustration.With longer to explore the following day we checked out Laggantalluch Head http://www.johnbiggar.com/galloway-climbing-index/laggantalluch-stranraer-rock-climbing.asp – about a mile or so to the north of Crammag. Slightly more devious access, and we headed down to the cliff edge a bit too early – here’s the GPS coordinates of the top of the main cliff, which should help you to find it first go: N54.6822205 W4.9713889. The suggested abseil line is down the far (northern) end of the crag (here’s a view of the crag from there)… but we found it handy to go straight down to the ledge at the base of The Holy Grail by abbing from this handy square bollard directly above (no one else on the crag and with a backup wire in the wall above)Fabulous position at the bottom,beneath the pair of classic HVS corners: Laggantalluch Corner (on the left directly above Helen in the photo below) and The Holy Grail on the right. They’re quite forshortened in this view – they’re actually just over 30m.

Here’s a shot of me on the former…

Both worth 3* and just squeezed in before a dash to Stranraer got us to the tyre shop (where the Extra Load tyres had now been delivered) just before closing time.Back to our favourite van spot, with a great view out towards the Mull of Galloway and the lighthouse.The final day of our Galloway Getaway was more disappointing in terms of the weather and we settled on exploring one of the inland crags near Newton Stewart, Corwar, http://www.johnbiggar.com/galloway-climbing-index/corwar-newton-stewart-rock-climbing.aspThis is a small, somewhat hidden, granite buttress with about a dozen routes, but gets a big write-up. There’s a “short” approach from the parking on the A712 which works if you have complete faith in the instructions on UKC and brings you out on top of the crag in about 10 minutes.An abseil from a handy tree (a 50m rope should be plenty) allows easy access to the routes and avoids a bit of a bushwack – you could also take a brush to clear accumulated moss and pine needles (worth checking there’s no one already climbing below!)Alternatively the easier but longer approach via a forestry track gives you a better idea of the crag from below.It was pretty chilly so we settled for a token route – The Prune, VS, the crag classic. Good but not in prime condition early in the season. Plenty of trickier things that also look worthwhile from HVS to E4 (in which case see advice re a brush!)The added appeal of Corwar was that it’s only 30 minutes from Hester and Tony’s new home, and it was a great opportunity to catch up over a few beers (even though our addition to the quiz team didn’t really yield great dividends!) Thanks for the hospitality!

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