Route: Durisdeer – Kettleton Byre – Mitchelstacks farm – Burleywhag – Kettleton Byre – Durisdeer
Date: June 2017
Distance: 22 miles or 35 kilometres
Link to GPX track download page: https://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=wgjzbwnonardbzcp
In good weather in June, Joe and I set out for a short ride into the Lowther hills to visit Burleywhag and Kettleton Byre bothies. We parked at Durisdeer and started up the long climb to Kettleton Byre.
We reached Kettleton Byre bothy fairly quickly as it is not far from Durisdeer, but headed on the ten miles or so to Burleywhag bothy on a glorious evening. I love being out in the hills on evenings like these. It’s my happy place.
The boy found the fords a bit of a challenge…..
We stumbled upon the Knickergate scandal…. it didn’t look like a very romantic spot to me, but someone obviously thought so
Joe got better at keeping the bike upright at the fords…
We came out of the glen and onto a minor road which we followed to Mitchellstacks farm. From there we followed the river up the glen towards Burleywhag.
Joe was getting hungry so we stopped and munched on some cheddars for a bit, while idly watching a nearby crow who was doing something strange over at the stone wall. I thought at first it was trying to pull some string out of the wall, but then realised that it was actually entangled in the string and was fighting to get free. I got a penknife out of my bag and went over to see if I could help. I don’t much like crows really – they peck the eyes and tongues out of newborn lambs and cause hideous injuries, but it was hard not to feel for this guy in his predicament.
The string was tangled around his wing and claw. When I cut his foot free he stretched it out in a way that implied great relief at being able to move it again.
Joe held him still to stop him pecking me. He said he had incredibly soft feathers. The poor wee thing was pretty resigned to its fate by now. Joe named him Cheddars the Crow.
When Joe let it free it hopped up and stood there for a few seconds, unsure of what to do like ‘well, aren’t you going to eat me then?’ He flew off a bit lopsided, but soon had the hang of things again.
We continued up the glen towards Burleywhag in the gloaming and reached there in the last of the light.
We had the place to ourselves and soon had the stove and candles lit and the place very cosy. The remains of someone’s cairy-oot went down nicely…
Here are some shots I took of Burleywhag bothy in the morning, it is in a really stunning location.
There are a lot of photos on the walls of byegone days, none of which actually seem to relate to the bothy, but they lend it a nostalgic air all the same.
Leaving the bothy over the bridge….
There is a bit of bogginess to negotiate….
We stopped in at one of the ruined estate houses down the glen. This offered the opportunity for a history lesson about the clearances, although I think this house was probably abandoned much later than that judging by the old cooker, which looks 1940’s to me.
We went back through the fords again, with Joe getting better and better at keeping his feet dry….
You may have to take my word for it that there is a red kite in this photo – one several pairs we saw on this trip.
The track had been over-managed by the Duke of Buccleugh’s estate and the tons of loose stone that had been dumped on it made going up or down a tricky business.
This is just a fraction of what the Duke of Buccleuch owns. Lets just say I am not to happy with that, nor the obscene wealth and land-ownership of the Duke of Roxburgh either. But it’s bonny country alright.
We came back to Kettleton Byre intending to stay the night, but neither of us felt comfortable after finding some mildly offensive stuff that had been left there. The car was tantalisingly close and so we returned to it and so on to our own beds just a couple of hours away.
Although the trip wasn’t very far in distance terms, the nature of the terrain and multiple fords made it a challenging ride all the same.