My sixth day on the Southern Upland Way was part of a Thursday to Saturday holiday in October. A bit of a gamble – autumn can easily treat one to continuous rain, particularly in northern Britain, but I was lucky to get practically no rain over those three days!
On the previous day, I stayed in a hotel right next to the Carlisle train station and took the first train on the day, arriving a few minutes after 7am in Sanquhar. It was just dawning. This was to be a shorter walk, about 10 miles only. This was to provide a light “break-in” before the next two days, about 20 and then about 30 miles!
The first mile or so took me around the town of Sanquhar, mostly around River Nith, pictured below.
Very soon, however, one crosses the railway line in the northerly direction and a brisk ascent gave me lovely views back towards the town.
After that first ascent, the glorious Conrig Hill comes into view:
Now, properly remote after a mere 3 miles or less from Sanquhar, the route turns east slightly, passing the Brandleys farm. Here the path took me steeply upwards (about 500ft or 150m up), with ranges to both my left and right. I am not able to identify the specific hills, but the views were spectacular already.
At about 400ft, turning back provided me with this spectacular view of the area I had just climbed:
To the south-east, I was treated to these views:
Now the way steeply – extremely steeply – took me down towards Cog Burn and its wooded area at the foot of Conrig Hill (to my left). You can’t exactly see the burn in the photo, but it there, hidden from view.
As this was about halfway through for me at this point that day (about 5 miles in), I took a short break down below at the burn – a drink and some sustenance, enjoying the quiet whisper of the water, being surrounded by nothing but nature. It was cloudy, but visibility was good and one could appreciate the surroundings just fine.
When one stops walking, though, in October, it gets cold rather quickly! So I was soon back on my way. What now follows is a steady 1.5 mile ascent with Lowmill Knowe to one’s left and Glengaber Hill to the right. Look at these glorious views from this part of the walk.
Soon after passing Glengaber Hill, the slow descent towards Wanlock Water and, eventually, Wanlock itself, begins. All of a sudden the beautiful Black Hill comes into view:
These hills abound in lead, zinc, copper and other minerals, although the mining activity ceased here in the 1950s. Many remnants of old workhouses remain in this area.
The path takes the walker down to Wanlock Water, flowing lazily down below and to a road leading east to the village of Wanlockhead itself. Wanlockhead is the highest Scottish village (1,350ft or around 410m).
A short stroll on the road took me into Wanlockhead. It is a very picturesque village as you can see for yourself. The surrounding green hills, even on a grey day such as that, contrasting with the whitewashed buildings in the village, are like out of a postcard.
I made a short stop here, just to look around and enjoy. Technically speaking, this is where I should’ve stopped on the day. However, I now needed to walk about 1.5 miles further to the village of Leadhills, where I was actually staying (I had not been able to find a place to stay in Wanlockhead). It was quite early in the day, not even midday yet, so the rest of the way I took a leisurely stroll.
Here is a picture of Wanlockhead as I was leaving it for Leadhills.
It was mostly all the way down into Leadhills. Once the small ascent seen in the photo above (think you’re walking towards the camera), I crossed B797 and followed most of the way down into Leadhills along a narrow gauge railways. It is the highest adhesion railway in the UK. The preserved track runs only from Leadhills towards Wanlock for about 0.6 miles. I understand trains run here on Saturdays and Sundays but as this was a Thursday, it was completely quiet.
All images from this trip can be seen in the video below: