A “horseshoe” walk around the head of Holms Water taking in the two grahams of Culter Fell (748m) and Gathersnow Hill (688m). Although the walk itself is straightforward the ground can be quite rough in places on tussocky grass and wet moss. You should ensure that you are properly equipped for a hill walk with map and compass and that you have some navigation skills. Fences can be followed for some of the walk but not all of it. If you are not confident of your navigation this walk should be undertaken on a clear day.
The route starts from Glenkirk Farm at the end of the public road up the Holm Water valley (accessed from the A701) south of Broughton at grid reference NT 079 294.
Distance: 13.5 km / 8.4 miles
Ascent: 750m / 2500 feet
Start / finish: near Broughton
Facilities: parking on the grass before Glenkirk Farm, Laurel Bank Tea Room in Broughton.
From Glenkirk Farm a quad bike track is visible going up the shoulder of Congrie Hill. To reach this track you will need to cross a small sheep field beyond the farm. There is a gate into the field but not out of it so either cross the fence or walk round the outside of the field to reach the start of the track.
The track will take you steeply up to the 428m summit of Congrie Hill before levelling off. As you progress between Congrie Hill and the bealach ahead of you (named King Bank Head on the OS maps) the track becomes more tussocky and wetter underfoot. At the bealach turn left to follow a fence line up the steep northern slope of Culter Fell. There is a feint path which can be followed. This ascent of just under 150m is probably the hardest part of the walk! Once on the summit you can enjoy views over the surrounding Border hills and north to Ochils and Campsie Fells knowing the hardest part is behind you.
Cross over the fence so that it is to your left as you walk south and follow it to descend Culter Fell to Moss Law on a feint path. Continue following the fence in a roughly south direction with the bulk of Gathersnow Hill ahead of you. Note the zig zag landrover track to the right of the hill. When you start to reach the bealach of Holm’s Nick either cut across the moorland to reach the foot of the zig zag track or when the fence turns left join the landrover track to Coulter Reservoir to reach the foot of the zig zag track.
The zig zag track provides a quick and easy means of regaining some of the height that you have lost since descending Culter Fell. However it stops at 530m from where a quad bike track strikes off to the left towards the summit. Unfortunately the quad bike track does not go to the summit so you will need to leave it and aim directly for the summit up the rough grass.
Once at the small summit cairn you can then follow an old fence over mossy ground in a roughly easterly direction to the next bealach named Glenwhappen Rig. Be careful of old fence wire on the ground on this section of the walk. After the bealach you then start the gentle ascent of Coomb Hill (640m). Part way up the hill, the broken fence becomes a new fence. If you walk on the left hand side of the fence you will not have to cross the fence later. However, the summit cairn of Coomb hill is on the right hand side! From the cairn you need to be on the left hand side (west) of the fence for the descent.
Follow the fence downhill for 700m to a flattish area. When the fence turns right, leave the fence to descend in a north north westerly direction down the shoulder of the hill. As you lose height the tussocky grass becomes a bit heathery but you should be able to pick up a quad bike track for easier walking. If you don’t find the track, aim for the lumpy bit in front of you (don’t go to the right of the lumpy bit). The track passes through a gate on to the lumpy bit and then descends downhill to Holmswaterhead. From here it is an easy walk along the farm track back to the start of the walk.
If you wanted a longer walk you could continue to Broomy Law and Glenlood Hill after Coomb Hill and then descend Glenlood Hill down its north shoulder to reach the road.
View / download this route from Ordnance Survey.
View / download this route from Viewranger.
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