Muirkirk to Wanlockhead Drove Road
Start location: Muirkirk (NS 695 270)
End location: Wanlockhead (NS 873 128)
Geographical area: Dumfries and Galloway, Arran and Ayrshire
Path Type: Drove Road
Path distance: 32km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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This old drove road goes south from Muirkirk past Kames and up the Garpel Water, crossing it by the bridge at NS698245, to the col (410m) between Wardlaw Hill and Stony Hill. Continuing south-east then east, the path (boggy in places) enters the forest on the south-east slope of Drummond’s Knowe. A forest road leads on to Fingland where there is a choice to either head southwards to Sanquhar (28km in total) or to continue to Wanlockhead. If the latter, from Fingland the line of the old drove road goes east up the slopes on the south side of Spango Water, but after 1.5km the track peters out; head for a gate in the drystane dyke to the east and regain the track on the north side of Shiel Hill at a height of almost 430m. Continue along the south side of Lamb Knowe and descend to Spango Bridge on the B740 between Sanquhar and Crawfordjohn. 400m north-east of Spango Bridge, go south-east towards Clackleith. Historically, the route followed the Wanlock Water to Duntercleuch, but a longer alternative (perhaps preferable to those on bikes) is the track which can be followed through the forest round the south side of Duntercleuch Rig (where the Southern Upland Way is joined) to descend to Duntercleuch. Thence continue up the Wanlock Water to Wanlockhead.
An alternative to the forestry track from Spango Bridge towards Wanlockhead is to fork left through a field gate before the concrete bridge over the Wanlock Water and go up its east bank to rejoin the route at NS850150, thence continue to Wanlockhead.
OS Landranger 71 (Lanark & Upper Nithsdale area)
This old drove road and cart-track was a boon to communication in its day. Heading south from Muirkirk, droves could get all the way to Sanquhar (leaving this route at Fingland) or going by Blackgannoch and Spango could reach Wanlockhead. Hailed as a great new road in the Old Statistical Account (1793), the improved stretch from Muirkirk to Sanquhar formed part of a longer route linking Glasgow with Dumfries
Earlier, in the seventeenth century, this old route is said to have proved valuable to the Covenanters. Two of James Renwick's safe houses, Auchtitench and Friarminnan, lie relatively close by and it was at Blackgannoch that 200 radical Covenanters met then afterwards made the Sanquhar Protestation of 28th May 1685.
Incidentally, on the current OS Explorer map, south west of Lamb Knowe and just south of the former drove road, is marked Drove Hass.
If you wish to explore the environs of Muirkirk further, you may be interested in a great map leaflet produced by the Muirkirk Enterprise Group. As well as five walks ranging from 4km to 10km, plus the longer option of this particular route, the leaflet is packed with fascinating historical information. ScotWays still have some remaining copies of the paper edition, so if you'd like one send an SAE to the address at top right, specifying the Muirkirk leaflet..