South West Scotland - short walk summits

SOTA has been great for me in all sorts of ways, not least because it has helped me get back into hillwalking - and find new summits I might never have considered - but it has also even encouraged the homebrew activity (of the RF kind!). The last couple of weekends I have been down in Dumfries and Galloway and managed three nice little hills.

GM/SS-232 Pibble Hill

The first weekend I was keen to get out but unfortunately hadn’t managed to complete the 2m linear. Pibble hill was chosen as a nice easy walk since the relatively nearby Corse of Slakes road means the ascent is only about 130m, though from the map it was clear that the first half kilometer was going to be very boggy. I was not disappointed - and although a quad bike track leads the way to the summit, there’s a lot of bog to go through at this time of year. Before setting off from the car I put up an alert for 144.3 ssb on Spotlite, which seems to work fine for me.

Having reached the top a bit later than the alert time, I set up initially for 2m and put out a call - and was answered by Andrew MI0BPB in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately no more ssb contacts ensued, and so I tried FM - but only found Jordan M3TMX. It was clearly time to give up the 4W on 2m, set up the 80m inverted V and get out the HF linear! This produced the result; I was half way through self-spotting when I had a reply to my CQ. Ten 80m QSOs completed the activation. I began to realise on Pibble Hill why the Marilyns exist - that 150m prominence means great views even on small hills.

GM/SS-238 Bengray

By the following weekend I had solved my low pass filter problems with the 2m linear, and was raring to try it out. Bengray was another of the hills local to Gatehouse of Fleet that I had in mind for an activation. Again, the road gets you up to 140m, leaving a 230m climb with a walk less than 3km. The weather was glorious, a bit of a cool wind but lovely sunshine. The view from the top was truly great - it was a little bit too hazy to see the Isle of Man, but the Lake District hills were visible, along with Cairnharrow, Pibble Hill, Cairnsmore of Fleet, the more northern hills in the area (up to Merrick), and round to Criffel near Dumfries, and Bengairn beyond Kirkcudbright.

Again I had posted an alert, and reached the summit at about the right time. Before I got onto 144.3, I heard G4ERP/P on 144.32 so had a quick summit to summit contact. Then the call on 144.3 brought an instant response, followed by a nice queue of chasers. Very gratifying, and I was pleased to be getting out to London and Cheltenham on my 20W+ with the 5-ele beam; and as often Don was there in south Devon. All very satisfying, with 21 contacts and justifying the 2m only activation. Things quietened down at the end, and I had a great rag chewing session with GM3WFK/M, sat propped against the trig point, where we were able to discuss homebrew antennas etc etc … he was on holiday with the family on the Rhinns of Galloway.

GM/SS-130 Criffel

Two days later (Easter Monday) the weather was still good, though a bit hazy, and I set off for the longer drive to a hill that looked to have potentially great views. The only thing that I was a bit concerned by was the fact that on the 1:50000 map the path is shown as going straight up - not an approach I would normally take.

The walk in from the car park is very short, and soon you are ascending - great, I thought, the hill will be dry if it’s all like this - a steepish track through boulders where there has been recent tree felling. Further up, though, as the path continued straight up by the side of a wood, the going got a lot more boggy. At the top of the wood it opens out so you can see the track to the summit - yes, straight up. Also boggy - unbelievable on such a steep slope! I arrived at the top in good time - fortunately I had alerted with time to spare, as the walk took longer than I had anticipated - and had the place to myself.

Again I set up for 2m with the beam pointing generally south - south south east, and was rewarded straight away with contacts from G2BOF and G6XLL near London. Conditions seemed not quite as good as a couple of days before from Bengray, but clearly the linear was working and I was getting out. Many thanks indeed to those involved in the 18 contacts, including a couple of S2S contacts (MM3WJZ/P off the back of the beam - but he was pretty local).

As I finished the activation I suddenly realised I no longer had the place to myself - there were families all around having their lunch. No wonder the track is in such a poor condition - it is clearly very heavily used. Going down I decided to try a different route, and was rewarded with a drier way down at least as far as the top of the forest. There were still many people on their way up though - it’s a busy hill. More like what I am familiar with from the Lake District, rather than the usual quiet of a remote Scottish hill!

General comments

At this time of the year the hills in this area are certainly very boggy - the area is fairly new to me and there is a lot of fairly flat ground. The views make it all worth it though - the 150m prominence of the Marilyns is well chosen.

It’s been a good test of my homebrew linears; last year I began to realise that the FT-817 was sometimes a bit limited, and the first “exercise for the student” was an HF linear, followed by the 2m one. There are descriptions on my homebrew web page at

The final one to build is for 6m - I want to have a go at that (and more antennas) before thinking about moving up in frequency.

I have added a couple of notes in the “Summits” pages linked from the main SOTA page, relating to routes, general boggyness, etc. and have also put a few photos on the Flickr pages.

Many thanks as always to all chasers and activators on S2S contacts, who turn a nice little walk into something even more fun.


In reply to GM8OTI:

Thanks for the report and details on summits access. I’ll be visiting Galloway later
in the year and hoping to do some of the higher hills, but Bengray and Pibble will be
useful reserves if the weather isn’t good enough for the high hills.

I’ve been up Criffel twice and in my experience the ascent from Ardwell is easier and
more pleasant than the ascent from New Abbey. Either way seems quite hard work for a
relatively low hill.

73 Caroline M3ZCB

In reply to GM8OTI:

Thanks for the two s2s’s John, a very welcome surprise. I think you pretty well summed up my experience of Criffel - it’s very boggy all the way up, but it has a very nice summit. I don’t know about you but I think the views over the Solway from Criffel make up for the bog on the way up.

Iain, M(M)3WJZ