#304 – Grey Mare’s Tail – The Grey Mare’s Tail and White Coomb in the Moffat Hills

The Grey Mare’s Tail in the Moffat Hills

For the best viewing experience, left-click the images and maps to zoom in to a new window, then exit that window to go back – go on, it really does work!

Lounging in the sun near the summit of White Coomb, highest of the Moffat Hills at 821 metres

Our May 2021 trip to Scotland was drawing to a close, but instead of home and North Wales, we were heading to Northumbria on a family visit.  This trip had been about filling in gaps by visiting hills and mountains that we usually drive past on the way to somewhere else – what better end to the trip then than to go and taker a look at the Grey Mare’s Tail, near Moffat.

The Moffat Hills, including the route

The Grey Mare’s Tail is a 60 metre hanging waterfall in the Moffat Hills in the Scottish Borders area, and the surrounding area is a popular Nature Reserve in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.  Most visitors go no further than to the bottom of the falls, though a hardy few climb the narrow path clinging to the hillside to reach the top of the falls.

Closer view of the route by the Grey Mare’s Tail to Loch Skeen and White Coomb

Others go even further to the lovely lake of Loch Skeen, but only a hardy few go beyond there into the hills.  Well, we were definitely booked into the ‘Hardy Few’ club, as our target was the summit of White Coomb at 821 metres height (2694 ft) and the highest summit in the Moffat Hills. 

Even closer view showing the direction of travel (return route as outward route after they meet up)

Even by UK standards, these aren’t massive mountains, but they are rough, tough hills that have a big feel.  The Moffat hills could well be compared with the Berwyn range on North Wales, being of similar height and mass – they are also the kind of hills that could well ‘bite yer bum’ in bad visibility or poor weather conditions.

Looking towards the path to the falls from the car park
Border Collie ‘Mist’ weighing up the waterfal
Not so much a continuous single-drop waterfall ….
…. more a collection of cascades
On the narrow part of the path, heading towards Loch Skeen
Looking back down the path from the previous viewpoint
The view from the path back to the car park below

As we set, out the weather wasn’t very inspiring, with clouds hiding the sun from view.  The path to the top of the falls leaves the car park to traverse a path that gets increasingly narrow as it clings to the side of the hill.  It soon becomes apparent that the Grey Mare’s Tail isn’t a single-drop waterfall, but is a collection of cascades instead.  And none the worse for that.

The cascades continue, even after leaving the steep section behind
First view of White Coomb on the left – our route took Mid Craig on the right
Nearly at Loch Skeen, with Mid Craig just left of centre
The first view of Loch Skeen, a little jewel hidden away from the road
Loch Skeen with Mid Craig on the left

The next section of path above the falls is interesting enough, with early view of White Coomb, our objective for the day.  There are various ways to tackle the hill, but I knew we had made the best choice of route when we arrived at Loch Skeen, a little jewel of a lake that the day trippers never get to see.

Start of the height gain on Mid Craig
Leaving Loch Skeen behind
The view across the Midlaw Burn valley to White Coomb
Mid Craig behind as we contour round the top of Midlaw Linn

The loch was a pleasant a place for a brew of coffee as you could find, so we spent a while there.  Then it was time to get to grips with the hills beyond.  A short, stiff climb up the ridge of Mid Craig brought us to the high ground beyond, all of it around the 750-metre contour of higher.  Those wanting a more demanding trip would easily find something to test the legs, but we were only going as far as White Coomb.

The sky beginning to clear on the final ascent towards White Coomb
The top! Blue sky as well
One man and his dog – yet another rare photo of the author
The view to the southwest and (eventually) England
The view to the northwest and the Moffat Hills

As we took the final ridge to the top, the sky began to clear, giving us good light for summit photos, and long, ‘Big Sky’ views towards England in one direction and equally good views towards the Southern Uplands in the other direction.  The area deserves a longer visit, and we will probably be back, but in the meantime it was getting on for dinner time for Border Collie ‘Mist’ and time to head for home.

Time to head for home

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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4 Responses to #304 – Grey Mare’s Tail – The Grey Mare’s Tail and White Coomb in the Moffat Hills

  1. Always wanted to see that path – doesn’t look too bad – at least it’s a good path. Keep meaning to do those hills and that route and visit that loch but haven’t yet – nearest I’ve got was looking to the waterfall from near the road!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s taken me long enough to walk up there. The road was one of my favourite motorbike routes, but I was always in a hurry to go north for the bigger hills – I’m enjoying catching up on all the hill days I’ve been missing out on.

      Like

      • I’m the opposite on a bike – very cautious – I like fast but very straight roads! I’ve been taking my old (1975) trail bike to work as the parking is so ridiculous in Keswick – I’ve been enjoying that but it’s good, main roads…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, and I’m the same about wanting to get further north for the main hills – the amount of things I’ve kept driving past thinking “I must do those sometime”!

        Liked by 1 person

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