Criffel stands at 570 meters (1,870 feet) but appears much larger, as it stands higher than any other hill around for miles. Coming into Dumfries it creates a stunning backdrop and is beautiful to look at from afar. Coming closer it stands like a protector of the land as it watches over the Solway coastline and the towns and villages below.
Just outside of New Abbey, close to our Rosewall property, is where you can begin your climb along the Ardwall path. Following the road towards the coast, you will come across a quaint blue bus shelter. After seeing this take your first right and follow the road down to the car park specifically designed for those looking to climb Criffel. Here is where you get the sense of how big and imposing the hill really is.
The climb itself can be split into two halves. The first part consists of a marked pathway through the forest that you follow at quite a steep gradient. Running water is always close by in the way of a stream that is always beside you. With beautiful clear water, there are many stopping places along the way where you can stand beside the stream and look back at the view as it starts to come into its own. As you come to the last part of this first half, a small wooden bridge comes into view. And is the perfect place to take a few minutes and take in the first sights of the summit.
As you come into the second half of the hill climb, the terrain changes. Not only does the climb become steeper, but the path also gives way to the boggy open hillside. Depending on which time of year you choose to do Criffel can change which type of conditions you are likely to run into. And although the hardest part of the climb it can also be the most fun. Traversing through the mud, snow or dried brush makes for an exciting test of endurance. As you get closer to the summit a patch of rocky out groves appear. One of which is lovingly called the Penguin due to its shape. And as passing, a lot of climbers like to rub its nose as they make the last push to the summit. As you come along to the top of the hill it begins to level out. Following an old dyke takes you to the Cairn. And this is where you know you have reached the summit and you can take a great picture atop the Cairn as proof of your hard work.
The views from the top are second to none in the Dumfries and Galloway area. Your efforts are greatly rewarded with the most stunning views of the Solway coast, its estuaries and out towards the English Lake District. A stone bench sits at the top and is the perfect place to have a little something to eat as you take in these beautiful sights.
At a leisurely pace, the round trip can take around 2.5 to 3 hours. Although the experienced climber can complete this in around 1.5 hours. With its lower altitude and easy to follow paths, Criffel is a great hill for those just starting out or something a bit different to do whilst in the area. But as with any hill climb, caution should always be used especially when coming into the open hillside and the weather conditions should be considered as they can be very changeable towards the top.