John : Climbing Instructor and Guidebook Author

Linda Biggar scratching her way up The Scrieve, Dungeon of Buchan, Galloway Hills

Belaying on the second pitch of the excellent Traitors Gait, VS 4c.

Introduction  The Dungeon of Buchan is a great wee hill in the middle of the Galloway Hills, with the biggest and probably the best rock climbing in the whole of southern Scotland on its buttresses. 

For info on winter routes on the Dungeon of Buchan see the bottom of the page, here

The routes lose the sun by about 4-5pm so it is worth climbing earlier in the day. Once the sun goes away the midges often come out...!

Access  The access is pretty long, but very worthwhile. To get here park at Craigencallie at the end of an unmarked road around the west side of Clatteringshaws Loch. Then bike about 6km along forest roads to the Backhill of Bush bothy, passing some forestry gates. From here walk west through the forestry rides to reach the large floating bog of the Silver Flowe and your first real view of the Dungeon Hill. The best and driest ride is the one starting just south of the bothy. Cross the Silver Flowe bog more or less directly, then it is best to head up the valley south of the crags until a fairly easy traverse can be made to the foot of them (The direct ascent is over rougher ground and boulders but may be quicker if going to the Colonels Corner and other climbs at the far right hand end.

For something a bit more unusual take a look at the climbing on the Craignaw Slabs, just  a short walk form the routes on Dungeon Hill.

The main rock climbing areas on the Dungeon of Buchan

Included on this page are some details of a few of the best routes at the cliffs on the Dungeon of Buchan that I have climbed. The main buttress is known as Cooran Buttress and has about ten routes on it up to 130m long and mainly VS, HVS and E1. Up and left from this is the 50m high slab of clean granite known as the Silver Slab, with several good Severe's and VS's. Further left still is the steeper cracked granite wall of Dungeon Buttress with a variety of routes from V.Diff. to E2. For a definitive list of all the climbs at the Dungeon of Buchan see the SMC published Lowland Outcrops guidebook.

It's a good idea to bring lots of cams to protect the routes here, wire placements are quite limited.

Dangers  This is a remote and fairly serious mountain cliff and the rock climbing here is definitely mountaineering rather than cragging. A number of the less popular routes will have some vegetation or lichen on them, however the majority of the rock is impeccably sound. The descents are straightforward.

 Descents  From the main Cooran Buttress descend by a long grassy ramp to the south (left looking at the crag). From the Silver Slab descend a short steep grassy gully on the right (north) looking at the crag. For Dungeon Buttress descend to the left (south).

Cooran Buttress

By far the biggest and most varied of the buttresses, Cooran buttress has a number of good routes up to 130m long on it. Particularly recommended are the excellent slabs and cracks of Traitor's Gait, the slabs of the original route here - The Highwayman HVS 5a, and the steep corner of the tough HVS, Colonel's Corner.

Looking over to Craignaw form the first pitch of Traitors Gait.

Looking over to Craignaw form the first pitch of Traitors Gait.

Pictured above is the crux 4c cracks on pitch four of the classic Traitors Gait, Cooran Buttress. The topo below shows the start finish and main intermediate belays for a few of the routes. For full descriptions of all these routes see the SMC Lowland Outcrops guidebook, or for descriptions of just the best see the latest edition of Kevin Howett's Rock Climbing in Scotland.

Rock climbs on Cooran Buttress, Galloway Hills

Silver Slab

The slab lies left of the finish of the big routes on Cooran buttress and provides good routes of up to 50m in length. An excellent option if you want to grab one or two more pitches at the end of the day. Take lots of cams, particularly for The Scrieve and Sprauchlers Groove. The Wee Slanter is best done in two pitches, the first pitch can be used to access the routes on the right, or you can just start these from the steep left sloping grass ramp. In the Upper Slab the unusual and perplexing Sprauchlers Groove takes the obvious fist size dog leg crack on the left, The Big Smirr goes up the easier vertical crack in the middle and Pembroke climbs any of the three right hand cracks. Stairway to Heather starts from the foot of the grass ramp, climbs the little staircase to the heather patch, then the awkward finger crack under the overlap.

Linda Biggar starting the long crux cracks of The Scrieve, VS 4c ***

Linda Biggar starting the long crux cracks of The Scrieve, VS 4c ***

Silver Slab rock climbs

James Kinnaird about to start the tenuous top toe traverse on Sprauchlers Groove.

Looks like an easy hand traverse from here? James Kinnaird is about to discover that the finish of the perplexing and unusual Sprauchlers Groove is actually a  tenuous toe traverse.


Mike Gennaro on the Scrieve, looking for something less tenuous.

Dungeon Buttress

Down and left from the Silver Slab lies the very steep Dungeon Buttress. It has a number of good hard routes of up to 35m in length.  Some of the main lines I have done are shown on the photo-diagram below, the routes are pretty obvious so guidebook descriptions aren't really necessary. Between Scots Wha Hae and Bannockburn are a number of other excellent harder E2 and E3 lines.

Rock climbs on the Dungeon Buttress, Southern Uplands

Winter Routes

The Dungeon is not really a natural winter venue, being rocky, heathery and south east facing, but in exceptional conditions with both some snow and a good freeze there are a number of good lines. There is also much more potential if good winters become common again.!  I first climbed here in winter in February 2012. In addition to the two routes detailed below there is a line on the main buttress at about Grade IV/V, called "When Hell Freezes Over" and a couple of Grade III buttress/turf routes round the corner to the right in the Cauldron of the Dungeon.

Myself on the third pitch traverse on the first winter ascent of Cooran Gully, III/IV, Dungeon of Buchan, February 2012.

Myself on the third pitch traverse on the first winter ascent of Cooran Gully, III/IV, Dungeon of Buchan, February 2012.

Dungeon Cauldron

Picture courtesy of Andrew Fraser of new routes done by him in the Cauldron of the Dungeon.

Picture courtesy of Andrew Fraser of two new grade III buttress routes done by him in the Cauldron of the Dungeon in March 2010.

The Dungeon of Buchan from the Silver Flowe in winter conditions.

Pictured above:- The Dungeon of Buchan from the Silver Flowe in winter conditions.