Showing posts from 2012

Walk: Through Tyrebagger's trees to Tappie Tower

Aberdeen City | Blackburn | Short walk | ★★★

Sandwiched between Aberdeen Airport, the A96 dual carrriageway, and now the new Aberdeen ring road too, Tyrebagger Hill doesn't sound like a promising destination. But this forested hill turns out to have plenty of character, with excellent views towards Bennachie and over the city of Aberdeen. There's a miniature fairytale tower on the summit with a spiral staircase accessing the top.

📌 Walk: Through Tyrebagger's trees to Tappie Tower ★★★
Start / finish at C=car park just off A96 2 mi east of Blackburn, G.R.: NJ 853116 ///claw.hands.imprints

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 140 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Summits: Tyrebagger Hill (250 m)
Terrain: Mostly tracks with a little mud; clear path to summit.

Route & local walks map

Car park - track junction at G.R.: NJ 848115 - track junction at G.R.: NJ 855122 - track junction near Pitdouries Well - Gueval Wood - Tyrebagger Hill - return to Gueval Wood - track junction at G.R.: NJ 843119 - start. Route sho…

Ski: Cairngorm Mountain

Highland | Aviemore | Ski centre | ★★★

Cairngorm Mountain (historically referred to as Aviemore) is Scotland's best known winter sports destination, attracting more visitors than any of the country's other ski areas. On paper, it's easy to see why: its Top Bowls have the most reliable snow cover of any runs in the UK, theoretically accessed by a funicular railway which also directly serves the dozen or more runs on the Cas side of the mountain. Nearby Aviemore village is also the closest thing Britain has to an all winter (and summer) sports "resort", making it a popular year-round holiday base. But Cairngorm's drawbacks are non-trivial. Huge lift queues are common at weekends and during school holidays, and the upper slopes are barren and inhospitable in bad weather: days when the hill is stormbound or uplift limited are fairly common. And that's even before ongoing problems with the funicular - which will disrupt operations over the coming season. We ar…

St Andrews

Fife | Town | ★★★★

University town, the home of golf, magnificent ruined cathedral and castle, an attractive coastal setting... St Andrews seems to have got the rub of the green when it comes to tourist attractions, even if you don't want to play the world-famous courses. Two magnificent beaches are particularly underrated - the more extensive West Sands was the filming location for the start of Chariots of Fire. Many visitors find the centre surprisingly small, and it's probably only thanks to the large termtime student population that St Andrews has a bustle about it that's rare in similar-sized Scottish settlements. It's certainly a bit of a bubble, with an almost English feel and in complete contrast to the rest of Fife.


📌 St Andrews ★★★★
Fife, G.R.: NO 509167 ///butlers.butter.roaming

🚶 St Andrews is a rewarding place to explore on foot, with all the interesting local sights within a 20-min walk of each other.
🚌 The nearest railway station receives frequ…

St Andrews Castle & Cathedral

Fife | St Andrews | Castle & cathedral | ★★★★

One of St Andrews' manifold attractions is its wealth of religious history. On the coast and close to the town centre stand the ruined remains of St Andrews Castle and Cathedral. The two sites' histories are closely linked and you can buy a joint ticket covering both sites. There's a lot more to offer beyond the buildings you first see on the ground. A siege carried out by the Earl of Arran in 1546 involved the construction of underground passageways (by both sides) which you can still explore by crawling in places: great fun if you're in an adventurous mood. Meanwhile, the depths of the vaults around the cathedral's south cloister are home to a museum showcasing stone carvings, Pictish stones and gravestones from the site itself and the wider area. Finally, you can climb to the top of the 33-metre St Rule's Church tower: pre-dating even the cathedral buildings.

📌 St Andrews Castle★★★★
Description: Ruined home o…

St Monans

Fife | Village | ★★★

So far we've only had the chance to visit the fishing village of St Monans at dusk in December, which is not long after 4 pm at this time of year. Even in the gloaming we could see enough of the beautiful harbour to make us want to come back during proper daylight hours, to further explore the sea front and the old alleyways leading back from it. Just along the coast path to the east is Fife's last surviving windmill, built in the late 18th century in order to pump sea water into nearby salt pans - once a major industry all along the Forth estuary. There are information panels and good views from the top of the spiral staircase inside, but see the info below about access.


📌 St Monans ★★★
Fife, G.R.: NO 526016 ///strut.accompany.melon

🚶 The village centre is tiny; good paths extend in both directions along the coast, giving access to other villages.
🚌 St Monans is served by buses on the Leven - East Neuk - St Andrews route.

See & do (<1 mi a…

Walk: Ben Vrackie & a leap of faith

Perth & Kinross | Pitlochry | Full day walk | ★★★★

A full-day's circuit taking in Ben Vrackie and Killiecrankie Gorge is surely one of Scotland's most varied hill walks. Starting in the centre of bustling Pitlochry, the return route winds along the beautiful River Garry, taking in the dramatic Pass of Killiecrankie. In 1689 this was the scene for a major battle during the first Jacobite rebellion; one soldier escaped by jumping across the gorge at a spot now named The Soldier's Leap. Oh yes, and there's also the small matter of the hill itself: its majestic bulk speckled with scree, heather slopes and a small loch, with the summit visible even from the town beneath. A week's worth of variety packed into a single day?

📌 Walk: Ben Vrackie & a leap of faith ★★★★
Start / finish at A924 junction with Larchwood Road (street parking), 5-min walk west of Pitlochry town centre, G.R.: NN 937583 ///snake.paths.amplified

▶ 17 km / 11 mi | ▲ 860 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough

Walk: Underground, overground, Acharn amble

Perth & Kinross | Acharn | Short walk | ★★★

The unique feature of these potentially spectacular cascades on the south side of Loch Tay is the dark passage through a Victorian hermit's cave required to reach the amphitheatre-like viewpoint. "Potentially" here means "weather-dependent": the waterfalls are tall (80 feet in total) but it's not a particularly big burn, so wait for a spell of wet weather to see them at their best.

📌 Walk: Underground, overground, Acharn amble ★★★
Start / finish on minor road (street parking), Acharn village centre, G.R.: NN 755438 ///

▶ 2 km / 1 mi | ▲ 140 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Features: Falls of Acharn
Terrain: Steep track for ascent with detour on a path through the cave to the falls. Rougher path for descent.

Route & map

Start - Falls of Acharn via west bank & Hermit's Cave - cross Acharn Burn above falls - return by east bank

Route credit: Walkhighlands
On our visit

Wildlife: Solitary red squirr…

Scottish Crannog Centre

Perth & Kinross | Kenmore | Reconstructed crannog | ★★★

Hovering above the mysterious waters of Loch Tay and in the shadow of Kenmore Hill lies the Scottish Crannog Centre, re-telling the story of how some people lived thousands of years ago, in wooden dwellings perched on stilts above Scotland's hundreds of lochs. The highlight is the reconstructed crannog itself: a dark, sometimes smoky affair in order to make the experience as authentic experience as possible, but a fascinating step back in time. Atmosphere is backed up by education back above dry land, with opportunities to use replica bronze age tools and a small museum area.

Location & info

📌 Scottish Crannog Centre★★★
By minor road 1 mi southwest of Kenmore, G.R.: NN 770449 ///energy.nervy.developed
Open daily, late March to October; also on a more limited basis from November to late March | £10 adult / £7 childe

Walk: Kenmore Hill - Loch Tay vista

Perth & Kinross | Kenmore | Short walk | ★★★

Kenmore Hill isn't really a proper hill at all - it's really just a minor bulge on the northern slopes of higher Meall a' Choire Chreagaich. However it offers wonderful views across Loch Tay with the mighty Ben Lawers ridge beyond, and the Bolfracks Estate have created a network of waymarked paths which make a circular walk possible through a mixture of woodland and open ground. Access to the car park is quickest from the north for most visitors, but the long drive through lonely Glen Quaich to the south is quite exciting.

📌 Walk: Kenmore Hill - Loch Tay vista ★★★
Car park just off minor road 2 mi south of Kenmore, G.R.: NN 786446 ///engage.certainly.engaging. Access road to car park is a rough track which could be tricky for low clearance vehicles.

▶ 5 km / 3 mi | ▲ 220 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Kenmore Hill / Creag an Fhùdair (515 m)
Terrain: Good paths with a few wet sections; last sections on track and minor road.


Sloc of Dess

Aberdeenshire | Kincardine O'Neil | Waterfall | ★★

The setting, rather than height, makes this small Deeside waterfall such an attractive spot. Rocky walls and woodland surrounding the Dess Burn hide the Sloc of Dess away from passing cars, and the fall isn't signposted. But for those in the know, it's only a short descent to the burn from a nearby layby - well worth a stop if you're passing.

Location & info

📌 Sloc of Dess ★★
Off minor road 2 mi west of Kincardine O'Neil, G.R.: NJ 566004 ///intruded.smoothly.tall
Always open | Free

Anything else? Park at the layby (space for a couple of cars) at G.R.: NJ 566004 ///fairy.badge.campsites and wander down to the bank nearby. There's a rough burnside path with lots of steps taking you down to the bottom of the waterfall.

Kincardine O'Neil Old Church

Aberdeenshire | Kincardine O'Neil | Church | ★★★

It's easy to drive through the roadside village of Kincardine O'Neil with barely a thought on your way to the more popular upper reaches of Royal Deeside. Indeed, there isn't much more to the place than what you can see from the A93, but the ruined kirk on the south side of the road is worth a stop. Once twice as long and two storeys high, this used to be the local parish church and dates to the 12th century.

Location & info

📌 Kincardine O'Neil Old Church ★
By the A93, Kincardine O'Neil village centre, G.R.: NO 592996 ///
Always open | Free

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

City of Edinburgh | Stockbridge | Garden | ★★★★

If you live close to the Royal Botanic Garden you'll already know that you're fortunate to call one of Edinburgh's most beautiful and green suburbs home. Amongst the several generous areas of open space are more than 70 landscaped acres within easy walking distance of Edinburgh New Town: beautiful woodland, rock garden, Chinese hillside, ponds and the magnificent Victorian Palm Houses are just a few of the highlights. Obviously the gardens show their best colours during the warmer months, but they're worth a visit at any time of year. If it happens to be a Sunday, pay a visit to nearby Stockbridge Market for tasty treats.

Location & info

📌 Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh★★★★
Arboretum Place, 1 mi north of Edinburgh Waverley station, G.R.: NT 244753 ///origin.head.hunter
Open daily | Garden: free. Glasshouse: £7 adult / free for children

Walk: Cairn Gorm's wild side

Highland | Cairngorm Plateau | Full day walk | ★★★★★

Cairn Gorm's shady northern slopes are littered with half a century's worth of winter sports developments: good news for skiers, not ideal for walkers wanting to get away from it all. Fortunately the great coires to the west are beyond the ski area's boundaries, making a magnificent and wild approach above huge crags to the eventual summit before the return to civilisation. You could even use the funicular (if it's running - it's closed indefinitely at time of update in 2020) to help with the descent! But not the ascent - you're not allowed to leave the top station if you've come up on the train.

📌 Walk: Cairn Gorm's wild side★★★★★
Start / finish at CairnGorm Mountain car park, 4 miles south of Glenmore Visitor Centre, G.R.: NH 989060 ///trespass.messed.line

▶ 11 km / 7 miles | ▲ 780 metres | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Cairn Lochan (1215 metres); Stob Coire an t-Sneachda (1176 metres); Cairn Gorm (1…

Walk: In Royal footsteps to Balmoral's Cairns

Aberdeenshire | Crathie | Half day walk | ★★★

Crathie's enormous car park only makes sense during the summer holidays, when Balmoral Castle draws in huge numbers of tourists. To escape peak season crowds, head instead to the estate surrounding the residence. Here, the Royal Family have erected several impressive cairns on the hills either side of Dubh-chlais valley. These ranging from the dainty (Purchase Cairn) to the gargantuan (Prince Albert's Cairn), often accompanied by excellent views over the castle itself and Deeside. Almost like a treasure hunt, or a geocaching route but with much larger objectives.

📌 Walk: In Royal footsteps to Balmoral's Cairns ★★★
Start / finish at car park at A93 / B976 junction, Crathie, G.R: NO 263949 ///person.enjoyable.suave

▶ 10 km / 6 mi | ▲ 350 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Creag a' Ghobhainn (390 m); Creag an Lurachain (442 m) | Features: Crathie Kirk; Balmoral Cairns
Terrain: Steep paths and good tracks throughout.

Route &am…

Walk: Glas Maol & Glen Isla safari

Angus | Angus Glens | Full day walk | ★★★

Glas Maol is known to winter sports enthusiasts as the highest point of Glenshee's ski area. It's also a Munro: unfortunately one of the ugliest due to the ski lifts scattered across the hillside when approaching from Cairnwell Pass. But the quieter, longer approach from Glen Isla in Angus misses all of this, instead passing above some of the most beautiful spots in the southern Cairngorms. Monega Hill is a magnificent corner on the ascent, perched high above the two great glens of Caenlochan and Canness, while the return traverses the surprisingly rough ridge to Creag Leacach, another Munro. Save a couple of chocolate bars for the final brutal obstacle of Monamenach. The path over the top looks nearly vertical on approach and it turns out to feel nearly that bad too. The fantastic wildlife deserves a mention: we've never seen so many deer, mountain hare or ptarmigan before even on separate walks - let alone all on the same one.



Aberdeenshire | Village | ★★★

Ballater is a well-kept, touristy village and former spa town on the banks of the River Dee, with historical links to the Royal Family and nearby Balmoral Castle. This is one of the best bases for exploring the quieter eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park; a car isn't necessary (though may still be useful), as several excellent walks begin right from the village centre and there's a good bus service accessing the other villages up and down the glen. One of Scotland's most iconic hills, Lochnagar, is a short drive away.


📌 Ballater ★★★
Aberdeenshire, G.R.: NO 370958 ///flatten.tweed.fancied

🚌 Ballater is served by local buses on the Aberdeen to Braemar route.

See & do (<1 mi away)

>> The Snow Roads★★★★
>> Walk: Craggy Craigendarroch★★★ (map: A)
>> Walk: Mellow meanderings to the Yellow Peak★★★ (map: B)
>> Walk: The pain of Pannanich★★ (map: C)

Nearby (1-5 mi away)

>> Knock Castle★★ (1 mi ←)

Walk: The pain of Pannanich

Aberdeenshire | Ballater | Short walk | ★★

Creag Coillich is the closest hill to the south side of Ballater. There are great views of the village from the top with Craigendarroch beyond, but this is a route fairly seldom climbed. Why? Perhaps it's because of the brutally steep paths through Pannanich Woods to get there, no matter which route you pick. But some people like a bit of suffering during their outdoor pursuits, and the reward's worth it in this writer's opinion. The monument passed on the way up commemorates the 2nd Baronet of Glenmuick.

📌 Walk: The pain of Pannanich ★★
Start / finish just north of the bridge over the River Dee (street parking) on Bridge Street, Ballater village centre, G.R.: NO 371957 ///sweat.fountain.emulating

▶ 3 km / 2 mi | ▲ 210 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Craig Coillich (397 m) | Features: Mackenzie Memorial
Terrain: Clear paths and tracks through woodland to the summit, a little muddy at times and steep (especially on descent).

Route &…

Walk: Wellington's Nose - not to be sneezed at

Highland | Achnashellach | Full day walk | ★★★★★

Fuar Tholl (or Wellington's Nose) is a lowly Corbett jostling for space amongst the several higher hills surrounding Coire Làir. But don't judge this hill by height alone: its dramatic, craggy profile is riven by gullies, rock and ice climbing routes and amazing outcroppings such as Mainreachan Buttress. Views are tremendous throughout, from Beinn Liath Mor's shattered ridge to the north, to the graceful curves of Maol Chean-dearg in the west, and even Liathach's sawtooth ridge peeking over the top of Sgorr Ruadh from the summit. And not just hills - lovely Loch Carron gets a look in too, stretching away to the southwest. Save this one for a good weather day: Fuar Tholl seems to have a knack for retaining cloud even as higher surrounding summits clear, and missing out on these breathtaking panoramas would be a shame!

📌 Walk: Wellington's Nose - not to be sneezed at ★★★★★
Start / finish at car park on A890 near Achnas…