Showing posts from 2013

Walk: Kinpurney - hill, hermit & tower

Angus | Sidlaw Hills | Short walk | ★★

The cluttered summit area of this hill in the Sidlaws contains the derelict shell of an 18th century observatory. Scottish legend tells us that a young, local poacher was locked in the tower for seven years, all to win a £100 bet. As the story goes he was successful - but emerged mad, tragically frail and unable to utter a single word. £100 gained, but youth, mind and power of speech lost. Perhaps you can ponder over whether there's a moral to the tale while you climb the grassy slopes (with woodland and picturesque waterfalls lower down) - fortunately the door to the observatory is long gone so you can wander inside without fear of the same happening to you...

📌 Walk: Kinpurney - hill, hermit & tower ★★
Start / finish at car park on North Street, Newtyle village centre, G.R.: NO 298415 ///payer.deciding.rucksack

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 280 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Kinpurney Hill (345 m) | Features: Kinpurney Tower
Terrain: Fairly quiet …


Aberdeen City | Bieldside | Forest | ★
OK, this area is frequented more by dog walkers than intrepid explorers, but if you live in or around Aberdeen then the forest around Countesswells should be on your radar for a relaxed ramble. This former farmland is now owned by the Forestry Commission, who have created several overlapping, waymarked trails to follow depending on time constraints. A dusting of snow made our last visit particularly enjoyable, and we've spotted red squirrels here despite the proximity to the Granite City. The parking charge are less welcome though, particularly as you're unlikely to spend a whole day here.

Location & info

📌 Countesswells
Off minor road 1 mi north of Bieldside, Aberdeen. Car park (charge) is at G.R.: NJ 869045 ///
Always open | Free

Anything else? Map of trails available here (no. 5).

Walk: Moo-ching around Craigowl Hill

Angus | Sidlaw Hills | Half day walk | ★★★

The Sidlaws are Dundee's local hills, rising to the mast-topped summit of Craigowl Hill at 455 metres above sea level. Somehow the metal structures don't really detract from the views here, perhaps due to the proximity of urban streets anyway. Meanwhile, the numerous cows roaming the hill definitely enhance it! This is an excellent local stomping ground for Dundonians, but the hills are worth a visit from further afield too. If you have enough time, it's worthwhile adding in the two lower hills further along the undulating ridge to the west, which are free of manmade structures and slightly quieter.

📌 Walk: Moo-ching around Craigowl Hill ★★★
Start / finish at Balkello Woodland car park, off minor road 2 mi east of Kirkton of Auchterhouse, G.R.: NO 365385 ///salads.prove.frosted

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 330 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Auchterhouse Hill (424 m); Balkello Hill (395 m); Craigowl Hill (455 m, sub-2000')


Angus | Town | ★

County town of Angus, Forfar is a historic market town dating back to Pictish times, bordered by Balmashanner Hill to the south and a picturesque loch to the west. The centre has plenty of places to eat and an interesting, free museum also showcasing local artwork. The ruined medieval monastery, Restenneth Priory, provides a tranquil diversion, with a number of ornate Pictish stones and cross slabs around the nearby village of Aberlemno also worth seeing.


📌 Forfar ★
Angus, G.R.: NO 457506 ///reason.rivers.fame

🚶 Forfar Loch and Bummie are easily walkable from the town centre. Hop on a bus for Glamis Castle.
🚌 There are direct buses from settlements including Dundee and Arbroath. The long distance coach from Glasgow / Perth to Aberdeen stops a long mile outside town.

See & do (<1 mi away)

>> Forfar Loch Country Park★★

📌 Meffan Museum and Art Gallery★★
West High Street, town centre, G.R.: NO 456506 ///hill.timing.teams
Open Tuesday to Saturday in 2…

Walk: Bummie

Angus | Forfar | Short walk | ★★★

Bummie is the rude-sounding local name for Balmashanner Hill: the high ground protecting Forfar from the south, crowned with an impressive war memorial and probably the reason why it always seems to be a few degrees colder here than any else nearby. Both the Sidlaw Hills and southern Cairngorms are visible from the top, with paths linking the summit to streets coming up from the town centre. Park centrally and explore historic Forfar itself too.

📌 Walk: Bummie ★★★
Start / finish at car park on Myre Road, Forfar town centre, G.R.: NO 454507 ///

▶ 5 km / 3 mi | ▲ 120 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Summits: Balmashanner Hill (174 m) | Features: Forfar; Balmashanner Hill War Memorial
Terrain: Paths (some steep) & residential streets.

Route & map

Car park - Reid Park - War Memorial - Balmashanner Hill - Blindwell - Newmonthill Cemetery - start

Route credit: Walkhighlands (modified)
On our visit

Wildlife: Roe deer running through the fields around Bal…

Forfar Loch Country Park

Angus | Forfar | Loch & park | ★★

If you're a frequent user of the A90 dual carriageway, the closest you might have got to Forfar is the roadside McDonald's. The country park shields town from road; little more than a fence separates loch from lorry fumes, so the western end of the park can be a little noisy. Crazy golf and pitch 'n' putt probably only open in high season, but the 4 km wander around the loch (left by a melting glacier at the end of the last ice age) is good at any time of year. Look out for ospreys, kingfishers, roe deer and otters depending on the season, and also the newish memorial for the Forfar Witches, with 22 spots remembering each of the women put to death during the 1660s witch trials.

Location & info

📌 Forfar Loch Country Park★★
Craig o' Loch Road, half a mile west of Forfar town centre. Visitor hub is at G.R.: NO 450507 ///fine.about.than
Always open | Free

Walk: Correen Hills - in the footsteps of Forbes' final journey

Aberdeenshire | Correen Hills | Half day walk | ★★

The little-visited Correen Hills span the high ground between Alford and Lumsden in rural Aberdeenshire. Lord Arthur's Hill is the highest part of this gentle range, named after Lord Arthur Forbes, whose body was carried across the moorland here after his death at the nearby Battle of Tillyangus in 1571. An occasionally soggy circuit (avoid after wet weather) around the head of the Esset Burn sticks to a broad swathe of high ground giving views over most of the county.

📌 Walk: Correen Hills - in the footsteps of Forbes' final journey ★★
Start / finish near minor road end at Terpersie (space for a few cars), a mile northwest of Tullynessle, G.R.: NJ 548201 ///blacken.curious.brew

▶ 15 km / 9 mi | ▲ 370 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Lord Arthur's Hill (518 m, sub-2000'); Badingair Hill (478 m) | Features: Correen Quarry
Terrain: Good tracks can become a big soggy in places, especially between Edinbanchory Hill and…


Argyll & Bute | Oban | Museum & castle | ★★★

Oban can feel a bit claustrophobic on summer weekends; on a busy day it might be wise to head up the coast road to the north. Dunollie Castle sits perches precariously on a rocky bluff overlooking the main ferry routes out of Oban Bay. The estate is currently a good option for escaping the crowds despite gradually becoming better known; the visitor experience is low-key, but several aspects add up to quite a lot. As well as the ruined castle, newer Dunollie House (dating to 1745) is now a museum about the MacDougall clan, with an old weaving cottage and woodland walks also open to visitors.

Location & info

📌 Dunollie★★★
Off Ganavan Road, 1 mi north of Oban, G.R.: NM 852315 ///economics.missions.ruin
Open daily, April to late October (2019) | £6 adult / £3 child (2019)

Castle Sween

Argyll & Bute | Achnamara | Castle | ★★

Castle Sween lies a winding half hour drive along single track roads across the remote region of Knapdale. Few tourists venture this far, but they could be missing out on Scotland's oldest castle: built around the end of the 12th century, none of its contemporaries can be dated with enough confidence to wrestle away the title. Backed by rugged hills and overlooking Loch Sween atop a rocky prominence, the obvious lack of windows reflects the overriding need for defence at all costs. But when visiting there's an unwelcome neighbour - a large caravan site occupying the surrounding land. Considering there's not exactly competition for space around here it's a bit disappointing, and does detract a bit from the atmosphere. At least a screen of trees partly separates old from new.

Location & info

📌 Castle Sween★★
Off minor road 7 mi south of Achnamara, G.R.: NR 712788 ///bagpipes.perfume.servicing
Always open | Free

Anything else?


Argyll & Bute | Taynish | Village | ★★

The area of rolling countryside jutting into Loch Sween is undisturbed even by Knapdale's own isolated standards. Tayvallich is the "capital" of the Taynish peninsula, idyllically set around a perfect natural harbour with a few essential services and a couple of places to eat. We can recommend the coffee shop on the water's edge for lunch. The nature reserve lies to the south: age-old woodland drowning in lichen (a sign of the exceptionally clean air) runs down to several sea lochs, with a good chance of spotting otters in the shallows here. 126-metre high Bàrr Mòr rises above the forest with views with superb views over seemingly endless trees and water. There are two manmade, ruined structures worth a visit - Taynish Mill and a surprisingly ornate piggery. Allow a day (with good weather) to explore the area properly.


📌 Tayvallich★★
Argyll & Bute, G.R.: NR 742872 ///folks.rocked.that

🚶 Apart from the village it…

McCaig's Tower

Argyll & Bute | Oban | Monument | ★★★

On a clear evening as the sun sets on Oban Bay, time seems to stand still at McCaig's Tower. This circular folly is the busier of two exquisite vantage points for Oban (the other being Pulpit Hill), with daytime ferries plying to and fro between the harbour and the maze of islands making up the western seaboard. The tower itself was commissioned by a wealthy banker in 1897, built to commemorate his family and give work to local stonemasons. In the end it was never completed, leaving an empty shell with no real purpose except as a prominent component of Oban's skyline, well worth the steep uphill climb from the centre of town.

Location & info

📌 McCaig's Tower ★★★
Duncraggan Road, 10-min uphill walk (or short drive) northeast of Oban town centre, G.R.: NM 861302 ///internet.perch.uplifting
Always open | Free

St Cyrus

Aberdeenshire | St Cyrus | Beach & nature reserve | ★★★★

Eastern Angus and Aberdeenshire have a plethora of beautiful beaches to choose from, but this is one of the biggest and best. This vast expanse of sand stretches all the way to Montrose, although the River North Esk limits progress to the south for most. The "X-factor" is the inland cliffs (beyond an ancient raised beach) which provide shelter from the prevailing winds and create a pleasingly dramatic backdrop. Peregrine falcons, wildflowers, butterflies and moths are responsible for the area's designation as a National Nature Reserve. The beach is quite well-known, but with no major population centres nearby it tends to stay fairly quiet, even on rare sunny days - photo evidence provided...

Location & info

📌 St Cyrus NNR★★★★
By minor road 1 mi south of St Cyrus village, G.R.: NO 742634 ///swims.remake.ants
Always open | Free

Walk: Cairns Broad & Bannoch - what lies beyond Loch Muick

Aberdeenshire | White Mounth | Full day walk | ★★★★

The vast majority of visitors to Loch Muick are here to explore the loch itself or Lochnagar to the north. Few venture into the hills to the south or west from here, and they're missing out. Picturesque waterfalls and waterslides on The Stulan Burn and Allt an Dubh-loch are only the prelude to the magnificent rock architecture above Dubh Loch's southern shore: no wonder this is a famous rock- and ice-climbing location. The following ascent is a bit of a slog, but the rest of the circuit is a high-level stroll (in good conditions) over two Munros, with Loch Muick pointing the way home.

📌 Walk: Cairns Broad & Bannoch - what lies beyond Loch Muick ★★★★
Start / finish at Spittal of Glenmuick car park, minor road end 8 mi south of Ballater, G.R.: NO 310851 ///storms.drives.parsnips

▶ 24 km / 15 mi | ▲ 1150 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Cairn Bannoch (1012 m, Munro); Broad Cairn (998 m, Munro) | Features: Loch Muick; The Stu…

Walk: The one true summit of Morven

Aberdeenshire | Logie Coldstone | Half day walk | ★★★

Morven perfectly embodies the spirit of Aberdeenshire (unless you're thinking of the hill with the same name in Caithness). The domed, heathery summit is typical of this part of the Cairngorms, rising prominently but undramatically out of rolling farmland. (Less typical were the dozens of wasps which had colonised the summit cairn on our visit!) 872 metres of height is respectable for this part of the county, and consequently commands wide views from Lochnagar in the south to Bennachie in the east. Beware the numerous false summits, many with cairns to rival the final one, which make the objective appear closer than it really is.

📌 Walk: The one true summit of Morven ★★★
Start / finish at track junction (space for several cars) on minor road 2 mi west of Logie Coldstone, G.R.: NJ 410044 ///reshaping.windy.cure

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 660 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Morven (872 m, Corbett)
Terrain: Fields to Balhennie then st…

Walk: Craggy Craigendarroch

Aberdeenshire | Ballater | Short walk | ★★★

Craigendarroch is one of Deeside's most distinctive, well-known hills. Once joined to other high ground, a glacier pushed it apart from the hills to the north, and it now stands alone in between Ballater village and the gorge-like Pass of Ballater. The hill's translation as rocky hill of oaks tells you all you need to know about the scenery. Many people use the most accessible, southwest side for both ascent and descent, but if you have time you should return via the shadier back of the hill, with views between the trees across to Creag an t-Seabhaig: a famous rock-climbing venue on the other side of the Pass of Ballater. A good path encircles the hill at about the 300 metre contour, providing the way back round to the front.

📌 Walk: Craggy Craigendarroch ★★★
Start at Ballater visitor centre car park, Braemar Road (A93), Ballater village centre, G.R.: NO 369959 ///dusts.tradition.fussy

▶ 4 km / 2 mi | ▲ 320 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate

Dunrobin Castle

Highland | Golspie | Stately home | ★★★★★

Dunrobin Castle: Scotland's most amazing castle? It's certainly in the running. This 189-room "Jewel in the Crown of the Highlands" is the seat of the Dukes of Sutherland, set amongst acres of forest and backing onto a beautiful stretch of coastline. The Dukes' role in the Highland Clearances in the early 19th century still arouses strong feelings in the area, but the castle's undeniably an awe-inspiring sight inside and out, especially from its equally outstanding gardens on the seaward-facing side. Falconry displays are included in the ticket price and are also excellent. If you're heading up this way on the A9 or walking by on the coast path, don't miss it.

Location & info

📌 Dunrobin Castle★★★★★
Off the A9 1 mi east of Golspie, G.R.: NC 851008 ///beard.super.daunted
Open daily, April to October; no falconry displays in October | £12.50 adult / £7.50 child

Carn Liath

Highland | Golspie | Broch | ★★★

Carn Liath is a 2,000+ year old broch beautifully situated overlooking Sutherland coastline close to busier Dunrobin Castle. Although ruined, the thick walls, entrance passage and inner chamber are still impressive and fun to explore, and its immediate surroundings have traces of an ancient settlement clustered around the broch. Unfortunately reaching the site normally involves taking your life in your hands by crossing the busy A9. A much better alternative is to reach it by the coast path as part of a longer walk.

Location & info

📌 Carn Liath★★★
By the A9 3 mi east of Golspie, G.R.: NC 870014 ///hurricane.demoted.animated
Always open | Free