Showing posts from 2014

Glenrothes early history

Fife | Glenrothes | Stone circle & henge | ★

Glenrothes is Fife's third largest settlement, a new town built after the Second World War to help with housing demand around Edinburgh. Almost all its shops are housed in the Kingdom Shopping Centre, a useful but labyrinthal complex reminiscent of an airport terminal. It doesn't sound promising, but in Scotland history is never far away. The residential suburb of Balbarg has a 65 metres across, 6,000 year old henge and parts of a stone circle at its centre. There's a further stone circle just across the A92 which is a mere 4,000 years old.

Location & info

📌 Balbirnie Stone Circle ★
Next to the northern access road (Tofthill) for Balbirnie House Hotel, 400 m east of Balfarg suburb but on the other side of the A92, G.R.: NO 286030 ///beginning.miles.lonely
Always open | Free

Anything else? Nearest parking for Balbirnie Stone Circle is just to the south by houses - walk back to the circle along the minor road.

📌 Balfarg Hen…

Walk: Benarty Hill - surprise view from the Sleeping Giant

Fife | Ballingry | Short walk | ★★★★

This is surely one of lowland Scotland's best small hills. The trig point on lowly Benarty Hill - locally known as the Sleeping Giant - sits at the northern edge of a broad area of high ground. A short, steep ascent through trees soon leads to a straightforward amble across the plateau with great views south. But nothing compares to the surprise view of Loch Leven, only revealed upon arrival at the summit...

📌 Walk: Benarty Hill - surprise view from the Sleeping Giant ★★★★
Start / finish at small layby on minor road (more space further along the road) half a mile west of Ballingry, G.R.: NT 159970 ///inversion.formed.fragments

▶ 4 km / 2 mi | ▲ 190 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Benarty Hill (356 m, sub-2000')
Terrain: Decent dirt paths, steep at first but rarely muddy, with short section of forestry track

Route & map

Layby - Benarty Hill - return by outward route

Route credit: Walkhighlands
On our visit

Wildlife: Birds in the forest; robin…

Walk: Comrie's devilish cauldron

Perth & Kinross | Comrie | Half day walk | ★★★

The foaming depths of the River Lednock upstream from Comrie soon show the passer-by why these rapids are called the "Deil's Caldron". The whole section of riverside here is usually a bubbling mass of white water, although good views from the path are at a premium. Lord Melville's Monument atop Dun More overlooks the rapids, giving a panorama of the surrounding hills on a clear day. Unfortunately we chose to visit during a snowstorm, which hampered visibility somewhat. We've heard reports that the autumn leaf colours are spectacular here.

📌 Walk: Comrie's devilish cauldron ★★★
Start / finish at car park on School Road, Comrie village centre, G.R.: NN 772221 ///unlimited.dirt.mascots

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 260 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Dun More (256 m) | Features: Comrie; Deil's Caldron; Lord Melville's Monument
Terrain: Good dirt paths: steep ascent of Dun More is occasionally muddy. Open hill t…

Dumbarton Castle

West Dunbartonshire | Dumbarton | Castle | ★★★★

The views from the top of Dumbarton Rock are worth the visit alone - this is one of the most dramatically-sited castles in the country. The ancient volcano here has been a point of defence for centuries, with the buildings you see today dating from the 14th century or later. For outdoor-types, the wonderful summit panorama (accessed by hundreds of steps) over the Clyde estuary, and north into the West Highlands, is the key attraction. But the castle itself, composed of several buildings mainly clustered around the base of the rock, is interesting in its own right, with particularly impressive artillery fortifications. Scaffolding prevented views of the building exteriors on our visit, hence the lack of photos.

Location & info

📌 Dumbarton Castle★★★★
Top of Dumbarton Rock, off Castle Road 1 mi south of Dumbarton town centre, G.R.: NS 400744 ///codes.usual.exile
Open daily, April to September; Saturday to Wednesday, October to March | £6…

Walk: The Rhinns of Kells

Dumfries & Galloway | Galloway Forest Park | Full day walk | ★★★

Sounding like something straight out of a J. R. R. Tolkien novel, the Rhinns of Kells ridge soars high above endless swathes of the Galloway Forest Park. Traversing between Corserine and Meikle Millyea makes for a great easy-going ridge walk, on hills that feel unlike anything further north. Local place names rival the views for entertainment - from the ridge, look out for Loch Dungeon, Rig of the Jarkness and even the Range of the Awful Hand. Nearby, Meikle Lump must have been christened on an off-day. The Forrest Estate, where you start and finish, is full of oddly-named tracks too. A strange and mysterious place, that's for sure...

📌 Walk: The Rhinns of Kells ★★★
Start / finish at Forrest Estate car park, minor road end 5 mi northwest of St John's Town of Dalry, G.R.: NX 553863 ///support.foggy.adopters

▶ 17 km / 11 mi | ▲ 900 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Summits: Corserine (814 m, Corbett / Donald); Milldown (…

Kildonan Dun

Argyll & Bute | Peninver | Dun | ★★★

This 2,000 year-old stone construction overlooks Kilbrannan Sound approximately midway between Campbeltown and Carradale in eastern Kintyre. Duns like these were fortified farmsteads - ancient residences at the heart of a farming community; while there are similar duns less than a mile away to the north and south at Ugadale Point and Kildonald Point, this one has the benefit of a half-decent approach path (though bracken can encroach in high summer) and the nearby road. The ocean on the eastern side provided good lines of sight and a natural defence against marauders, and even today the views towards Arran and Ailsa Craig are superb - our pictures were taken just as the late autumn sun set behind the hills to the west. Remains of staircases within double walls are reminiscent of brochs (which confusingly are sometimes also named as duns), but this was probably a smaller, lower design.

Location & info

📌 Kildonan Dun ★★★
By the B842 2 mi north…


Argyll & Bute | Village | ★★

Most visitors to Kintyre arrive by the A83 along the west side of the peninsula. In doing so, they miss out on the underrated eastern coastline - truly off the beaten track and accessed by a particularly tortuous B-road. Carradale is the only sizeable village in this remote area, set on a rare patch of flat ground with miles of single-track road to the north and fierce hairpins to the south. The Isle of Arran's Pirnmill Hills dominate the view from the rusty harbour, while the wooded slopes of Cnoc nan Gabhar rise up on the settlement's inland side, offering good walking possibilities.


📌 Carradale ★★
Argyll & Bute, G.R.: NR 819387 ///remarked.sand.proved

🚶 The walk up Cnoc nan Gabhar starts an easy half-mile walk from the harbour, with the village centre in between.
🚌 Carradale is served by infrequent buses from Campbeltown.

See & do (<1 mi away)

>> Walk: Cnoc nan Gabhar - Carradale Circular★★★★

Nearby (1-5 mi away)

📌 …

Walk: Cnoc nan Gabhar - Carradale Circular

Argyll & Bute | Carradale | Half day walk | ★★★★

As is the case along much of Kintyre's eastern coastline, all eyes will be firmly set on the Isle of Arran during this walk - with Ailsa Craig also peeking out further south. Full marks to Forestry and Land Scotland - they've created a circular route to the top of Carradale's local hill, on decent (albeit exhaustingly steep) paths which only deteriorate briefly at the very top.

📌 Walk: Cnoc nan Gabhar - Carradale Circular ★★★★
Start / finish at Port na Storm car park, off B879 half a mile west of Carradale harbour, G.R.: NR 811383 ///outbursts.hawks.local

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 230 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Cnoc nan Gabhar (230 m)
Terrain: Clear grassy paths, steep in places, and good tracks later on. Rougher section to detour to true summit.

Route & map

Car park - Gortan Wood - Cnoc nan Gabhar - junction with Kintyre Way - Century Wood - start. Route waymarked in red (see no. 10 here).

Route credit: Walkhighlands

Allt a' Bhuic viewpoint

Argyll & Bute | Claonaig | Viewpoint | ★★

Not far from Claonaig on Kintyre's remote east coast, a dotted line on Ordnance Survey maps plots a short route to a promising panorama overlooking Kilbrannan Sound and the Isle of Arran. Perhaps this was a popular beauty spot in bygone years, but the path is now well on the way to being totally overgrown. Fortunately it's still just about possible to make it out, and a few minutes' walk takes you to the general area - there's no specific viewpoint - where views can be had. The going becomes increasingly rough as distance from the road increases, but views improve as the trees thin, just as the path fades almost to nothing. A couple of partially obscured waterfalls on the Allt a' Bhuic add to the scenic interest. One for only the keenest of sightseers perhaps, but it's generally only the keenest of sightseers who pass through this region anyway.

Location & info

📌 Allt a' Bhuic viewpoint ★★
Off the B842 1 mi s…

Walk: Lochs of views from Dun Skeig

Argyll & Bute | Clachan | Half day walk | ★★★★

This is one of Kintyre's best walks, cramming a picture-postcard village, a small hill with stunning views, and a tranquil coastal and riverside section into under 4 miles. Dun Skeig's summit comes complete with two hilltop forts, while the modern house encountered on the descent has a setting guaranteed to make anybody jealous. Varied underfoot conditions mean this walk may well take longer than its length suggests - good footwear required - but don't let that put you off.

📌 Walk: Lochs of views from Dun Skeig ★★★★
Start / finish on minor road (street parking) in Clachan village centre, G.R.: NR 765561 ///highly.published.shelf

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 180 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Dun Skeig (143 m) | Features: Dun Skeig hill forts
Terrain: Very varied. Minor road to Quinhill; track then occasionally boggy path to summit. Wet path on descent to Portachoillan. Coastal and riverside sections on a track which is often fi…

Southend (Kintyre)

Argyll & Bute | Southend | Village sights | ★★

Aptly-named Southend sits at the, well, south end of the Kintyre peninsula, about 10 miles from Campbeltown. The Kintyre Way passes through the quiet village - where southbound walkers are only a day's walk from the finish at Machrihanish, ironically northwest of this point. Hopefully trail vision won't stop them from exploring the interesting nooks and crannies of this section of coastline, which includes a sweeping, sandy beach and some interesting caves, and a smattering of sights relating to St Columba, who later established the famous monastery on Iona.

Location & info

📌 St Columba's footprints; St Columba's well ★★
Description: Footprints carved into rock, possibly dating back to the year of St Columba's arrival on Kintyre in 563AD; the well has similar possible historic links.
By minor road (parking space for one car only) 1 mi west of Southend, G.R.: NR 673078 ///hours.congested.hero
Always open | Free


Mull of Kintyre

Argyll & Bute | Southend | Headland / viewpoint | ★★★

Campbeltown is as far south as many people are prepared to go when they visit Kintyre. But since you've made all the effort to get here, it's worth continuing beyond the end of the A83, south on the B842 and then ever-narrowing roads towards the far southwestern tip of the peninsula. The windy road climbs steeply into increasingly remote country, before levelling off as it passes between two low hills at "The Gap". Abruptly a small parking area signals the end of the public road - beyond is the Mull of Kintyre coast and lighthouse. Immortalised in song by Paul McCartney, this Scottish Lands End is one of the country's best places from which to watch the sun set. Northern Ireland is only 12 miles away at its closest point, and seems even closer on a clear day. To get the best views you'll need to proceed on foot beyond the car park on disintegrating tarmac. Be warned: if you go the full distance to the l…

Walk: Island Davaaarrrr!

Argyll & Bute | Campbeltown | Half day walk | ★★★

Island Davaar! Adopt a pirate accent and it sounds even more exciting. Linked by a tidal causeway to mainland Kintyre near Campbeltown, its whole coastline is worth exploring. Sun-blushed sheep graze the lush grass between the causeway and picturesque lighthouse, whilst the south and east coasts boast tall cliffs and numerous caves. One of these contains a stunning cave painting - a life-size depiction of The Crucifixion drawn by Archibald MacKinnon in 1887 reputedly after a vision. Whatever you do, keep an eye on the time, ensuring you're safely back on the mainland before the causeway gets covered by seawater again.

📌 Walk: Island Davaaarrrr! ★★★
Start / finish at layby on minor road 2 mi east of Campbeltown, G.R.: NR 745195 ///unpainted.hats.outdoor

▶ 7 km / 4 mi | ▲ 40 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Features: The Dorlinn causeway; Crucifixion Cave; Island Davaar lighthouse
Terrain: Rough, bouldery shoreline and tidal causeway …


Argyll | Town | ★★★

Fewer than 50 miles away from the Ayrshire coast, but 170 miles and nearly 4 hours by road, you have to make a real effort to visit Campbeltown - probably Scotland's remotest mainland town. Curving round a bay guarded by Island Davaar, the town used to be the whisky capital of the world. Sadly, the unwanted tagline of "quantity not quality" became attached to the whisky region, and dozens of distilleries closed leaving only three distilleries producing the water of life today. Springbank and Glengyle offer up the old and new in Scotland's whisky industry; there used to be an excellent value joint tour, but it appears you now have to visit them separately. Independent shops abound on a scale only matched in Scotland by island towns. The town's, err, spiritual heritage seems to have infiltrated local food menus, with haggis nachos smothered in whisky sauce featuring prominently. Hey, don't knock it until you've tried it.


📌 Campb…

Walk: Gigha's Creag Bhan

Gigha | Ardminish | Short walk | ★★★

You may well never have heard of Gigha (pronounced GEE-uh), even if you live in Scotland. It's a small island owned wholly by its own community, separated from the west coast of Kintyre by the Sound of Gigha. After a few difficult decades, it now has a growing population despite being one of southern Scotland's most isolated places. The island is traversed by a single, quiet road; if you only have a few hours here, a wander along it to the island's highest point at Creag Bhan is recommended, with a rougher track and hill path for the final mile. On a clear day, the views of Islay, Jura, Kintyre, Arran and Ireland from the summit take some beating. Refreshments available (except in low season) at The Boathouse near the start.

📌 Walk: Gigha's Creag Bhan ★★★
Start / finish at Ardminish jetty, Isle of Gigha, G.R.: NR 654491 ///pram.foot.trousers

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 130 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Creag Bhan (101 m)
Terrain: Approach o…