Showing posts from May, 2014

Walk: Past the pistes to Carn a' Gheoidh

Aberdeenshire | Cairnwell Hills | Full day walk | ★★★

The group of Munros scattered either side of the Cairnwell Pass get a bad rep amongst walkers, marred by the lifts and runs of Glenshee Ski Centre. However, a starting altitude of 650 metres above sea level makes them some of the quickest Munro ascents in Scotland in good conditions. Adding on Carn a' Gheòidh escapes the pylons and pistes, with excellent views far into the wild southern Cairngorms.

📌 Walk: Past the pistes to Carn a' Gheoidh ★★★
Start / finish at Glenshee Ski Centre car park on A93, 5 mi north of Spittal of Glenshee, G.R.: NO 139782 ///like.camcorder.geology

▶ 13 km / 8 mi | ▲ 600 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Tough
Features: Glenshee Ski Centre; △ Carn Aosda (917 m, Munro); △ Carn a' Gheòidh (975 m, Munro); △ The Cairnwell (933 m, Munro)
Terrain: Steep, stony track to Carn Aosda, then paths and tracks to Carn a' Gheòidh, intermittent in places. Track or more direct, steeper path to The Cairnwell, then pathless d…

Kildrummy Castle Gardens

Aberdeenshire | Lumsden | Garden | ★★★

It's scarcely possible to imagine a more beautiful garden setting: a lush glen (converted from a quarry) full of ornamental lakes and tiny burns, the arch of an old stone bridge soaring above, red squirrels scurrying through the undergrowth, and all overlooked by the poignant ruins of Kildrummy Castle. Somehow the gardens have remained firmly off the tourist trail, so even on a sunny day you may well have the place to yourself. If you plan to visit a single garden in northeast Scotland, this should probably be it.

Location & info

📌 Kildrummy Castle Gardens★★★
Next to Kildrummy Castle Hotel, A97 4 mi south of Lumsden, G.R.: NJ 456166 ///evidently.fingertip.valley
Afternoons, April to October but apparently closed for much of 2019 | £4.50 adult / free for children

Walk: Ballochbuie rapids - falls fit for a queen

Aberdeenshire | Braemar | Short walk | ★★★

Ballochbuie Forest is fairly seldom visited by walkers nowadays, but Queen Victoria must have appreciated it when she saved it from being felled in 1878, having it added to the royal Balmoral Estate. In the depths of the forest are the Garbh Allt Falls, overlooked by a graceful, green iron arch. Another bridge competes for attention here though: the old Invercauld bridge dates to 1752, with views towards Lochnagar from the crest of its handsome span.

📌 Walk: Ballochbuie rapids - falls fit for a queen ★★★
Start / finish at car park (with charge) off A93 at Keiloch, 3 mi west of Braemar, G.R.: NO 188913 ///sadly.impresses.verbs

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 130 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Features: Garbh Allt Falls; Invercauld bridges
Terrain: Mostly good forest tracks; narrow paths by Garbh Allt Falls.

Route & map

Car park - old Invercauld bridge over River Dee - Glenbeg Burn near confluence with River Dee - bridge over Garbh Allt at G.R.: NO 198898 - iron bridg…

Den o' Alyth

Perth & Kinross | Alyth | Gorge | ★★★

If you go down to the woods west of Alyth today, you're sure of a nice surprise - a dark and verdant gorge through which the Alyth Burn flows on its way into the village. Paths run along or close to each bank from near the car park, westwards for about a mile to the Bridge of Tully; beyond, you can continue a little way on the north side. It's the sort of place where it's fun to just wander around aimlessly, sheltered from the elements on a wild day. Paths are mostly wide but can be muddy and leaf-strewn (they don't really get any sunlight), with some steep gradients if you go away from the burn.

Location & info

📌 Den o' Alyth ★★★
Off minor road half a mile west of Alyth village centre. Car park is at G.R.: NO 236487 ///jungle.bounding.plant
Always open | Free

Walk: Loyal Hills of Alyth

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

Alyth is a beautifully situated village, set astride a (flood-prone) burn with numerous footbridges criss-crossing the fish-rich waters. The southeastern section of the 64-mile Cateran Trail makes a V-shaped detour here on its way back to Blairgowrie. For a shorter walk, both sides of the "V" can be joined up by an exploration of the village's namesake hill. The summit and its Jubilee Beacon command wide views of Glen Isla and the Cairngorms to the north, with the Sidlaws laid out to the south beyond fertile Strathmore. (For baggers, the slightly higher, true summit of the Hill of Alyth is half a mile west of the trig point visited on this walk.) Adding in the Hill of Loyal enables you to look down on an iron age fort atop Barry Hill, with a "detour" to Alyth Hotel for lunch at the start or finish also recommended.

📌 Walk: Loyal Hills of Alyth ★★★
Start / finish at Market Square car park, B952, Alyth village cen…

Tealing Dovecot & Earth House

Angus | Tealing | Historic buildings | ★★

On its long descent from the Sidlaw Hills towards Dundee, a sign on the A90 dual carriageway points west along a minor road to the quiet village of Tealing. Historic Environment Scotland cares for two properties here a few minutes' walk apart from each other. First is a picturesque, lectern doocot complete with its nesting boxes, probably built in 1595 by the local Maxwell family. The other item of interest is a curved souterrain, probably constructed to store grain or other supplies during the Roman occupation of the area but now open to the elements.

Location & info

📌 Tealing Dovecot★★
Off minor road, Tealing village centre, G.R.: NO 413381 ///listed.bind.posed
Always open | Free

📌 Tealing Earth House
Off minor road, west side of Tealing, G.R.: NO 412381 ///paths.demand.stow
Probably always open (official website states summer only) | Free

💬 Park as for the doocot above. From here it's a 2-min walk to the Earth House: follow the…


Moray | Village | ★★★

Findochty is just one of several attractive seaside settlements scattered along the coastline between Buckie and Banff. While smaller and less well-known than some of its neighbours, the village boasts a particularly attractive harbour, backed by rows of cottages facing gable-end to the ocean in preparation for winter storms. The coastal scenery hereabouts is also excellent, with Findochty the halfway point in our walk route from Portessie to Portknockie, linked below.


📌 Findochty ★★★
Moray, G.R.: NJ 463680 ///doing.downs.stew

🚶 After seeing the harbour, Findochty is all about the coastal walks, with enjoyable paths in both directions towards Portessie and Portknockie.
🚌 There are buses on the Buckie to Banff route, via several intervening coastal villages.

See & do (<1 mi away)

>> Walk: Fishy Findochty - on the dolphin trail★★★

Nearby (1-3 mi away)

>> Buckie page: Buckie ★ (2 mi ←); Gemini Explorer ★★★ (3 mi ←)
>> Walk: Whale of …

Walk: Fishy Findochty - on the dolphin trail

Moray | Portessie | Half day walk | ★★★

A reliable bus service makes this section of the Moray Coast Trail a hassle-free stroll, with plenty of opportunities for spotting marine life and seabirds amongst gorgeous coastal scenery. Findochty has a beautiful harbour as well as a general store, useful (although at the top of the village) for picking up an ice cream midway, to help with the longer second section of clifftops. If you fancy a longer walk, the next stretch of coastline via Bow Fiddle Rock to Cullen is just as worthwhile.

📌 Walk: Fishy Findochty - on the dolphin trail ★★★
Park at the finish and take the bus along the coast road to the start (several times daily, but check times in advance). Start on Great Eastern Road (A942), east end of Portessie, G.R.: NJ 444666 ///hiking.sheds.ulterior. Finish at Bridge Street (A942) (street parking), Portknockie village centre, G.R.: NJ 490684 ///picnic.camcorder.balanced

▶ 6 km / 4 mi | ▲ 180 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Features: Moray c…

Walk: Cairn William - Menaway Hills meander

Aberdeenshire | Menaway Hills | Full day walk | ★★★

Cairn William and Pitfichie Hill may be overshadowed by their celebrity big brother, Bennachie, but they're lovely hills in their own right, crossed by mountain bike trails and only a short drive from the Granite City (Aberdeen). Tracks snaking through gorse-rich countryside provide the longish approach, with a 4,000 year old recumbent stone circle surrounding a burial cairn adding to the interest.

📌 Walk: Cairn William - Menaway Hills meander ★★★
Start / finish at Pitfichie Forestry and Land Scotland car park, off minor road 2 mi west of Monymusk, G.R.: NJ 655132 ///simulates.dates.twisting

▶ 16 km / 10 mi | ▲ 420 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ Moderate
Features: Whitehills Stone Circle; △ Pitfichie Hill (381 m); △ Cairn William (448 m, sub-2000')
Terrain: Narrow mountain bike trails on summits (beware bikes), otherwise good tracks.

Route & map

Start - Whitehills Stone Circle - Bogmore - map marker 13 - bealach between Pitfichie Hill an…


Moray | Town | ★

Bypassed by the main roads in this part of Moray, Buckie grew to fame as a fishing town in the late 1800s. It still boasts a large harbour and fishing economy, but a more recent draw is the local marine life; the Moray Firth dolphins take centre stage but seals, harbour porpoises and various seabirds are all common sightings. The convenient coast road to the west (or coast path to Findochty to the east) makes access to all the wildlife-watching spots below straightforward, but you can boost your chances of spotting dolphins and porpoises by taking a worthwhile boat trip from Buckie harbour.

Location & info

📌 Buckie ★
Moray, G.R.: NJ 426656 ///meant.lifeboats.unfit

🚶 The town centre and harbour are a short walk apart. Buckie's suburbs spread widely, but there's some reasonably attractive coastal scenery beyond them.
🚌 Buckie has bus connections from Aberdeen, Elgin and towns in between.

See & do (<1 mi away)

📌 Gemini Explorer★★★
💬 Interesting dolph…

Invermark Castle

Angus | Tarfside | Castle | ★★

This tall tower house ruin guards the upper glen of the River North Esk as it bifurcates into Glen Lee and Glen Mark at the heart of the southeast Cairngorms. The building probably dates to the 16th century - note the first floor entrance door, which would have been accessed by a wooden drawbridge - and appears to look in pretty good shape given its age. There's no access to the interior, but the fine mountain views are reason enough to visit; even better, combine it with one of the excellent walks starting from the same car park.

Location & info

📌 Invermark Castle ★★
By minor road end 4 mi west of Tarfside, G.R.: NO 442804 ///boils.alarm.blackbird
Always viewable (exterior only) | Free

💬 From the large car park just before Lochlee Parish Church, continue along the road on foot about 400 m to the castle - the surface deteriorates to a stony track midway.

Walk: Queen's Well & a hunt for Balnamoon's Cave

Angus | Angus Glens | Half day walk | ★★★

This linear but interesting walk amidst the wonderful Angus glens visits Glen Mark's worst and best kept secrets. The Queen's Well is a popular landmark: a stone well built at a spring to commemorate Queen Victoria's passing through in 1861. Invermark Castle is also just off-route near the start - worth a look too. So far, so easy - but reaching Balnamoon's Cave is a more challenging prospect. Multiple potentially tricky burn crossings, some pathless terrain and two miles later, you'll hopefully arrive in the area where the cave is vaguely marked on OS maps. Now you just need to find the actual cave where Lord Balnamoon successfully hid from the English for a whole year: a tiny entrance amongst bouldery mountainside. Good luck! Perhaps worth taking a copy of the foolproof instructions at the bottom of this post...

📌 Walk: Queen's Well & an expedition to Balnamoon's Cave ★★★
Start / finish at car park near Glen E…

Stanydale Temple

Shetland Mainland | Bridge of Walls | Neolithic building | ★★

No-one is quite sure what Stanydale Temple's purpose once was: perhaps a Neolithic temple, or a village hall, the home of an important person, or indeed something else entirely. The stones surrounding this oval hollow point to a construction date of 2,000 or 3,000 BC, making one of the very oldest structures anywhere on Shetland. There are other prehistoric structures in the wider area. Access involves a rather soggy approach path across remote moorland, but it's worth it for such an intriguing site.

Location & info

📌 Stanydale Temple★★
Off minor road near Loch Gruting, 3 mi southeast of Bridge of Walls, Shetland Mainland, G.R.: HU 285502 ///darts.louder.bakers
Always open | Free

💬 From the small layby (also a passing place - don't block it all) at G.R.: HU 292501 ///tablet.ruin.promising it's a 15-min walk to the "temple" on a waymarked but wet, moorland path.

Scord of Brouster

Shetland Mainland | Bridge of Walls | Neolithic settlement | ★

You'll probably end up passing through Bridge of Walls at some point on Shetland - all roads to the far west Mainland converge here. And while passing through, it's worth stopping at the Scord of Brouster: the scattered remains of a large neolithic farming village. The stone buildings are over 4,000 years old, abandoned around 1,500 BC as the island's climate deteriorated, causing widespread peat bog formation. Interpretation boards at the viewpoint just west of the farmstead help make sense of what you're looking at.

Location & info

📌 Scord of Brouster ★
Off the A971 1 mi west of Bridge of Walls, Shetland Mainland, G.R.: HU 255516 ///
Always open | Free

💬 From the signposted layby (also a passing place - leave enough room for other vehicles to pass) at G.R.: HU 255515 /// it's a few-min walk north to the best viewpoint for the site on a faint, potentially we…

Huxter Click Mills

Shetland Mainland | Sandness | Historic buildings | ★★

Go as far west on Shetland's Mainland as you possibly can by road, then continue on foot beyond the farm buildings at Huxter, and you'll soon arrive at the Burn of Scammidale. The stream carves a pretty course through grassy knolls with views to Papa Stour's cliffs from the secluded beach just below. But most people will visit for the trio of horizontal water mills lining the burn constructed in Norse times. They're not quite as well kept as Dounby Click Mill on Orkney, but the setting is better.

Location & info

📌 Huxter Click Mills ★★
Near minor road end 1 mi west of Sandness, Shetland Mainland, G.R.: HU 173572 ///
Always open | Free

💬 From the road end car park at G.R.: HU 175572 /// it's a 5-min walk to the mills. Head through the gate and follow signs / marker posts west across grassy fields.