Showing posts from May, 2014

Walk: Past the pistes to Carn a' Gheòidh

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' Gheòidh ★★★
▶ 13 km / 8 miles | ▲ 600 metres
Summits: Carn Aosda (917 metres, Munro); Carn a' Gheòidh (975 metres, Munro); The Cairnwell (933 metres, Munro) | Features: Glenshee Ski Centre
Start / finish: Car park on A93 at Glenshee Ski Centre, G.R.: NO 139782 ///like.camcorder.geology

Route: Car park - Carn Aosda - 808m point southeast of Loch Vrotachan - Carn nan Sac - Carn a' Gheòidh - return to 808m point by outward route - The Cairnwell - start
Terrain: Steep, stony track to Carn Aosda,…

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.

📌Kildrummy Castle Gardens★★★
Next to Kildrummy Castle Hotel, A97 4 miles 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 ★★★
▶ 6 km / 4 miles | ▲ 130 metres
Features: Garbh Allt Falls; Invercauld bridges
Start / finish: Car park (with charge) off A93 at Keiloch, 3 miles west of Braemar, G.R.: NO 188913 ///sadly.impresses.verbs

Route: 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 bridge above Garbh Allt Falls via east bank - path on west bank then direct track to old Inve…

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.

📌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. 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 ★★★
▶ 7 km / 4 miles | ▲ 220 metres
Summits: Hill of Loyal (274 metres); Hill of Alyth trig point (295 metres) | Features: Alyth; Jubilee Beacon
Start / finish: Car park on B952, Alyth village centre,…


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.

📌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
Always open (official website states summer only, but this is probably incorrect)| Free

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

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 ★★★
▶ 6 km / 4 miles | ▲ 180 metres
Features: Moray coastline; Findochty; Portknockie
Start: A942, east end of Portessie, G.R.: NJ 444666 ///hiking.sheds.ulterior. N.B. this is not a circular route.
Finish: Street parking on Bridge Street (A942), Portknockie village centre, G.R.: NJ 490684 ///picnic.camcorder.balanced
Transport to start: Park at the finish and take the bus along the coast road to the start (several t…

Walk: 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: Menaway Hills meander ★★★
▶ 16 km / 10 miles | ▲ 420 metres
Summits: Pitfichie Hill (381 metres); Cairn William (448 metres, sub-2000') | Features: Whitehills Stone Circle
Start / finish: Pitfichie Forestry and Land Scotland car park, off minor road 2 miles west of Monymusk, G.R.: NJ 655132 ///simulates.dates.twisting

Route: Start - Whitehills Stone Circle - Bogmore - map marker 13 - bealach between Pitfichie Hill and Cairn William - Pitfichie Hill - return to bealach by outward route - Cairn William - King's Stane - Bogmo…


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.

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

Within walking distance

📌Gemini Explorer★★★
Description: Excellent dolphin and marine boat trip, exploring the Moray coastline with good views of its cliffs and rocky scenery.
Location: Departs Buckie harbour, G.R.: NJ 430659 ///squirted.dent.noted
Open (2019): Usually daily depending on tides - contact company directly for ti…

Walk: Queen's Well & an expedition to 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. Three 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 ★★★
▶ 14 km / 9 miles | ▲ 170 metres

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.

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

Anything else? 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 | Ancient 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.

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

Anything else? 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 wet path.

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 the one on Orkney, but the setting is better.

📌Huxter Click Mills ★★ Near minor road end a mile west of Sandness, Shetland Mainland, G.R.: HU 173572 /// Always open | Free
Anything else? 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.

Walk: Deep Dale - Shetland's wild west

Shetland Mainland | Dale of Walls | Full day walk | ★★★

Way out west where nobody goes there's a deep, deep dale and spectacular geos. The relentless ups and downs of the coastline north from Mu Ness make for tough going, but the reward is a magnificent series of stacks, arches and huge cliffs plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. Even by Shetland's high standards coastlines don't get much more spectacular than this, but the effort required to reach it ensures peace and quiet. A very steep descent to and re-ascent out of Deep Dale is unavoidable if you opt for the moorland return via Ramna Vord, Sandness Hill and Dale Hill, but here sea stacks are replaced by skuas and mountain hare amongst the peat bogs. Surprisingly, this makes for easier going than the outward route.

📌 Walk: Deep Dale - Shetland's wild west ★★★
▶ 11 km / 7 miles | ▲ 630 metres
Summits: Sandness Hill (249 metres, sub-2000'); Dale Hill (184 metres) | Features: Mu Ness to Deep Dale coastline
Start / fini…

Walk: Fugla Ness - Shetland's Chalamain Gap

Shetland | West Burra | Short walk | ★★★

Fugla Ness is the only land guarding Hamnavoe village from the full might of the Atlantic Ocean. It's tenuously joined to the the rest of West Burra by an exceptionally rough causeway - comparing it to the Chalamain Gap in the Cairngorms is no exaggeration. On a calm, sunny day the coastline between here and the tropical-looking Sand of Meal gives a beautiful clifftop walk; westerly gales bring their own wild appeal.

📌 Walk: Fugla Ness - Shetland's Chalamain Gap ★★★
▶ 4 km / 2 miles | ▲ 160 metres
Features: Hamnavoe; Sand of Meal; Fugla Ness
Start / finish: Sand of Meal car park, east side of Hamnavoe, West Burra, G.R.: HU 377355 ///asked.vine.booms

Route: Car park - Sand of Meal - Lu Ness - Pundsar - Fugla Ness - Hamnavoe -start
Terrain: Good path to beach, then intermittent coastal paths. Access to Fugla Ness is over a long causeway covered with boulders, slippery when wet and not far above the high tide mark. Minor road return to car par…


Shetland Mainland | Scalloway | Castle & museum | ★★★

Scalloway is the second best rainy-day destination in these far-flung parts - tiny by anywhere but local standards but the biggest place on Shetland's Atlantic coast. It was once the capital of the Shetland Islands, it definitely now plays second fiddle to larger Lerwick but has its own excellent museum and a large castle on the edge of town. It's also the sort of place (or at least it was in 2014) where you can have a two-course lunch with a drink and still come away with change from a fiver. Amazing.

📌Scalloway Castle★★★
Description: Foreboding castle ruin dating to 1600, built by the much-feared Earl of Orkney.
Location: 5-min walk southeast of Scalloway town centre, Shetland Mainland, G.R.: HU 404392 ///ferried.smug.taken
Open (2019): Access by key from Scalloway Museum (see below for opening hours) or Scalloway Hotel
Cost: Free

📌Scalloway Museum★★
Description: Fairly large museum focussing on Scalloway's history and…

Walk: Seals on show at Muckle Roe

Shetland | Muckle Roe | Full day walk | ★★★

Muckle Roe (Big Red Island) is a nearly uninhabited island connected to the Shetland mainland near Brae by a short bridge over Roe Sound. A minor road follows the east coast but the most interesting scenery is on the quiet western side around the Hams of Muckle Roe - rusty-colour cliffs and sea stacks alternating with small beaches make this area a delight, frequented by numerous seals and the odd breeding seabird in summer. Look out for the ruined buildings and mill above Town Loch (and later at Burg); the former are all that remain of an abandoned crofting settlement overlooking the water here. Getting there over the moorland interior of the island is tough and pathless, but well worth the effort.

📌 Walk: Seals on show at Muckle Roe ★★★
▶ 12 km / 7 miles | ▲ 570 metres
Summits: South Ward (169 metres); Mid Ward (172 metres, sub-2000') | Features: Mill Loch; Hams of Muckle Roe; Burki Waters
Start / finish: Car park (accessed by 1 km grave…


Shetland Mainland | Sumburgh | Ancient settlement | ★★★★★

Jarlshof is a plane journey or long ferry ride away from almost everywhere else in Scotland, yet even it alone is worth the trip to the Shetland Isles. Here at Sumburgh Head lies an amazing sequence of preserved historic settlements like almost nowhere else in Europe. People have found Jarlshof (meaning "earl's house" - a name coined by Sir Walter Scott) an ideal place to settle for over 4,000 years from Neolithic times up to the present day: sometimes next to the abandoned homes of their predecessors, sometimes on top. Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, brochs and souterrains, Pictish, Norse, Medieval and even later - they're all here. Centuries of storms preserved each layer before uncovering them again in the 1890s, and the huge site you can explore today is the result of further excavation over the last century or so. Skara Brae on Orkney has the edge as a Neolithic site alone, but it's the sheer breadth…