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Showing posts from May, 2015

Merkland Cross

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Dumfries & Galloway | Kirtlebridge | Carved cross | ★ [Merkland Cross] Merkland Cross is a beautifully-carved, 15th century cross, thankfully not quite bulldozed by the M74 motorway which passes by just a few metres away. The cross also lies on the former path of a Roman Road, but this provides few clues as to its purpose: Historic Environment Scotland suggest it may have been a market cross or memorial, possibly commemorating a member of the Maxwell family. Getting there from the nearest suitable parking spot is a little complicated - wear sturdy footwear suitable for crossing rough fields. Location & info 📌 Merkland Cross ★ Off minor road near B7076 1 mi east of Kirtlebridge, G.R.: NY 250721 ///curtains.acre.challenge Always viewable | Free 💬 Park at G.R.: NY 253718 ///worthy.fairly.nooks , then follow an intermittently faint track west then northwest close to the M74. It's a 5- or 10-min walk to the cross, occasionally muddy.

RSPB Loch Ruthven

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Highland | Croachy | Nature reserve | ★★★ [Loch Ruthven] There are only about 30 breeding pairs of Slavonian Grebe in the UK, and almost all of them congregate at Loch Ruthven each summer. Quite why this unassuming body of water is the location of choice is a mystery, but the loch's isolated setting between craggy hills keeps it free from excessive human disturbance. A hide on the shoreline is maintained by the RSPB. From April to June the grebes don summer plumage, although on our visit the single Slavonian Grebe visible was too far away to capture a decent photo. You'll just have to go and see them yourself. [Path from car park to Loch Ruthven] Location & info 📌 RSPB Loch Ruthven ★★★ Off minor road 1 mi west of Croachy. Hide is at G.R. NH 635280 ///rock.graphic.tasks Always open | Free 💬 From the car park at G.R.: NH 638281 ///pavilions.prettiest.owned it's a 10-min walk (each way) to the hide, on a narrow footpath with boardwalks, across open

Walk: Plodda Falls - through fir to the fall

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Highland | Tomich | Short walk | ★★★★ [Plodda Falls] Glen Affric and its neighbouring valleys don't do anything on a small scale, but this 50-metre waterfall is the region's tallest, beating nearby Guisachan waterfall in both power and scale. It's almost as if the waterfall and the surrounding Douglas Fir trees are competing in a height contest with each other - both are magnificent. This loop leaves the waterfall as a final climax, approached from the base with the top of the drop high above. In fact you'll be looking up for most of this walk - this forest contains some of Scotland's tallest trees. Whether that or the potholed approach road will make your neck ache more is open to debate. [A newish viewing platform juts out directly over the abyss] 📌 Walk: Plodda Falls - through fir to the fall ★★★★ Start / finish at Plodda Falls car park (charge), minor road 3 mi southwest of Tomich, G.R.: NH 280238 ///frosted.riverbed.successor . Access to car p

Guisachan waterfall

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Highland | Tomich | Waterfall | ★★★★ [Guisachan waterfall] The road through the pretty village of Tomich leads to more friendly, intimate terrain than the northern branch to Glen Affric. This is certainly still waterfall country though, and the falls are anything but intimate. This hidden spectacle near ruined Guisachan House is far higher than Dog Falls , easier to get to than Plodda Falls , and should be far quieter than both. Caution - there are unguarded drops and the bottom is a long way down. There is a bridge over the falls which would have been a brilliant viewpoint in the past - except it no longer has a base to it. [In the past, this rusting bridge would have been perfect for viewing the falls... not any longer] Location & info 📌 Guisachan waterfall ★★★★ Just off minor, unsurfaced road 2 mi southwest of Tomich, G.R.: NH 290249 ///however.risky.prettiest Always open | Free 💬 No car park, but space for cars on the side of the unsurfaced road. Road pro

Walk: River Affric's rushing upper rapids

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Highland | Glen Affric | Short walk | ★★★ [Sgurr na Lapaich - perhaps much of Scotland used to look like this] Walkers who have already headed up to Am Meallan from here probably expect the other little loop from Glen Affric's road end to be something of an anticlimax. Don't despair, this walk packs in a lot of variety with no need to exert much energy at all, alongside tumbling rapids. The level path won't quicken the pulse, but occasional, tantalising glimpses of high mountains will. Places like this just make you want to climb hills... [Garbh-uisge rapids] 📌 Walk: River Affric's rushing upper rapids ★★★ Start / finish at car park (charge) in Glen Affric, minor road end 10 mi southwest of Cannich, G.R.: NH 201233 ///offerings.nimbly.holiday ▶ <1 km / <1 mi | ▲ Negligible | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy Features: Garbh-uisge rapids Terrain: Clear footpaths, some suffering from water erosion. Section of exposed, uneven rock, with easier bypass path.

Walk: Am Meallan - upper Affric teaser

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Highland | Glen Affric | Short walk | ★★★★ [The short but steep path to the viewpoint rewards with exceptional views up the glen] Well done on making it this far, to the end of the tarmac in Glen Affric. Surely a 15-minute walk can't be worth a drive twice that long from the nearest village? Well you'd be wrong, and the incredibly tame chaffinches seal the deal... and deplete your meagre lunch rations. The drive here is epic enough, but the dramatic views from the top of this tiny hill show that this is only the beginning of the glen proper. Easily combined with a wander along the Garbh-uisge . [Hungry chaffinch at the car park] 📌 Walk: Am Meallan - upper Affric teaser ★★★★ Start / finish at car park (charge) in Glen Affric, minor road end 10 mi southwest of Cannich, G.R.: NH 201234 ///insulated.living.daylight ▶ <1 km / <1 mi | ▲ 30 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy Features: △ Am Meallan viewpoint (280 m) Terrain: Well-made, but steep, narrow footpath with st

Walk: Cnoc Croit na Maoile

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Highland | Muir of Ord | Short walk | ★★★ [Cnoc Croit na Maoile with Cromarty Firth beyond] The tracks and paths to the top of this difficult-to-pronounce little hill near Muir of Ord aren't particularly interesting, but the views on a clear day from the whitewashed trig-point-cum-seat exceed what you might expect from such a lowly elevation. The Beauly and Cromarty firths both point inwards towards this summit, with Loch nam Bonnach also visible from the top. To the west, rows of lofty peaks if the weather gods are with you. The photos here don't really do it justice. [Loch nam Bonnach from the summit] 📌 Walk: Cnoc Croit na Maoile ★★★ Start / finish at minor road corner (space for a few cars) near Corry of Ardnagask, G.R.: NH 493483 ///possible.eggshell.giving ▶ 4 km / 2 mi | ▲ 160 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate Features: △ Cnoc Croit na Maoile / Ord Hill (319 m) Terrain: Wide forestry track, then steeper, narrow footpath with one short boggy section. Route

Walk: The Mannie of Bhraggie

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Highland | Golspie | Half day walk | ★★★ [On the east coast around here it's hard to escape the Duke of Sutherland's gaze, even today] The 100 foot high, all-seeing Duke of Sutherland dominates the skyline above Golspie and the A9, and is as unsettling as the more southerly Fyrish Monument is graceful. Its subject, George Leveson-Gower, is a highly controversial figure - who instigated land reform which led to the displacement of thousands of residents from their homes during the Clearances. Attempts to remove, damage and destroy the statue continue almost 200 years after its creation. The slopes below Ben Bhraggie and its monument are criss-crossed by some of the best mountain bike trails in the Highlands, but footpaths also snake up the hill from the bottom - first through woodland, then onto open moorland. Tracks heading round the "back" of the hill enable a longer, gentler return to base. [Golspie beyond one of the mountain bike track features on Ben

Walk: Harry Potter & the Black Rock Gorge

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Highland | Evanton | Short walk | ★★★★ [Evanton Wood] From the road bridge in peaceful Evanton there's no evidence of the dramatic journey that water in the Allt Graad takes further upstream. Two short footbridges in Evanton Wood look inconsequential until you look down... and you can see why this unexpectedly deep - very deep - canyon featured in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire . From the canyon, returning by the outward route is quickest, but you can head downstream on the far bank on less well-maintained paths, eventually joining a minor road which descends back to the village. This is one of those places to which photos cannot do justice - you just have to be there. [Black Rock Gorge] 📌 Walk: Harry Potter & the Black Rock Gorge ★★★★ Start / finish at junction of Balconie Street (B817) & Camden Street (street parking nearby), Evanton village centre, G.R.: NH 607662 ///soggy.jogged.rails ▶ 4 km / 2 mi | ▲ 110 m | ⌚ Short walk | ⬤ Moderate

Dalmore Distillery

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Highland | Alness | Distillery | ★★★★ [Cromarty Firth at Dalmore Distillery] Dalmore enjoys one of the finer settings of any Scottish distillery, overlooking the Cromarty Firth just outside the Highland town of Alness. A distinctive stag's head adorns its whisky bottles, mirroring the Mackenzie clan crest as a nod to the family which owned the distillery between 1867 and 1960. We were impressed with the distillery tour (not to mention the whisky itself), despite photography restrictions being the strictest we've seen. Mobile phones, cameras and electronic devices had to be locked away in a separate building prior to the tour, and so our only photograph from the visit is taken looking in the other direction, out to sea. Back inside, among the things to look out for is the unusual still room, featuring wash stills with flat tops and spirit stills encased in cooling jackets to encourage reflux. Location & info 📌 Dalmore Distillery ★★★★ By the B817 half a mile so

Walk: Fyrish Monument - gate of Negapatam

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Highland | Alness | Half day walk | ★★★ [Fyrish Monument] The Fyrish Monument is the southernmost of two manmade, hilltop sights which draw the eye when heading north from Dingwall on the A9 towards the far north. Built in 1782, the unusual arch design represents the Gate of Negapatam, India, after a victory over the Dutch there the previous year. Its construction also provided paid work for victims of the Highland Clearances, and as such is far less controversial than the other large Clearances-related monument further on Ben Bhraggie . A quarter of a millenium later you can walk up to view the monument closeup, with the Cromarty Firth laid out below and Ben Wyvis to the west, happily without having to carry heavy construction materials. [The upper half of the walk affords great views over the Cromarty Firth] 📌 Walk: Fyrish Monument - gate of Negapatam ★★★ Start / finish at car park on minor road 2 mi northwest of Alness, G.R.: NH 627714 ///hence.cowboys.culling ▶

Walk: Ben Wyvis - Hill of Terror?

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Highland | Garve | Full day walk | ★★★★ [946 metre An Cabar defends the southwest extremity of the ridge] North of the Great Glen, Ben Wyvis is easily the highest mountain in the eastern Highlands - in fact, it's the name of whole sprawling massif of high plateau, with deep corries separating broad ridges. Despite one possible translation of Ben Wyvis as "Hill of Terror" , this summit should hold no fears in good weather: the quickest, most obvious ascent route is by a good path, making it one of the busier Munros. From the top, the view can encapsulate hills as diverse as the Cairngorms, Cuillins and Ben Nevis, as well as much of the Black Isle with Aberdeenshire beyond... at least, if it's not foggy. [Excellent paths and views help with the steep climb to An Cabar] 📌 Walk: Ben Wyvis - Hill of Terror? ★★★★ Start / finish at car park on A835 4 mi north of Garve, G.R.: NH 410671 ///money.serious.guidebook ▶ 14 km / 9 mi | ▲ 940 m | ⌚ Full day | ⬤ To

Walk: By Black Water's bank - tale of two bridges

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Highland | Garve | Short walk | ★★★ [Black Water] Surely one of the most attractive rivers in the Highlands, the Black Water cuts a rocky route through undulating hillside north of Garve. Rogie Falls are the most well-known sight here, but this short amble further upstream gets you closer to the river bank for most of the walk, passing endless rapids. An impressive, arched bridge allows a return on the opposite bank to complete the circuit. On a sunny day it'd be easy to spend hours here visiting every little pool and waterfall. [Cross the high, arched bridge near Little Garve to access the return leg] 📌 Walk: By Black Water's bank - tale of two bridges ★★★ Start / finish at Silverbridge car park, A835 2 mi north of Garve, G.R.: NH 402640 ///limbs.sketching.kick ▶ 4 km / 2 mi | ▲ 50 m | ⌚ Short walk | ⬤ Easy Features: Black Water rapids & bridges Terrain: Clear, narrow footpaths, occasionally rocky. Short section of forestry track near start. Rout

The Birnam Oak

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Perth & Kinross | Birnam | Nature site | ★ [Birnam Oak] This elderly, elegant specimen is a rare and ancient survivor from the once extensive Birnam Wood which used to straddle the River Tay in these parts. The forest is even celebrated in Shakespeare's Macbeth , so it's a bit worrying that one of the last tangible links with this bygone era is at risk of collapse according to news reports. For now at least, branches (held up with sticks) continue to grow and you can visit the tree by following the aptly-named Oak Road from Birnam village centre. Well-worded signs help locate the correct trunk - see below. [River Tay near the oak tree] Location & info 📌 The Birnam Oak ★ 5-min walk north of Birnam village centre (access from Oak Road), G.R.: NO 032422 ///narrates.form.fakes Always open | Free ["It's not me - I'm a sycamore..."]

Walk: Birnam Hill - peace by the A9

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Perth & Kinross | Birnam | Half day walk | ★★★★ [Birnam Hill's southern slopes] North of Perth , rolling farmland quickly gives way to something a little more interesting, with Birnam Hill (also called King's Seat) one of the first noticeable Highland foothills. This clockwise circuit takes in lush woodland and an open summit with decent views over much of Perthshire and the A9 / Tayside corridor, with Birnam (an alternative start point) conveniently close for refreshments before, during or after the walk. Unusually the ascent seems both shorter and gentler than the sustained, steep descent. Of course this is impossible, but walking the route anticlockwise isn't really recommended all the same... [Birnam Hill provides a slice of relative solitude despite its proximity to the A9 corridor] 📌 Walk: Birnam Hill - peace by the A9 ★★★★ Start / finish at layby at Birnam Quarry, B867 1 mi south of Birnam, G.R.: NO 041405 ///lyricist.shut.mountain ▶ 6 km / 4 m

Walk: Beinn an Lochain - airy but not too scary

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Argyll & Bute | Arrochar Alps | Half day walk | ★★★★ [Beinn an Lochain] The sawtooth profile of Beinn an Lochain's northeast ridge is an intimidating sight from the top of the Rest and Be Thankful pass on the A83. Amazingly this short, steep route rewards the walker with all the fabulous views you'd expect from a ridge of this shape, but with next to no scrambling. In fact in good weather the greatest barrier to progress is more likely to be the small but potentially serious bog encountered just a few steps from the starting layby. With a total distance of only 3 miles, this is possibly a feasible post-work evening trip from Glasgow during the summer months. [The excellent path negotiates improbably steep terrain with hardly any need to put hands to rock] 📌 Walk: Beinn an Lochain - airy but not too scary ★★★★ Start / finish at layby on A83 1 mi north of Rest and Be Thankful, G.R.: NN 234088 ///topics.thighs.clinic ▶ 5 km / 3 mi | ▲ 720 m | ⌚ Half a day

M&D's (Scotland's Theme Park)

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South Lanarkshire | Motherwell | Theme park | ★★★★ [M&D's] M&D's self-claimed title of "Scotland's Theme Park" is a bit cheeky - there are other theme parks in Scotland. But it's definitely the biggest and most popular, occupying a site overlooking Strathclyde Loch near Motherwell, close to Glasgow . An indoor tropical rainforest, crazy golf and other attractions complement 7 roller coasters as well as various smaller rides. Compared to major English, European or North American theme parks it's tame, but much cheaper and good fun for a day out. [Parrot in the Amazonia area] Location & info 📌 Amazonia ★★★ 💬 Indoor rainforest area with a variety of reptiles, amphibians, insects and other animals. Next to M&D's theme park, G.R.: NS 721583 ///hidden.rapid.tower 🚌 Best bet is probably Watling Street, Motherwell (1 mi via Strathclyde Country Park) | 🚗 Car park Open daily (2019) | £6.20 adult / £4.75 child (2019) ,

Hill of Tarvit

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Fife | Craigrothie | Stately home | ★★★ [Hill of Tarvit] Hill of Tarvit is a comfortable mansion amidst attractive Fife countryside a few miles south of Cupar . Small parts of the home date to the 1600s, but most of today's building was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer in the early 20th century for Frederick Sharp, a businessman who made his fortune in the jute industry. The National Trust for Scotland have restored the interior to how it looked in Sharp's lifetime, with attractive grounds encompassing hilltop and forest walks, gardens and even a restored Edwardian golf course. Before you leave, ask about the key for visiting nearby Scotstarvit Tower , built by previous owners of the Tarvit estate. Location & info 📌 Hill of Tarvit ★★★ Off the A916 1 mi north of Craigrothie, G.R.: NO 379119 ///relishes.builds.spring Open Saturday to Tuesday, April to October | £10.50 adult / £7.50 child / free for National Trust for Scotland members

Scotstarvit Tower

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Fife | Craigrothie | Castle | ★★ [Scotstarvit Tower] Despite slightly awkward access arrangements, Scotstarvit Tower is well worth nipping over to from nearby Hill of Tarvit - you have to pick up the key from there to access the top of the tower anyway. Turn the key, lift the latch (or something) and hey presto: it's almost like you're the owner of a 16th century tower house, originally built by the Inglis family but significantly altered by Sir John Scot after he bought the estate in 1611. The 6 floors are rather bare in layout - apparently reflecting the character of the later owner - but well preserved thanks to Historic Environment Scotland, and you can climb all the way up. Surrounding trees make taking photos of the exterior quite tricky, with the best view probably from the approach track. [View from close up] Location & info 📌 Scotstarvit Tower ★★ Off the A916 1 mi north of Craigrothie, G.R.: NO 370113 ///windmills.remarked.indicated Open daily