Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Saturday, 15 December 2018


I was sorry to learn via an automated email that Dave is leaving the blogging scene. I'll miss his fine writing and photographs, though he says in his final post that he may use Instagram for a sort of photography blog. I hope so.

All the best to you and your family Dave.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Wednesday 13 November - Pairney, the Heuch of Coul, Ben Effrey and Beld Hill

Parking at Pairney Farm without obstructing gates was not easy and would be well nigh impossible for more than two cars but after trying different spots we were finally happy that we would not incur the wrath of the farmer and off we went up the track towards the farm.

Our destination was Ben Effrey, locally pronounced, Affrey and readers may recall that we paid a visit to this little hill and Craig Rossie in August by a longer route from Dunning Glen. The post can be found here.

Nearly everyone who approaches either Craig Rossie or Effrey from Pairney mentions the free ranging bulls and although neither of us has fear of bulls or cattle, we are cautious since obviously they can do serious harm to say the least. If calves are around, well, that's a different matter altogether and a very wide berth advisable. Today these fine beasts were in the field relaxing.

Beyond the farm buildings we came across lots of farm machinery and various discarded pallets, tyres etc and lying just across the Pairney Burn and dropping into its waters, the crags of The Heuch of Coul. These are much more impressive than the photograph in Angus Watson's, The Ochils, would suggest but I doubt there a climbs here and, similarly, the impressive quarry crag, overhanging in places, looked untouched. Can't imagine that being the case if it were south of the border.

The Heuch of Coul

The steep quarry crag

To my right lies a hill fort

The track soon emerged into more open country giving excellent views to the hills behind Crieff and to the more distant hills around Loch Earn.

Crieff hills 

Beautiful larch trees frame a view to the Loch Earn Hills

Our plan had been to continue to the gorse-covered lower slopes of Beld Hill and go over it to Ben Effrey, but we came across an unmarked ATV track long before that point and couldn't resist since it would take us on a direct line to the summit. In fact the ATV track turned out to be no more than access to some grazings and petered out quickly, but it pointed us in the direction of the remains of a clachan where we paused before starting up the steepish slopes of heather, moss and blaeberry.

Ben Effrey

Looking down on the remains of the clachan 

Craig Rossie
After a few photographs we made for Beld Hill, a favoured place for the local cattle and on our way back to rejoin the outward track. By the time we reached it, the sky had clouded over and we now felt the full chill of the wind so donned our ME jackets for the walk back to the car. However, we couldn't pass the fort without a look and quickly found evidence of excavations which appeared to have taken place not so long ago.

The site of the fort - at the far end of the escarpment below
Nearly back at the farm and blue sky again

Way to the fort - up left by the wall then right

The site is more clearly delineated than the photo shows but the location of the old walls was discernible

One of the recent excavation sites.
By now we were so close to the car that we decided to have our tea and rolls there rather than try to find a sheltered location. We watched cars speed by and wondered if the drivers had ever heard of 'being able to stop on your side of the road in the distance you can see to be clear'. Obviously not.

I have no doubt we will be back here sometime for another ascent of Craig Rossie and a general look around.

I have now uploaded my first post to my new plastic modelling blog and another is due soon.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Monday 5 November - A quick nip up West Lomond Hill

The Fife Lomonds looked a better bet than the Ochils today given gloomy skies at home. The forecast for some sunshine later on we took with a pinch of salt and threw in little bit of hope for good measure.

Craigmead car park, reached by a narrow road from the conservation village of Falkland, was empty bar a car and a Fife Council mini-bus, the driver waiting for the return of a school group we surmised.
Sure enough just as we reached the gate giving access to the open grassy hillside, a small group arrived back from we know not where, one of them stripped to the waist. I had four layers on.

West Lomond Hill was nowhere to be seen though we reckoned, wrongly, that it would show itself eventually.

East Lomond - maybe we chose the wrong hill today

No sign of West Lomond

To the south lie Harperleas Reservoir and Ballo Reservoirs

West Lomond Hill - about as good as it got

Lots of moorland but we have rarely seen much wildlife here

Into the murk - well not too murky really

We had just finished taking some photos at the top and were preparing to leave when a couple with three lovely dogs arrived by a route from the west. They told us of various changes on that side of the hill: fences being erected with no stiles, routes closed because of tree felling, people not looking after the place and so on. It's many years since we used the routes he described from Kinesswood via Bishop Hill or Glen Vale but I recall them as being very worth while alternatives to ours so it's a pity if they are being spoiled.

Various small shelters have been built testifying to the popularity of this hill

As good as it got, so not bad really

We left the summit to the large group of elderly walkers who'd assembled at the cairn and back at the car decided that a stop in Falkland would round off a very enjoyable half day. It's a pretty place and justifiably popular with tourists in summer.

Local preparations for Armistice Day

Falkland Palace

Many a beer I've had in here - but not today

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Good intentions...and a bit of a rushed post.

When we returned from our Braemar holiday last month I sat down to write a post summarising the final part of our holiday, but that idea was eventually binned along with a laptop computer and HP printer.  After many years of resisting the temptation we decided to have an iMac, our experiences with Windows being mixed to say the least, and since we have other Apple products it seemed like a logical step. So I told myself anyway. Setting up the new wireless printer was a trial and eventually I resorted to a manual process to get it on the network, all attempts at following Canon's online instructions having proved futile.

Anyway, the transition to the iMac has been painless and with a 4K Retina display our photographs have never looked better.

However, having got to grips with High Sierra I noticed that the installer for the the latest OS, Mojave, had been quietly downloaded to the Applications folder for me but, Apple or not, I'm cautious about new OS releases so it can sit where it is for a while. High Sierra is working just fine thank you. A day on the hill was needed, not more computing.

From Andrew gannet Hill to The Law

It's relatively rare for us to approach hills at the western end of the Ochils from Dollar or any of the other Hillfoot towns for that matter, the Glen Devon starting points being generally quieter and longer. However a change was required, so here we were at the Castle Campbell car park, surprisingly, on our own.

Dollar Glen with its steep gorge of crags and trees is an impressive place but far too gloomy for such a sunny day. So, we took the shorter but no less impressive higher route which traverses via a narrow path above the gorge, the Burn of Sorrow thundering below on its way to join the Dollar Burn. Once in the open we were quickly on top of Bank Hill, locally Dollar Hill, which gave us fine views of the Forth Valley, the Ineos petrochemical plant at Grangemouth standing out above the river mists.

As so often in the Ochils we had no hard and fast plans for the day other than reaching King's Seat Hill summit where options could be considered. We paused at the memorial located at the crash site of three Spitfires which operated out of Grangemouth during WW2. The airport opened in May1939 as Central Scotland Airport and was used from September of that year by 602 Squadron which flew Supermarine Spitfires. Bristol Blenheims and Gloster Gladiators were flown by 141 Squadron and Westland Lysanders by 263 Squadron.

I've never come across any wreckage in the area, indeed knew nothing of the crash at all until the plaque was erected in 2009, though it has been suggested that tiny fragments might be lying around on the hill.

From King's Seat top we headed down almost to the source of the Gannel Burn then up the well trodden grassy path to Andrew Gannel Hill where the decision was made to forgo a trip out to Ben Cleuch and instead, return to the car over Tarmangie Hill, Whitewisp and Sandy Hill. That decided, I confidently descended back to the Gannel Burn to pick up the path from Mill Glen to the foot of Tarmangie Hill. Except of course there is no such path and why I thought there was escapes me. The lapse was of no consequence of course and a slightly wet walk through long grass and reeds brought us to a beautiful flat grassy spot, perfect for an overnight camp, or in our case for lunch in the sun beside the burbling burn. It's always hard to leave such places.

The high tramp from Tarmangie Hill, over Whitewisp and down to the small outcrop on Sandy Hill is a grand one which we haven't enjoyed for a long time although as Lynne observed, it did feel odd not to be turning NE for Bentie Knowe and Innerdownnie from Whitewisp's cairn.

The little outcrop above the steep slopes of Sandy Hill provided good views down to Dollar and the Castle as well as eastwards over the lovely countryside where we live.

Friday 19 October

Over the last 4 years Lynne has been asked by various local history societies to give a talk on her book Beatrix Potter's Scotland - Her Perthshire Inspiration, published by Luath Press, Edinburgh and now in its second edition. This year the talk was in Auchterarder. Some interesting questions were asked and answered, books were sold and signed and a most pleasant evening was had by all.

Plastic Modelling

It will soon be time for me to resume my plastic modelling activities with a build of the Saturn V. My new blog is more or less ready so that I can record my progress and provide technical information on the real vehicle for anyone who is interested. I hope I can complete the model by Christmas because in the New Year I plan to build another Space Shuttle Orbiter, Altlantis. This is a Tamiya model and will be in orbit configuration with payload doors open. I am really looking forward to this project.

Meantime here are a few photos of our day in the Ochils.

Lower slopes of King's Seat Hill showing the 'Banks of Dollar' - the transverse gullies

Castle Campbell 


Andrew Gannel Hill

Ben Cleuch from Andrew Gannel Hill

View from the outcrop on Sandy Hill

Monday, 17 September 2018

Thursday 6 September - Tap o’ Noth 563m Marilyn

In July 1997 we escaped the worst weather we'd  had in the NW by going to Craigellachie in Moray. As well as climbing The Buck o' the Cabrach, Mither Tap and Bennachie, Tap o' Noth was on our list because Lynne wanted to see the the Iron Age hillfort, one of the largest in Scotland. That was not to be because the turn into the narrow road up to the small carpark at Brae of Scurdargue was too tight for our motorcaravan. Why we didn't park the van in Rhynie and walk from there remains a mystery.

Now, some twenty one years later we set off from Braemar for the fifty two mile trip to Rhynie and the Tap. The A97 is not a fast road but we were in no hurry and enjoyed the drive, the scenery being pleasant rather than remarkable. Using the car instead of the motorcaravan makes life easier on some of the narrower hill roads hereabouts.

It was dry and bright as we took the grassy track through farmland, but with darker skies to the north there was always a threat of showers we thought. It was easy going all the way and it took about forty minutes at a leisurely pace to the trig point.

The second highest in Scotland, the remains of this hillfort are impressive having been constructed of stone walls 6m thick and 3m high,vitrified in places. 
Unfortunately those darker skies mentioned earlier soon produced heavy rain so good photographs were well nigh impossible to take. On a clear day the views would be extensive, an information board just short of the top showing exactly what might be seen: the Cairngorms to the west, the Moray Firth, the North Sea at Aberdeen and the Angus Hills plus lots more. The outer circle on the board was 50km if I recall correctly.

Today we could see Morven, Mount Keen, Lochnagar, Bennachie, The Mither Tap and The Buck o' the Cabrach so we didn't do too badly.

We spent a fair time examining the walls - Lynne is fascinated by hillforts, standing stones and so forth. She should have been an archaeologist really.

Our plan for the day had included a walk out to Hill of Noth but it did not appeal in the grey conditions. Did the weather improve once we were off the hill? Of course it did, so we stopped off in Rhynie and had a look at the war memorial in the well kept village green. This is no tourist destination and given the mayhem being caused in the west by the appalling North Coast 500 I regard that as a big plus.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018


Well, I've tried to upload a post with three photos (iPhone) and it won't go. I may try again or just wait until I'm home. I may not bother at all. Life's just too short!
Sent from my iPhone

Friday, 7 September 2018

Photos that failed to upload on previous post

Tuesday 4 September - Carn a Gheoidh, Carn Bhinnein and Carn nan Sac

We had made a considerable diversion from our planned route to this spot, knowing that if there were hares to be found, here they would be.

Lynne spotted the first one sitting among the boulders. Then another appeared and within a few seconds there was a gathering.  Here and there others raced to join the crowd covering the ground with ease. Eventually they diasappeared among the boulders and we retraced our steps and pointed ourselves in the direction of Carn Bhinnein, a Munro Top with superb views into the corries of Glas Tullaichean. Before departing though, Lynne gave Mr Spock's Vulcan salute: "Live long and prosper. " And yes, she can do the hand salute properly! 

The two lochans north of Carn nan Sac were dry, never seen before by us despite passing them many times. This is all great backpacking country although  with shooting in progress September and October are probably not the best months. Guns could be heard in Glen Ey.

Back on Carn a Gheoidh two geocachers had discovered their cache. Apparently there are caches on many of the summits hereabouts but we've never seen anyone looking for or discovering a cache before. Mind you the probability of us being on any given hill at the geocach location just as it is found must be very small.

We returned over Carn nan Sac then followed the lip of the corrie and so back to the bulldozed tracks of the Cairnwell and so down to the car.

Two geocachers in background

Monday, 3 September 2018

Friday 31 August - Glas Maol and Creag Leacach

A strong cold southerly wind quickly extinguished any thoughts of wearing shorts today. Others were clearly feeling the chill too as hats and gloves were extracted from sacks. 

We made rapid progress reaching the cairn on Glas Maol without a stop, though it would have made more sense to have paused in the shelter of the ski buildings on Meall Odhar to put on a windproof. As it was, my Rab Kinetic Plus was in danger of taking flight as I struggled to put it on at the cairn. 

The ascent of Glas Maol is by no means an arduous one, but even so I was pleased to feel so fit given my relative inactivity throughout the summer, courtesy of a pulled calf muscle. 

Unusually we didn't stop to check the grazing cages.

For those unfamiliar with these, here is a comment from Rene van der Wal of Aberdeen University made on my post of 5 October 2011:

"These are grazing cages which I have erected with colleagues to determine the influence of primarily sheep grazing on the summit vegetation on Glas Maol. We are particularly interested in the fate of woolly fringe moss, or Racomitrium lanuginosum, which is perhaps best known as key habitat for dotterel to exist"

I must contact Rene to find out 'the fate of woolly fringe moss', if the data is available.

I do know the fate of the mountain hares that once graced these hills: they have been exterminated. Numbers have not been reduced. This is slaughter. 

The group which had been following us went off for Cairn of Claise and Carn an Tuirc, we to Creag Leacach. A fine hill, its bulk provided some respite from the wind until the top was reached. As always we chose the boulders rather than the path which finds a way through and round them. All ways are good though.

After lunch in the sun near the howff, we took the narrow path skirting the western slopes of Glas Maol
to join the route to Meall Odhar and down. 

I'll always love these hills but they are much diminished without the mountain hares. We both feel a great sadness at their loss - and anger. So few of us seem to care it seems.  

This post has been reduced somewhat since I lost most of the original.

Test of iPhone photo to Blogger

Friday, 31 August 2018

Thursday 30 August - Morrone

"We're looking back at memories", said Lynne. How true, for there was hardly a hill in sight whose cairn we hadn't touched, ridge we hadn't climbed. And in all seasons: skiing in winter, ski-touring in spring, walking with the heather in full bloom and, as now, at the start of autumn. 

It was warm, humid even, in the birch woods and so I changed into shorts fully expecting to have to revert to trousers higher up. But no, what little wind there was remained light, the atmosphere pleasant, the humidity gone.

Bagging the best seats at the summit buildings - the Braemar MRT relay station - we enjoyed our Lapsang Souchon and watched others arrive. We took a photo of a couple with their iPad 'to prove they'd been here'. A German couple arrived with their dog; the usual parapenters were getting themselves sorted out for flight; people milled about the cairn taking photographs. A typical day on the top of Morrone. Apart from ourselves, only the couple whom we'd photographed looked at a map. 

Time to go. For no particular reason we made a diversion out to a cairn above Coire na Meanneasg. Last time we went a bit further along the ridge towards Carn na Drochaide before shotgun fire necessitated a rapid retreat.

An easy descent to the golf course road today and back to Braemar finished off the perfect start to the holiday.

Note: only one photo is being allowed at this file size - even though it was taken by iPhone. Lots of problems getting this to go.

Delightful terrain early in the climb.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Wednesday 29 September - Away to the hills

Quiet roads and sunshine made the drive to Braemar a joy, the only downside being that we brought the car as well as the motorvan so travelled separately, unable to share that first glimpse of the hills.

The reward will be access to walks and places not easily visited using the motorvan.

Braemar was quiet, even for a Wednesday, but that will no doubt change on Friday night as people arrive for the Gathering on Saturday. A saunter down to the  games field revealed the new, tastefully built, Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion. The Duke of Rothesay himself (Prince Charles for those who don't know) was driving up Glen Clunie in a convoy of Range Rovers, a common enough sight on Deeside at this time of year with the Queen in residence at Balmoral. I doubt we'll be going for tea. 

I do expect the tradition of climbing Morrone as our first hill of this annual Braemar trip will be honoured tomorrow. The weather looks good.

I hope these photos upload on 4G