Braes Of The Carse: Kinnoull to Murrayshall

Kinnoull Hill (NO 136228, 222m)
Deuchny Hill (NO 152236, 232m)
Murrayshall Hill (NO 164253, 279m)
Westhill (NO 169237, 213m)
Taymount (NO 167228, 154m)
Binn Hill (NO 157226, c165m)

17.2 kilometres
643m of ascent

Kinnoull to Murrayshall route
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Another exploration of the Braes of the Carse, this time their extreme western end above Perth. As with my previous walk in this area, I climbed a couple of hills that are unnamed on the map. I’ve listed them above according to the names they’ve been given in the Database of British and Irish Hills, and marked them in italics. (In each case, the name has actually been borrowed from a nearby settlement which has a hill-related name.)

I parked at the Jubilee Car Park (NO 144236) between Kinnoull Hill and Deuchny Hill, and followed the dog-walkers up through the woods, past a rather striking eagle carved from the stump of a tree, and on to the bare shoulder that accommodates Kinnoull’s famous folly—a tower built on the cliff-top by Thomas Hay, 9th earl of Kinnoull, who seems to have wanted to give the Tay valley a bit of a romantic Rhineland look.

Carving on Kinnoull Hill
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Kinnoull Hill folly
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Kinnoull Hill folly

The bare summit of the hill is a little farther on, beyond a slight dip, with fine views north and south.

Tay valley from Kinnoull Hill
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Tay valley from Kinnoull Hill

Back the way I came, and then up Deuchny Hill via the Aitken Arboretum—a pleasant path through new plantings that will eventually reinstate the previous arboretum of the old Kinfauns Estate. The arboretum path connects to the network of forestry tracks on Deuchny Hill, which eventually brought me to a large sign just below the summit announcing the Deuchny Hill Bike Park—which I briefly assumed was a place to park your bike so that you could get on with some proper walking. But apparently not. As at Northballo Hill, I had entered mountain-biker territory. (Of which, more later.)

Murrayshall Hill from Deuchny Hill
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Murrayshall Hill from Deuchny Hill

The bare summit of Deuchny (with its prehistoric fort barely discernible) was easily accessible from the forestry track, and gave me a clear view of my next planned summit—Murrayshall Hill. I baled off northwards down steep ground to rejoin the forestry track network, and then headed east to the Coronation Road.

Coronation Road, Deuchny Hill
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The Coronation Road is an old route linking Scone to Kinfauns through the Braes of the Carse, and it has a southward extension into Fife, on the other side of the Tay. It may be an old route used by Scottish kings to commute between Falkland Palace and Scone Palace, or it may be a very old route used by the Earls of Fife when travelling to a royal coronation at Scone. Either way, it presented me with a choice—left or right? Turning left would take me to a path connecting the Coronation Road with Murrayshall Hill, but not marked on my map. Turning right would let me pick up a path, marked on the map, that ran right across to the farm at Knowhead, which should then connect me easily to Murrayshall Hill.

So like a fool I believed the map, and went right. The advertised path went well through the trees, and then came to a nice little gate in the forest fence, beyond which it simply disappeared in a mass of gorse bushes surrounding the deep trench of a ditch. After casting around for a while, I forced my way north through the gorse to get into some open woodland that allowed me to circumvent the end of the ditch. Then I climbed a couple of fences, crossed a stream, and stumbled out on to the farm track at NO 162242, a little the worse for wear. I definitely should have turned left on the Coronation Road.

Up the track, skirting a fenced area through some boggy ground, and then on to the top of Murrayshall Hill with its fine obelisk. (The name is Murray’s Hall, by the way, not Murray Shall.) The obelisk commemorates Thomas Graham, Lord Lynedoch, who knocked seven bells out of the French in 1811 at the Battle of Barossa during the Peninsular War.

Obelisk, Murrayshall Hill
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Just down the hill is what seems to be another folly—McDuff’s Monument. Apart from the fact it was built in the 18th century by the McDuff family of Bonhard (near Scone), no-one seems to know much about it.

McDuff's Monument, Murrayshall Hill
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From the monument, I zigzagged my way back through the field system and picked up my outgoing farm track, which I followed to the (ruined and abandoned) farm of Knowhead. From there I walked up the side of a meadow to the summit of my next hill, which the DBIH calls Westhill—actually the name of an abandoned village on its southwest slopes. Westhill is crowned by a curious roofless octagonal structure, which looks for all the world like a red brick pillbox with no windows.

HF/DF tower blast wall, summit of Westhill
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It even has a blast-protected entrance, with the wall wrapping around in front of the doorway opening. The usually reliable Canmore database had no record of it, so I got in touch with them by e-mail, since it seemed like the sort of object they should know about. Their military expert identified it as being the blast-protective outer wall of a wooden Second World War High-Frequency Direction-Finding tower (HF/DF, or “Huff-Duff” as it was known to my late father, who flew fighter planes during the war.)

There’s a computer-generated view of what the original structure might have looked like here (it depicts an HF/DF tower on Ibsley Common). Inside the blast wall I found a stack of farming-related junk, a tangle of metalwork, and an uprooted concrete post that had once supported a rectangular pole.

Concrete base support, HF/DF tower, Westhill
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This suggests that the Westhill tower was perhaps supported by props, like this one at Southwold:

Royal Navy W/T Station, Southwold, Tower Y
Royal Navy W/T Station at Southwold, 24 October 1944, Tower Y
© Imperial War Museum (A 26121)

From there I descended to Hollowdub (another abandoned farm, named for the shallow pond nearby). I had to walk slowly and apologize to the cattle as I went, but I was eventually able to reach another farm track which took me down past the old cottages of Westhill village and eventually to a gate at the side of the road.

Farm of Hollowdub
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Ruined Hollowdub Farm, and the dub that gave it its name
Ruined village of Westhill
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A building in the long-abandoned village of Westhill

On the opposite side of the road, another gate took me quickly up the unnamed hill the DBIH calls Taymount, borrowing from the name of a property on its south side. It was a dull little nettle-covered mound, but with good views of Glencarse Hill to the east and Binn Hill to the west.

Binn Hill and Deuchny Hill from Taymount
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Binn Hill and Deuchny Hill from Taymount

Back to the road, and then a short walk to Binn Hill, where a World War II pillbox peeps out of an embankment on the driveway to Binn Farm.

The pillbox at Binn Farm
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The pillbox at Binn Farm

The hill itself hosts yet another folly—a fabulous gothic tower erected by Lord Gray of Kinfauns, as a counterpart to Kinnoull’s romantic edifice. The summit lies in open woodland a little east of the tower.

Binn tower
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As I came back down the forest track from Binn Hill, I noticed a path leaving the far side of the road and ascending into the forest of Deuchny Hill. Figuring it would take me back into the Deuchny forestry track system, I decided I’d give it a go, rather than walk up the road to the car-park. I hadn’t gone far before I realized I was walking up a heavily eroded mountain bike track, and I belatedly remembered the Deuchny Hill Bike Park. Oops. So I walked tensely and kept an ear out for oncoming traffic, of which there was none. The only problem turned out to be at the very top of the bike track, where it joined the forestry road—at this point it was so steep and so heavily eroded by tyres that I had to scrabble my way up on all fours for the last few metres. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go down that. On a bike. Into the trees.

The forest track gave me one last glimpse of the Kinnoull folly, and then there was just a pleasant descent through Aitken’s fine arboretum, back-lit by the low sun, and I was at the car.

Paperbark maple in Aitken Arboretum, Deuchny Hill
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Paperbark maple in Aitken Arboretum

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