Category Archives: Walking

Lockdown Walks: The Dundee-Newtyle Railway (Part 2)

8.4 kilometres (total)
130 metres of ascent (total)

3.8 kilometres (this part)
35 metres of ascent (this part)

Dundee-Newtyle railway route (Dundee)
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

At the end of my previous post, I left you gazing at the blind end of the old railway bridge over Lochee High Street.

Remnant of Dundee-Newtyle railway bridge, Lochee, Dundee
Click to enlarge

Back in the ’70s, there used to be several of these bricked-off gaps along the line of the old Dundee-Newtyle railway, But this is the last one left—it doesn’t even have a partner on the other side of the road. Peering over that wall in the picture above, here’s what you see:

View from the top of the old Lochee High Street railway bridge
Click to enlarge

The steps on the left take you up into a little area of waste land, which is being gradually domesticated with benches and a community garden.

But it used to contain a large goods yard connected to Lochee Railway Station. Here’s my map of the area again, with the railway as it existed in 1903 overlaid on a modern street map:

Location of Lochee Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

As well as the sidings of the goods yard, you can see there was also a branch line, which headed north, while the main track carried on to the northeast. This was called the Hemp Works Branch, and it served the Cox family’s Camperdown Works, once the largest jute works in the world. At the time the Lochee diversion was being built, Camperdown Works was under development, eventually expanding to cover 35 acres and employ thousands of people. The existence of this huge employment opportunity drove the expansion of the then-village of Lochee, and explains how a small rural settlement ended up with two railway stations, a goods yard and a branch line to its name. The existence of the old Hemp Works Branch is still evidenced by the disused railway bridge over Wellbank Lane:

Railway bridge on old Camperdown Works line, Wellbank Lane, Dundee
Click to enlarge

It ends blindly above a modern car park, just at the point it disappears behind foliage in the picture above.

The jute works has been closed for 40 years now. Some of its buildings stand derelict (including the huge one cross-hatched in red in my map above); some have been remodelled into flats; some have been replaced with modern housing. And the bonkers Italianate factory chimney, known locally as Cox’s Stack, still stands above it all. I find it pleasing that the gable ends of the new houses echo the old brick decorations of Cox’s Stack:

Houses in old Camperdown Works, below Cox's Stack
Click to enlarge

The line of the main Dundee-Newtyle railway crosses the area of waste ground accessible by the steps seen in my earlier picture, runs more or less directly in front of the houses in the picture above, and then disappears into another patch of waste ground. There’s no direct way of following it for this short stretch. Instead, I walked along Loons Road for a short distance, before turning up the distinctly unpromising-looking muddy track of Old King’s Cross Road. This soon leads to a little pair of black gates, each of which bears the silhouette of an old-fashioned railway locomotive:

Approach to The Miley nature reserve, Old King's Cross Road, Dundee
Click to enlarge

Here (as you might just have guessed) we rejoin the line of the railway. This is The Miley, a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve—more of a wildlife corridor, really, just a few metres wide and reputedly a mile long (though by my measure barely over a kilometre), which follows the line of the original railway cutting .

It has to be said that The Miley is not particularly inspiring at the end of winter—the path can be muddy after rain, and the leafless trees and undergrowth are a little stark. But it turns into a pleasant green corridor in the summer.

The Miley, Dundee
Click to enlarge

It is crossed by two bridges—the southern one no longer has a function, but the northern carries Harefield Road. The original arch has been filled in with new brickwork and a little cylindrical tunnel, presumably because the bridge required strengthening at some point.

Harestane Road crosses The Miley, Dundee
Click to enlarge

Finally, The Miley pops out at Clepington Road, behind the Kingsway West Retail Park. Just on the other side of Clepington Road, a branch used to split off the Dundee-Newtyle line, serving goods yards at Fairmuir and Maryfield, which were then on the extreme northern edge of town. You can see that branch on my map below:

Line of Dundee-Newtyle Railway at the Kingsway, Dundee
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

Also visible is the dismantled railway—the line of the original direct route via the Law Tunnel, which was replaced by the longer, but safer, Lochee deviation.

I wove my way through the Retail Park and then rounded the corner of the Tesco supermarket to pick up the line of the railway again. The busy Kingsway ring road didn’t exist when the railway was built, but now it necessitates another diversion, to a safe crossing point, before we can pick up the line again. The Kingsway, when it opened in 1919, ran around the edge of town. The railway crossed its two carriageways on a long bridge, which must have been constructed while the railway was in operation—I have no information about how that was done, but it would have been interesting to watch.

Dundee-Newtyle Railway bridge over Kingsway, Dundee

(Notice the man walking along the nearly deserted carriageway, above. My father recalled roller-skating on the roadway at night, and only occasionally having to get out of the way of traffic. Changed days now.)

The Kingsway bridge was demolished in 1965, soon after the trains stopped running. As a child growing up in this area, I can recall the two bricked-off ends of the embankments on either side of the Kingsway, but these have gone now, too. Looking back from the north side of the Kingsway, we can now only imagine the line of the old railways.

Site of the old railway crossing, Kingsway, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The railway bridge would have come straight out of the side of the Tesco supermarket, behind the road sign. The line of the original railway ran beneath the orange cherry-picker.

On the north side of the Kingsway, an open strip of grass and trees runs between the houses. This is the line of the old railway embankment, on which I used to play as a child, after the trains stopped running and the rails had been lifted. The open space is triangular in shape at its southern end, indicating how the line of the old and new railways merged at this point. At the time the railway was built, this was a rural setting, with the railway running parallel to Strathmartine Road, which passed through the outlying village of Downfield a short distance to the east.

Route of Dundee-Newtyle railway, Kingsway, Dundee
Click to enlarge

It’s an odd sensation for me, walking north through this space. The houses to the right are the same houses I looked down on from the embankment as a child; to my left, what used to be a row of lock-ups and an area of waste ground (affectionately known as “The Fieldy” by local kids) has been replaced by new housing. At the top end, the grassy space debouches into a little car park, between East School Road and West School Road. I used to walk this way to school, passing under the little railway bridge that originally spanned School Road, before it was divided into east and west sections. Here’s the bridge as it was in later years:

Dundee-Newtyle Railway bridge over School Road, Dundee

From the bollards and the warning sign, I suspect this picture was taken after the bridge was hit by a double-decker bus in the late ’60s, shortly before it was demolished.

Here’s the same area today, from a vantage point closer to the location of the bridge—the buildings visible beyond the bridge above are easily identifiable, and the line of the railway runs through the car park at right and in front of the tenement at left.

Site of old railway bridge, School Road, Dundee
Click to enlarge

At this point, the line of the track is still evident, but becomes impossible to follow. I had to deviate to Strathmartine Road, and then walk back up a succession of cross-streets to visit the old line. Between School Road and Camperdown Road, the line of the embankment is marked by a wide area of open grassland, dotted with trees, but fenced off and accessible only through padlocked gates.

Route of Dundee-Newtyle railway, School Road, Dundee
Click to enlarge

From Camperdown Road to Americanmuir Road, there’s another strip of open grassland, accessible from the south but inexplicably blocked by a fence and padlocked gate at the north end.

Route of Dundee-Newtyle railway, Camperdown Road, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The location of the old footbridge over the railway at Americanmuir Road is evidenced by a narrowing and a row of bollards.

Americanmuir Road, Dundee
Click to enlarge

North of Americanmuir Road, new housing has been built in the space originally occupied by the railway—the cul-de-sacs of Cloan Grove and Caledonian Gardens align with the old track-bed. Beyond that, the line reached Baldovan Station, the platforms of which extended behind the old Downfield Tavern, which still exists as the oldest part of the modern Downfield Hotel.

Location of Baldovan Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903
The Downfield, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The station itself is long gone, built over by the modern flats of Strathmartine Court.

Strathmartine Court, Dundee
Click to enlarge

I’ll stop here, for now, because the trail goes cold for a while. We’re moving into a part of Dundee that was largely rural until after the railway was decommissioned and the track lifted, so the route is for the most part obscured by modern buildings until we get to the present edge of town. That’ll be a project for a later date.

GPS Navigation With Historical Maps

One of my projects to maintain interest during lockdown walks has been to follow the route of the old Dundee-Newtyle railway. My main reference for that trip was a Six-Inch Ordnance Survey map dating from 1903, which I consulted on the National Library of Scotland’s excellent “georeferenced maps” webpage. If you follow this link, you should be able to see the set-up I used. There’s a little blue slider at the bottom of the control panel at top left, which will allow you to fade between the 1903 map and a modern street map from OpenStreetMap.

Screenshot of National Library of Scotland georeference maps
Click to enlarge

The good people at the National Library of Scotland have gone to the trouble of georeferencing a large collection of out-of-copyright historical maps of Scotland (and some of the wider UK), and this is a fabulous resource for anyone who wants to explore their local history and geography. And it got me hankering for the ability to load such detailed maps into a portable GPS-enabled device.

Now, my go-to service for georeferenced electronic Ordnance Survey maps is usually Anquet. Mainly, I use them on my PC or laptop, but I also keep a few local topographic maps on my mobile phone, and use them for the occasional bit of GPS navigation. Anquet also used to sell a variety of historical Ordnance Survey maps, but they were fairly pricey, and I anyway discover that the service now seems to have been discontinued.

So I began to wonder if I could parasitize the work of the National Library of Scotland, and get a copy of their georeferenced map on to my phone. And it turns out I could. Here’s what I did.

I dusted off and updated my old copy of the venerable OziExplorer software on my PC. OziExplorer has been around for decades, dating back to a time when it was expensive or impossible to get good quality maps into a hand-held navigation device. The unique feature it offers is the ability to import map images (in those days, from scanned paper maps) and “calibrate” them with latitude and longitude information. I bought my own copy of the program years ago. It’s nowadays fairly expensive, and probably not something you’d purchase for a one-off project. However, I’m pretty sure the trial version will let you do everything I’m describing here, if you’re prepared to put up with restarting it every hour.

My next step was to take a screenshot of the Ordnance Survey map from the NLS website. I use Greenshot for these tasks, but there are many options.

Screengrab of Ordnance Survey six-inch map, 1903
Click to enlarge

I fed this image to OziExplorer, using the “Load And Calibrate Map Image” option from the File menu.

Loading a map image in OziExplorer

OziExplorer is extremely versatile in how it calibrates map images. If the map gridlines run parallel to the edges of the image (as they do in the NLS maps), it only requires three calibration points, preferably close to three corners of the image. For skewed maps, or maps with curved gridlines, more points are needed.

But first I need to tell OziExplorer what map projection was used, in the Setup tab of the calibration window at top right.

Setup OziExplorer datum and projection

From the drop-down menus, I choose “Ord Srvy Grt Britn” for my Map Datum, and “[BNG] British National Grid” for Map Projection. The next three tabs in this window are the set-up for the three calibration points.

So now it’s back to the NLS map, with a notepad and pencil, to write down coordinates for three points. I just place my cursor over a suitable point, and then read off the coordinates at the bottom right of the screen. When I started doing this, I spent some time casting around for suitable natural features or buildings on the map, before I had the blinding revelation that the text on the map would work just as well for this purpose. So here I am with the cursor on the dot of the first “i” of Menzieshill.

Getting coordinate from National Library of Scotland georeference map

And here are the associated coordinates for that point:

Coordinates from National Library of Scotland georeferenced map

What I want to feed to OziExplorer are the letters and numbers in bold in the top line—these are the Ordnance Survey grid square letters, and the easting and northing values. It’s important not to use the latitude and longitude provided by the NLS, since this will create a position error on the order of a hundred metres if transferred to OziExplorer. The NLS is providing the global standard WGS84 coordinates, which is what your GPS receiver tells you. But once you’ve stipulated to OziExplorer that you’re using the British National Grid, it then assumes (I think) that any latitude and longitude you enter pertain to coordinates on the specific ellipsoid on which the BNG is based, which is not the same shape and orientation as the WGS84 ellipsoid.

The underlying reason for the mismatch in latitude and longitude doesn’t really matter for practical purposes, though—just be sure to use the grid letters and numbers offered by the National Library of Scotland as your input to OziExplorer.

Going back to OziExplorer armed with my three calibration points, I enter the first set of coordinates by opening the “Point 1” tab in the calibration window at top right. This changes the cursor to a set of cross-hairs that I use to select the same points I copied off the NLS map:

Setting calibration point in OziExplorer

Positioning the cross-hairs accurately is aided by the little magnified square that appears on the screen at top left—you can see it to the left of my screenshot above.

Once I have the position right, I click to set my calibration point:

Calibration point in OziExplorer

And then I enter the grid reference for Point 1:

Enter OziExplorer calibration Point 1

Then it’s just a matter of repeating the process for Point 2 and Point 3, and hitting Save. OziExplorer saves a little file with the same name as the map image file, but with the suffix *.map, and the map image is now calibrated.

In a minute I’ll go on to explain how I moved a calibrated map to my phone, but there’s one other thing that’s worth dealing with at this point. Even with a UHD monitor, you may want to capture more than one screenful to get complete coverage of an area of interest. This is where OziExplorer‘s free “Map Merge” utility comes in. It will combine any overlapping array of calibrated OziExplorer maps into a single large image.

So for my little project relating to Dundee’s abandoned railway lines, I captured a series of screenshots of the 1903 Ordnance Survey map from NLS, and calibrated them in OziExplorer as described above. This involves jotting down quite a lot of calibration coordinates, but not as many as you might expect—because the screenshot edges must overlap to produce a single large map, and because the calibration points need to be at the corners of each image, then calibration points can and should be reused, to ensure that the images are perfectly aligned in the final map.

Then I open Map Merge, and point it at the folder on my hard drive containing all the map images and their associated *.map files. When these are imported, Map Merge tiles them together to display the coverage of the final map:

Merging maps in OziExplorer Map Merge
Click to enlarge

When I’m happy with the coverage, I tell Map Merge to create a map from the selected maps:

Creating map in OziExplorer Map Merge

I also need to tell it what projection and scale to use:

Destination map in OziExplorer Map Merge

And then I just sit back and wait for Map Merge to zip all the individual files together into one calibrated map, which is saved to the hard drive as two files—an image file with extension *.ozfx3, and a *.map. calibration file for that image. I can load these back into OziExplorer to make sure everything is aligned as it should be.

To get this final map on to my phone, I needed to download and install the OziExplorer Android app. There’s nothing for Apple users, unfortunately, but there is a version for PocketPC handheld devices, which is a bit of a legacy market these days.You can find details on the OziExplorer website. Again, the full version of the Android app is distinctly pricey, but the trial version will do what I describe here, if you don’t mind a prominent watermark on your map display, and having to restart the app every fifteen minutes.

With the app installed on my phone, I plugged it into my PC via a USB cable, and used Windows Explorer to navigate my way to the phone’s OziExplorer\Maps folder. Then I copied across the *.ozfx3 and *map files created by Map Merge.

And that was that. When I opened the OziExplorer app on my phone, I was able to call up my Victorian OS map and follow the line of my disappeared railway using the phone’s GPS. So here I am on the Perth Road, just about to set off cross-country:

OziExplorer Android app with Victorian OS map loaded

That’s neat, isn’t it?

Lockdown Walks: The Dundee-Newtyle Railway (Part 1)

8.4 kilometres (total)
130 metres of ascent (total)

4.6 kilometres (this part)
95 metres of ascent (this part)

Dundee-Newtyle railway route (Dundee)
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Confined to a small and largely urban Local Authority Area by the current lockdown rules, your correspondent is having to get a little creative in his choice of walking routes, to keep interest alive.

This one follows the route of the old Dundee-Newtyle railway, as it weaves around town. The track bed is long gone (I can only just remember the occasional goods train plying this route in the early 1960s), and subsequent demolition and building work has left little of even industrial-archaeological interest —but it’s a pleasant route to follow, and wide enough to allow two-metre distancing throughout, with a little care (and occasional willingness to step off the path). I’ve superimposed the line of the old railway in red on my usual map, above, and have also marked the various vanished stations along its route.

The original Dundee-Newtyle railway was the first railway north of the Tay, opened in 1831, connecting the farmland of the Vale of Strathmore, north of the Sidlaw Hills, with Dundee’s then-bustling port. It took a pretty steep and direct line out of town, passing through the tunnel I mentioned in my post about the Dundee Law. Problems with runaway wagons on the steep inclines led to injury or death on more than one occasion. The whole steep section through town was eventually bypassed by a long loop, the Lochee deviation, which opened in 1861. It branched off the main Dundee-Perth railway and took a long loop westwards around Menzies Hill (a low and gently rounded extension of Balgay Hill). This loop was so long it was later said that, if had you just missed the train departing from Dundee West Station, you had time to hop on a tram to Lochee Station and catch the train as it reached the end of its long deviation.

There’s very little left of the original direct Dundee-Newtyle line, so my plan was to walk the loop of the Lochee deviation. As with my previous waterfront excursion, this is a one-way walk report—the return journey is left as an exercise for the interested reader. I’ve split the walk into two sections, both for ease of description and to introduce a logical break for anyone who wants to do it in two halves.

So I loaded a geo-referenced Victorian map into my phone*, and set off. I picked up the line of the old railway where it crossed the Perth Road at NO 355302. South of this point, its route has been entirely overbuilt by a row of newer houses along the south side of the road. Below, I’ve superimposed the track as shown by the Ordnance Survey map of 1903 on to the modern street layout.

Route of Dundee-Newtyle Railway near Perth Road
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

There’s no evidence of the embankments on either side of the road, or the bridge that linked them. Here’s the view looking north:

W.L. Gore building, Dundee Technology Park
Click to enlarge

My line took me towards the left side of this panorama, aiming for the sign (just visible above) at the little car-park on Mariner Drive. Then after a short walk down Mariner Drive, I forked right on to the track of the Dundee Green Circular Route. The line of the railway passes through the trees to the left of this route initially, but then the Green Circular path picks up the line of the old track-bed, and follows its loop right around Menzies Hill. The hill itself is now covered by the suburb of Menzieshill, and the Green Circular threads a pleasant line between the houses on the right, and a strip of woodland to the left.

Green Circular Route, Dundee Technology Park
Click to enlarge

As the curve of the path turns north (in the distance in my photograph above), it briefly rises above the surround terrain, following the old railway embankment.

Once it has made its loop and turned eastwards, the path falls in beside South Road (which, counter-intuitively, runs east-west). A short length of wall between the path and the road marks the original approach to Liff Railway Station. On the north side of the road at this point my 1903 Ordnance Survey map enticingly marks a “Druidical Temple (remains of)”. It’s still there, but now referred to more prosaically as the Balgarthno Stone Circle. The Canmore database records some more satisfying alternate names: “The Nine Stanes of Invergowrie” and (predictably enough) “The Devil’s Stones”.

Balgarthno stone circle, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The old Liff Station buildings and platforms are long-gone, the site covered by the car park of the Lynch Sports Centre. Here’s the 1903 layout superimposed on the modern map, again.

Location of Liff Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

And here’s what the site looks like, now:

Site of old Liff Railway Station, Dundee
Click to enlarge

Gowrie Villa, shown on my 1903 map, is still standing, however.

The path now weaves along between South Road and South Road Park, still following the old line of the railway, though no trace remains. These were all open fields when the railway was built, and there was a little farm community on the north side of the road called Charleston (“Charles’s toun”), which gave its name to the suburb that now borders the north side of South Road.

Green Circular Route, South Road, Dundee
Click to enlarge

At Elmwood Road I passed the little patch of grass that marks the site of the old Lochee West Station—it was a little rural wooden building, now long gone.

Lochee West Station
Location of Lochee West Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903
Site of old Lochee West Railway Station, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The Green Circular Route now moves away from South Road, and (still following the absent railway line) threads its way through an area of parkland behind a row of modern flat blocks. We’re now in the district of Lochee, which at the time the railway was built was a village on the edge of town.

At this point, we finally encounter the first honest-to-god relic of the old railway infrastructure—a bridge carrying the truncated remnant of Sharp’s Lane. It’s freakishly low, with an arch of no more than three metres—I suspect the old railway cutting has been filled in somewhat, raising the level of the path.

Sharp's Lane bridge, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The bicycle route curves around on to the bridge and heads south at this point, but the path continues straight ahead through a narrow strip of parkland.

Green Circular Route, Lochee, Dundee
Click to enlarge

On, then, until the path finally jogs rightwards and up a set of steps to Peel Street, which lies just to the right of the old railway line. Peel Street connects to Old Muirton Road, which at this point is a newish extension of the original street thus named, lying right on top of the old line of the track. And up ahead, in the fork between Old Muirton Road and Muirton Road, lies an odd little blind-ending ramp with an ugly square building perched on it.

Site of Lochee Railway Station, Dundee
Click to enlarge

This is the site of the old Lochee Station.

Location of Lochee Station, Dundee-Newtyle Railway
Click to enlarge
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence
Overlay extracted from Ordnance Survey Six-Inch mapping, 1903

Just to the left of the ugly square building, and attached to it, is a much older and more appealing structure, patterned with unusually mosaicked red stone. It’s visible behind the bushes, above. This is the old Lochee Station building itself.

Lochee Station

The ugly extension has been added where the old wooden platform canopy used to be. The combined buildings host the Lochee Burns Club. The original part is difficult to photograph, these days, because of the overgrowth of trees and bushes around it. Here’s my best attempt, taken from Old Muirton Road:

Old Lochee Railway Station building, Dundee
Click to enlarge

For better views, taken when the surrounding area was more manicured, go to the Canmore website.

Why is the station so far above the road? Because it was built directly on to the ramp that took the railway line on to the bridge over the south end of Lochee High Street. The bridge is now gone, but its western support remains, with Muirton Road visible at left:

Remnant of Dundee-Newtyle railway bridge, Lochee, Dundee
Click to enlarge

And here is a convenient place to pause. In my next post, I’ll continue the journey as the route turns northwards.

* Which is a story in itself. More on that in this post..

Glen Clova: Allan’s Hut To The Capel Mounth

Sandy Hillock (NO 266804, 768m)
Dog Hillock (NO 286793, 732m)
Ferrowie (NO 303794, 801m)

20.4 kilometres
1020 metres of ascent

North Clova route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018
Path data © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence

I’ve had it in mind to take this obscure little jaunt for some time—a trip along the crags on the north side of upper Glen Clova, linking the two main routes across the hills between Glen Clova and Loch Muick—the crossing via Allan’s Hut in the west, and the old Capel Mounth drove-road in the east.

I started from the car park at Acharn. Mindful of the fact that the bridge north of Moulzie had been washed away by winter floods the last time I was here, I set off up the west side of the river, expecting that the faint path which had been starting to appear soon after the bridge was lost would have evolved into something more substantial. But it hadn’t. In fact, it had largely disappeared. So I wasn’t entirely surprised to discover a new footbridge had been put in place.

New bridge above Moulzie, Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

If I’d thought to check on this before setting off, I could have saved myself a bit of trackless wandering across damp flatlands, and used the regular track on the east side of the river.

Beyond the bridge the glen turns west, and I walked into the teeth of the wind that was funnelling through the head of the glen. When I reached the little larch forest at Bachnagairn there was some shelter among the trees, but their upper branches were being buffeted strongly enough to shake down a continuous gentle snow of yellowing larch needles.

Then I crossed the Roy Tait Memorial Bridge, and started up the well-engineered zig-zag path towards the high plateau and Allan’s Hut. The modern corrugated-iron hut (actually a stable for stalker’s ponies) replaces a dilapidated wooden structure that stood here back in the ’70s. (I’ve written previously about pitching a tent inside the old Allan’s Hut.)

Allan's Hut, above Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

The ascending path was marked by fresh hoof-prints, showing that ponies were still being used to carry dead deer off the hill at the end of a day’s stalking.

Hoofprints on path above Bachnagairn, Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

Then on to my first summit of the day, Sandy Hillock.  A glance at the ground, where the path has eroded a slot in the peat, was sufficient to explain the name.

Sandy path on Sandy Hillock, Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

The summit hosts four poles (one fallen) and a small cairn with a metal shelf inside. Almost all the paraphernalia is now gone, but it seems there were once two radio aerials up here, serving some purpose I’ve been unable to discover.

Summit of Sandy Hillock, looking towards Lochnagar
Click to enlarge

Next, I headed south, into a little triangle of boggy moorland that seems to levitate 300 metres about the river below. This is the top of the improbably named crag of Juanjorge, an obvious viewpoint that I’ve long wanted to visit. Contrary to appearances, the cliff is not named after two misplaced Spaniards. The local pronunciation sounds something like Gin-George, and on the basis of that pronunciation, Adam Watson* speculates that the original Gaelic was  Dionn Deorid, which he translates as “hill or fortress of melancholy creature”. I don’t really know what to make of this, and both Gaelic words seem to be rather obscure. Anyway, it gives (as I suspected) splendid views both up the glen towards Bachnagairn and down towards the new bridge.

Bachnagairn from above Juanjorge crag
Click to enlarge
Glen Clova from above Juanjorge crag
Click to enlarge

From there, I worked my way along the rim of Moulnie Craig, glancing back to take in the view of Juanjorge.

Juanjorge crag from above Moulzie Craig
Click to enlarge

And then on to Broom Hill (no broom plants in evidence) and around the deep cleft of The Gourock, with its lovely little lochan.

The Gourock, above Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

The name, oddly, derives from an guireag, “the pimple”, hinting that the Ordnance Survey may have attached it to the wrong geographical feature.

Next, Dog Hillock, on which no dogs were evident. The name was probably given in conscious contrast with Sandy Hillock—in Scots, for some impenetrable reason, a “dog hillock” is a small hill covered in grass. Here, I took a seat and enjoyed the view south down the glen towards my starting point, and also north to the crags of Lochnagar. I noted that the Falls of the Glasallt (above the Queen’s lodge at Glas-allt-Shiel) were broad and white with run-off from recent rain (an observation that would become relevant later in the day).

Lochnagar from Broom Hill, Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

And I could enjoy the classic sound of the Scottish Highlands in October—the bellowing of red deer stags in rut. Here’s what one of those sounds like:

This noise had been echoing around me from all directions since I’d reached Bachnagairn, though I’d glimpsed nothing but a little bachelor herd trotting across the peat hags in the distance.

To reach my final hill of the day, I had an awkward little descent in the headwaters of the Moulzie Burn, and then an awkward little ascent to reach the Capel Mounth track. I walked up to the high point of the track to reach Gallow Hillock, an unassuming heathery lump, visible on the sky-line to the right of the track, below:

Capel Mounth track at Gallows Hillock
Click to enlarge

Dorward writes:

There are over a hundred place-names in northeast Scotland containing the term ‘gallows’ […] While there is seldom evidence of their having been used as places of execution, they appear to have been important meeting-places or even the site of a court in Pictish times.

There’s a similar juxtaposition in the Sidlaws, where Gallow Hill sits next to the high point of the old route between Dundee and Glamis. Both locations seem too chilly and exposed for a meeting place, but ideal for a gibbet displaying the corpse of a highway robber. Or so it struck me at the time.

On, then, up the slopes of Ferrowie, which Dorward links to Gaelic feith ruadh “red mire”, though it didn’t seem particularly red or mirey. From the summit, I could look back at a panorama of Broad Cairn and Lochnagar, and notice that the Allt an Dubh-loch was so full that it showed up as a white ribbon between the two hills. Hmmm. There did seem to be a lot of water in the burns.

Broad Cairn and Lochnagar from Ferrowie
Click to enlarge

To get back into the glen, I followed a rough vehicle track past some decaying grouse butts on Ferrowie’s boggy southwest shoulder, The Winnochs. Dorward links this name, rather implausibly, to Scots winnocks, “windows”.  Watson goes with the more believable Gaelic bhuidheanach, “yellow place”, which is pronounced something like “VOO-yen-och”. Here’s a view at the point where I rejoined the Capel Mounth track (Bachnagairn,  Juanjorge and Broad Cairn in the background), demonstrating why I find “yellow place” compelling:

Capel Mounth track descending from The Winnoch
Click to enlarge

The route descends in steep zig-zags, eventually reaching a patch of forestry that turned out to have been recently clear-felled.

Capel Mounth track descending into Glen Clova
Click to enlarge
Glen Clova from clear-felled area beside Capel Mounth track
Click to enlarge

I was a bit disgruntled about this blot on the landscape, until I reached the ford where the path crossed the Capel Burn. Which was in spate. Predictably enough, given what I’d been seeing of the burns around Lochnagar earlier. Rather than taking off my boots and socks and wading across, clinging to the boulders, I realized I had another option—the clear-felling had opened up a rough route down the north side of the burn, by which I could easily reach the bridge on the Moulzie track below me. And then it was just a straightforward march back to the car, along the route I should have taken when I set out that morning.

Fly Agaric, Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

* Adam Watson, Place Names In Much Of North-east Scotland (2013)
David Dorward, The Glens Of Angus (2001)

Lomond Hills

West Lomond (NO 197066, 522m)
East Lomond (NO 243061, 434m)

12.7 kilometres
480 metres of ascent

Lomonds route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018
Path data © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence

This was a lunch-time impulse, on a day that suddenly seemed too good to waste.

The Lomonds are a pair of ancient volcanic plugs, pushing up through layers of sedimentary rock that form an intricate escarpment around three sides of West Lomond (of which, more later). I left the car at the big Craigmead car park, which is reached by the narrow ribbon of potholed tarmac that crosses the moorland between Falkland and Leslie.

Down the road a short distance, and then a left turn took me on to the broad track that crosses the moor towards West Lomond.

Approach to West Lomond
Click to enlarge

Close to the start of this track, there’s a little puzzle:

Reproduction commonty division marker, Lomond Hills
Click to enlarge

A neat and obviously fairly recent block of stone bears this inscription:

Division of the
Commonty of the
Lomond Hills
of Falkland

Sir William Ray

Alexander Martin

The upper surface is marked with the initials WR (one assumes William Rae) and the date 1818. And yet it’s very much not two centuries old. It seems to be a reproduction of one of the many boundary stones that mark the nineteenth-century divisions of the old common land of the Lomonds. An original can be found a little farther up the track:

Commonty division marker, Lomond Hills
Click to enlarge

And there are more than a hundred scattered around the area. For more on that topic, see the 2015 Fieldwork Report by David Munro and Oliver O’Grady.

The tourist route up West Lomond curves around its north side and reaches the top from the west, but I chose the masochist’s direttissima that goes straight up the steep north-east side. So I was soon at the summit, looking back the way I’d come, and to East Lomond beyond:

East Lomond from summit of West Lomond
Click to enlarge

The triangulation pillar of West Lomond seems to have eroded out of the surrounding terrain quite dramatically, leaving it poised on its curved concrete foundation like some sort of giant Subbuteo footballer:

Loch Leven from summit of West Lomond
Click to enlarge

In the distance, above, you can see Loch Leven. The larger wooded island is the location of Loch Leven Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned in 1567-8.

Instead of returning the way I’d come, I decided to pay a visit to the West Lomond escarpment. Its long curve offers a fine collection of evocative toponyms—there’s John Knox’s Pulpit (blown up by Fife Council in 2004 because considered unsafe), the improbably poised Bunnet Stane (presumably next on Fife Council’s list), the sheltered meadow of Hoglayers, and the little summit of Wind and Weather. But I dropped off down a knee-strainingly steep path to the south-west, aiming for the Devil’s Burdens—a scattering of stones supposedly dropped by the Devil himself, under circumstances described in my link; but why His Satanic Majesty was doing anything so menial as lugging some rocks around Fife is not clear to me.

The steep path took me to a stile, which had enough missing parts on its downhill side to make it a significant challenge for anyone with shorter legs than mine.

Broken stile, West Lomond
Click to enlarge

And then down to the Burdens themselves—a much-eroded stone rampart, which I prudently looped around and approached from below.

Devil's Burden stones, West Lomond
Click to enlarge

Up close, this is a fairly impressive barricade, in some places a good four metres high.

Devil's Burden stones, West Lomond
Click to enlarge

Then I climbed back up to the stile, and picked up a narrow slot of a path on its uphill side, which took me around to West Lomond’s east side. Here, I decided to strike off across the moorland rather than follow the path all the way around to the north-east side again.

East Lomond from moor below West Lomond
Click to enlarge

I avoided marching straight towards East Lomond, but took a line that erred a little to the north, avoiding the boggy ground promised by Balharvie Moss, which lay due east. It was easy enough going, the heather fairly short and the marshy areas fairly dry, but it was also rather unsatisfactory—these little off-piste excursions usually turn up something of interest, but this one afforded nothing but a pair of panicky grouse. Eventually, I joined my outward track, and headed back to the road past a busy row of beehives.

Beehives, Lomond Hills
Click to enlarge

The route to East Lomond was pretty much a mirror image of West Lomond, except on a smaller scale. First of all, a short track:

Approach to East Lomond from the west
Click to enlarge

Then a choice of routes up (I took the steeper one again):

East Lomond from the west
Click to enlarge

The bare summit of East Lothian is crowned by a rather nice view indicator on a low pillar, but I wasn’t able to access it immediately because it was being used for other purposes:

Summit of East Lomond
Click to enlarge

That’s not something you see every day.

So I sat and admired the view of West Lomond for a while, and then retraced my steps to the car.

West Lomond from summit of East Lomond
Click to enlarge


Threestane Hill (NO 631873, 431m)
Mount Shade (NO 626870, 507m)
Clachnaben (NO 615865, 589m)
Hill of Edendocher (NO 603859, 577m)
Sandy Hill (NO 593858, 592m)

20 kilometres
790 metres of ascent

Clachnaben route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018
Path data © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence

Clachnaben is Clach na Beinne, “stone of the hill”, a name that correctly applies to the granite tor that forms its summit, and which is the most striking feature of the hill when first glimpsed from the Cairn o’ Mount road heading north. The emphasis is on the last syllable, Clach-na-BEN.

It’s been on my “to climb” list for a while, and I fitted it in just before the start of the grouse season on August 12th. This is prime grouse shooting territory, and I’ve no interest in getting into conflict with people carrying guns.

I parked in the little car park at NO 648868, and set off along the woodland path. There’s a fairly direct route to Clachnaben, but I wanted to take in a couple of other hills first. In particular, I wanted a look at Threestane Hill—stane means “stone” in Scots, and I wondered if I might find three tors on the summit, to account for the name. So I turned right along the fence-line when I exited the forest, and then wound my way along the forest track that contours around Greystane Hill. The Ordnance Survey shows this branching right on to the open hillside just before it ends, so I followed the rather overgrown-looking branch when I reached it—only to discover that what had been a gate in the deer-fence has now been closed off.

Blocked access to Threestane Hill
Click to enlarge

Looking downhill along the fence-line I could see a stile crossing the fence farther down. The main track, rather than ending blindly as the OS indicates, seems to open into a broad firebreak, giving access to that stile. Or so it would appear from Google Earth, which I’ve just checked. But at the time, I simply shinned over the fence, because the ground on the other side looked like it would give easy access on to the hill, which it did.

Also noticeable in the photograph above is the little row of three stones visible along the crest of the hill. It’s difficult to tell now, because of the modern forestry in the glen below, but their position on the crest of the hill would probably have made them easily visible on the skyline from the valley of the Mill Burn in its reaches above Glendye Lodge. They turned out to be merely the highest three boulders in a complicated little clutter, but I didn’t see anything else to account for the hill’s name. There are indeed summit tors, but only two of them.

Prominent boulders on Threestane Hill
Click to enlarge

On, then, to Mount Shade, by an easy little path through the heather that the Ordnance Survey is unaware of.

Mount Shade from Threestane Hill
Click to enlarge

Mount Shade, a distinctly un-Scottish name apparently imported from Lord of the Rings, is actually Monadh Seid, “hill of blowing”—its isolated conical shape reputedly makes it a fairly windy location. From its summit there are wide views in all directions, including across to Clachnaben and its slightly daunting tor.

Clacknaben from Mount Shade
Click to enlarge

Getting across to Clachnaben involves a bit of descent, circumventing the steep little cleft of Slack of Dye. “Slack”, as I’ve mentioned before, derives from Gaelic sloc, meaning “pit” or “hollow”, and in Aberdeenshire it seems to be often applied to rocky clefts between hills. Like this one:

Slack of Dye, between Mount Shade and Clachnaben
Click to enlarge

From here, there’s an easy slot of a path up Clachnaben, which joins the main tourist route just a few metres below the tor itself, and then skirts around the north side to reach the OS triangulation pillar, with its little not-very-sheltering shelter cairn. From the west, the tor looks less worrisome.

Chlachnaben tor from trig point
Click to enlarge

And it’s easy enough to climb, though the steep drop to the east of the narrow bouldery ridge might put some people off.

Looking south from top of Clachnaben tor
Click to enlarge

Then I headed off farther westwards, past Clachnaben’s other, smaller, tor.

Summit of Clachnaben, looking west to Mount Battock
Click to enlarge

With more time, there’s a nice traverse to make all the way to Mount Battock, which is the distant cone sticking up at left of frame above. I contented myself with following the broad vehicle track over Hill of Edendocher as far as Sandy Hill. This proved to be a mass of peat hags, and by climbing on to the highest of these I was able to look back along the ridge to Clachnaben.

Clachnaben and Hill of Edendocher from Sandy Hill
Click to enlarge

In the other direction, the route to Mount Battock was clear.

Mount Battock from Sandy Hill
Click to enlarge

But I headed south, to start my return along Glen Dye. The Ordnance Survey shows the vehicle track petering out high on the south ridge of Sandy Hill, but I was confident there would be some sort of path down. I had been passing through the densest concentration of grouse butts I had ever seen, between Edendocher and Sandy Hill, like some sort of museum of grouse butt technology. They ranged from simple pegs (just numbered posts), through turf and wood constructions, to positively luxurious dry-stone assemblies.

Grouse butt, Sandy Hill
Click to enlarge

I was sure the south ridge of Sandy Hill would feature more of the same, and so it proved. A clear 4×4 track extended quite a long way down the hill, and then I was able to pick up a fainter track through the grass, that serviced a row of turf butts lower on the hill.

Row of turf grouse butts on descent from Sandy Hill
Click to enlarge

Just before I reached the estate track beside the Water of Dye, I found myself approaching a large netted enclosure, clearly intended for the rearing of game birds. These proved to be red-legged partridges—safe for now, but the partridge season starts just a couple of weeks after the grouse season, on the first day of September.

Red-legged partridges, breeding enclosure, Glen Dye
Click to enlarge

Then it was just a matter of yomping four miles back down the glen to my starting point. As I passed the Charr bothy, I was scolded by a succession of stonechats, reminding me that I hadn’t seen much wildlife so far (not counting a hundred captive partridges).

Charr bothy, Glen Dye
Click to enlarge

Then, as I was toiling up the long slope where the track crosses between Hill of Duclash and Gauns Hill, I spotted an angular silhouette sweeping along the hillside towards me—a red kite. Once extinct (read, exterminated) in Scotland, they were reintroduced during the ’90s, and are on the UK’s list of protected species, but they’re still being illegally persecuted and poisoned, often in areas where game-bird shooting is economically important. (As habitual scavengers, they’re not even that much of a danger to young birds—but that diet makes them extremely easy to poison.) So there was a special pleasure in seeing one alive and flapping amid the grouse butts of Glen Dye.

Red kite, Glen Dye
Click to enlarge

CCCP 2020: Mona Gowan & Morven

Scraulac (NJ 314056, 741m)
Cairnagour Hill (NJ 325056, 743m)
Mona Gowan (NJ 335058, 749m)
Mullachdubh (NJ 354057, 681m)
Morven (NJ 376039, 872m)

17.9 kilometres
800 metres of ascent

Morven route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018
Path data © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence

The Crow Craigies Climbing Party’s meeting for 2020 was cancelled during the Current Unpleasantness. But the three founding members, now into our fifth decade of chuckling and bickering our way around the Scottish hills (hi Steve, hi Rod) were recently able to get together as lockdown eased, for a day out at the eastern edge of the Cairngorms.

We planned to walk the ridge of Mona Gowan—Moine a’ Ghobhainn, “peat-moss of the blacksmith”. Now, any topographic feature with a name involving the word moine will inevitably involve a bit more up-and-down and to-and-fro than the map suggests, as you weave your way around the peat-hags, but Mona Gowan turned out to be surprisingly straightforward in that respect. Then from the end of the Mona Gowan ridge, we’d link across to Morven (Mor Bheinn, “big hill”), and then stroll back along estate tracks to reach the road and our starting point.

With the luxury of two cars and two handy roadside parking places, we cheated—leaving one car just south of the entrance to Glen Fenzie, and taking the other up to the crest of the pass between Carn a’ Bhacain and Scraulac.

Scraulac was our first objective. The name as spelled by the Ordnance Survey seems out of place, as if the hill had been imported from Brittany, but in Gaelic it’s actually Sgrathalach, which Adam Watson* translates as “rough place abounding in sods”—another bad omen for conditions underfoot which turned out to be misleading. It’s easily accessed by a neat little set of stone steps ascending the heathery bank at the roadside, presumably intended to give easy access to the shooting butts on the slope above. Thereafter, we cast about for a path, didn’t find much of use, and so picked our way up through the heather to reach Scraulac’s little cairn, and a boundary stone marking the border of the old Inverernan and Candacraig estates, which ran along the crest of the ridge.

Summit of Scraulac
Click to enlarge

From there, we passed gently over Cairnagour Hill, with views ahead to the big cairn on Mona Gowan, and Morven in the distance, peering over its southern shoulder.

Mona Gowan and Morven from Cairnagour Hill
Click to enlarge

Mona Gowan proved to host another boundary stone, as well as a monster cairn built in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Presumably that made sense to someone at the time. (And it has to be said that it’s not a patch on the rather grand two-level Jubilee Cairn on Creagan a’ Chaise in the Hills of Cromdale.)

Summit of Mona Gowan
Click to enlarge

From Mona Gowan we descended steeply into an exotically named cleft, the Slacks of Glencarvie. There was no 1960s leisure-wear on display, however—sloc is Gaelic for “pit”.

Slacks of Glencarvie
Click to enlarge

On the west side of the gap there’s a little rocky pinnacle called Castle Wilson. It’s visible in my photograph, but only if you know where to look. There doesn’t seem to have been a Wilson after whom it was named—Adam Watson reckons it might be Caisteal Uillinn, “corner castle”.

We crossed the non-event flat summit of Mullachdubh, visited a little outlying cairn on a scenic promontory, skirted the Rocks of Gleneilpy and descended into the Glac of Bunzeach below Morven. (Got to love these Aberdeenshire toponyms. Gaelic glac means “hollow”; the “z” in Bunzeach is pronounced as a “y”, as in the Scottish surname Dalziel.)

Outlying cairn on Mullachdubh
Click to enlarge

There were a few awkward peat hags on the lower slopes of Morven, but then just a steady pull to the summit. The triangulation pillar is a little lower than the cairn, but has a fine view northwards along the edge of the Cairngorms.

Morven triangulation pillar
Click to enlarge

To the southwest, a tiny sliver of Loch Muick is visible below Lochnagar.

Lochnagar from Morven
Click to enlarge

Then we descended southwest along a rough ATV track to pick up one of the vehicle tracks radiating out from the little cluster of buildings at Morven Lodge.

Morven Lodge
Click to enlarge

We made a little traverse across marshy ground between tracks to reach the track below Tom Liath, and then marched out past the old ruined farm-toun of Glenfenzie, to get back to the road just uphill from our second car.

Glenfenzie ruins
Click to enlarge

It was a fine day out, though a poor substitute for our usual week in the open air. The only wildlife encounters were a couple of distant deer, a lot of rabbits and hares … and a disconcertingly large number of bees, emanating (peacefully, thankfully) from a complex of hives among the trees of Glen Fenzie.

Glen Fenzie beehives
Click to enlarge

* Adam Watson’s magisterial Place Names In Much Of North-East Scotland informs much of my toponymic discussion here.
These annoying Scottish z’s are a relic of an extinct letter—the yogh (ȝ) of Middle English and Old Scots. It had various pronunciations (detailed in my link above), but in Gaelic proper names it was a soft “gh” or “y” sound. Unfortunately, the advent of the printing press saw the yogh replaced with its nearest typographical equivalent in the Latin alphabet, “z”, much to everyone’s confusion ever since.

Glen Isla: Mayar From The Southwest

Finalty Hill (NO 212750, 905m)
Mayar (NO 240737, 928m)

22 kilometres
820 metres of ascent

Mayar route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018
Path data © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence

After more than a hundred days in Covid-19 lockdown, the Oikofuge was finally permitted to live up to his nom-de-blog again, and head for the hills.

I’d noted the accessibility of Mayar from Glen Isla last year, during a previously reported expedition along the east side of the glen. The obvious and most direct route from the road-head at Auchavan would be to head up over Mid Hill and Bawhelps, but I wanted to explore the complicated ridges of Finalty Hill, which sends out multiple fingers into the glen, with an interesting variety of names. From west to east, these are White Strone, Mid Strone, Black Rigging and Sron Meadhonach. The two “strones” derive their name from Gaelic sron, “nose”—a common name for the end of a ridge in the Scottish Highlands. “Rigging” is a Scots word for a level ridge (and also for the ridge of a roof). The “white” and black” are a common Scottish toponymic contrast, usually referring to pale grass and dark heather, though I didn’t see much difference during this trip. And “mid”, of course, is the middle ridge as viewed from Glen Isla near Tulchan Lodge. But (puzzlingly) Sron Meadhonach, the easternmost of the four, is Gaelic for “middle ridge”. I’m guessing it was named from the view up Glen Cally, where it sits between Black Rigging and Sron Deirg, the “red ridge” that extends from the high ground east of Finalty Hill.

So I set off from the rough little parking area beside the River Isla (turn right down the track where the road ends at Auchavan), and followed the private road up towards Tulchan Lodge.*

Tulchan Lodge track, Glen Isla
Click to enlarge

At the lodge gates, I turned to the right and crossed the little bridge over the Isla, which gives access to Finalty Hill.

Bridge over the Isla at Tulchan Lodge
Click to enlarge

After a short climb, the track starts to branch to ascend each of the western three of Finalty’s ridges. I turned to the left as soon as I could, following the edge of a fenced plantation, to reach the path that follows the ridge of White Strone, which I thought would give me the best view into the upper glen.

After three months spent knocking around the limited environs of Dundee, my legs and cardio-respiratory system briefly became hysterical when they realized I was planning on more than a hundred metres of continuous ascent. But I plodded on upwards, eventually reaching the more level ground the Ordnance Survey labels as Spying Hillock. There’s only one convincing hillock along the ridge, which I initially thought afforded enough of a view to qualify as “spying”; but a rounded eminence farther along, exactly where the OS places its label, gives the first view into the head of the glen.

Head of Glen Isla from Spying Hillock
Click to enlarge

Then it was time to frighten the physiology a little more, with the pull up on to Finalty Hill proper. I rejoined the bulldozed track coming up from Mid Strone, and then made a diversion to the cairn that sits oddly far from the summit of Finalty Hill.

Cairn on Finalty Hill, Glen Isla beyond
Click to enlarge

Beyond that, it’s an easy stroll along the broad track to the undistinguished summit, with airy view towards Glas Maol and Cairn of Claise.

Summit of Finalty Hill
Click to enlarge

The summit plateau features an honest-to-god turning circle, presumably for the benefit of grouse shooters in giant four-by-fours. (There was once a substantial hut up here, marked on maps of the 1970s, but it was close to ruin by the late 1980s, and gone by the 2010s. I suspect the grassy mound in the middle of the turning circle, visible at the right of the photograph above, is all that remains.)

I followed the track a little farther, towards Dun Hillocks, and then went off-piste to make a direct line towards Mayar. I’m pretty sure a vehicle track of some sort runs all the way along the high ground to connect to Bawhelps, but I figured the straight line through the bog cotton and peat hags didn’t look too bad.

Bog cotton between Finalty Hill and Mayar
Click to enlarge

And it wasn’t—perhaps not so pleasant in wet weather, but I was able to weave my way through dry-shod and without too much toing-and-froing.

And it gave me the opportunity to be mobbed by owls. (There’s a phrase you don’t encounter every day.) About halfway across, a group of five short-eared owls took a definite dislike to me, and started making low baleful passes overhead.

Short-eared owls, between Finalty Hill and Mayar
Click to enlarge

Unusually for owls, they’re daylight hunters and ground nesters, and typically inhabit open moorland. But I’ve crossed a lot of remote moorland in my time, and have never been the subject of daylight attack by massed owls. (I seem to recollect, at one point, that I shouted, “But you’re owls!” This didn’t put them off.)

The final ascent of Mayar was easy, along a faint path following the line of a broken fence. And then it was time to put my feet up and enjoy the view of Glen Prosen. (Which was my route of approach the last time I climbed this hill.)

Glen Prosen from Mayar
Click to enlarge

I had considered descending via Mid Hill, but decided to look at another of Finalty’s many ridges instead. So I dipped down into the headwaters of the Mayar Burn, and made the easy crossing to the rudimentary “shelter” (just a rough cross of overgrown walls) encountered on the previous visit to this area.

"Shelter" below Mayar
Click to enlarge

From there, I circumvented the headwaters of the Glencally Burn and went back over Finalty Hill. (My legs by this time had settled into a state of sullen incredulity.) But this detour was rewarded with the sight of a large herd of red deer pouring up out of the glen and crossing the ridge of Tom Dubh na Cabair ahead of me. (No, I don’t have a photograph. Weren’t you impressed enough by the owls?)

And then it was just a long rocky descent of the Sron Meadhonach track to regain the glen floor. All in all, I think the grassy line down Sron Deirg on the opposite side of the Glencally Burn is preferable. The subsequent route along the east side of the Isla has several frankly unnecessary and undesirable vertical undulations to it, but overall it was a fine day out, all the better for long anticipation.

Glen Cally from Sron Meadhonach
Click to enlarge

* The name Tulchan has some interesting associations. Gaelic tulach means “hillock”, and a tulachan is small hillock, which is probably the origin of the name of Tulchan Lodge. But a tulchan is, according to  Dieckhoff’s Pronouncing Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic, a “sham calf”. The idea here is that a cow with a dead calf could be tricked into continuing to provide milk by offering her a sham calf—usually the hide of her departed calf stuffed with straw. (I know, I know. But let’s press on.) David Dorward, in The Glens Of Angus, connects tulchan with tulachan by suggesting that the calf hide was once given shape by draping it over a small hillock. Whether or not that’s true, the sham calf then gave its name to the Tulchan bishops. These were bishops appointed by James Douglas, Fourth Earl of Morton, who served as regent during the minority of King James VI of Scotland. In exchange for their position, the bishops passed on much of the Church revenue to Morton and his baronial supporters. Straw men, in other words, milking the populace. Thereafter, the word tulchan was applied to any appointee put in place to siphon wealth to his backers, though it seems to have fallen out of use during the nineteenth century.

Lock-down Walks: Three Ships, Two Bridges, And A Bad Poet

2.6 kilometres
25 metres of ascent

Riverside walk
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

This one’s just a short, level stroll along one of the more interesting sections of Dundee’s waterfront on the Tay estuary. It also goes off-book a bit by being a one-way stroll—linking the two ends of the journey is left as an … ahem … exercise for the interested reader.  Even while the two-metre physical distancing rule is still a thing in these parts, it’s easy enough to navigate the route, though probably best avoided on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Every now and then, on a busy day, a perfect crowd-storm can brew up in the three-metre gap between the river and the new flood-defence wall—sea-anglers on the left, a couple sitting on a bench to the right, an inattentive family group coming from ahead, and cyclists arriving silently from behind.

So, I started at Victoria Dock. This was once a bustling harbour area, with a tannery and a sawmill, a small shipyard and even its own railway station. But it fell into disuses as ships got larger, and now the old buildings have been replaced by shops, restaurants, offices and blocks of flats. It contains precisely two ships: the well-preserved H.M.S. Unicorn, almost two hundred years old; and the much-decayed North Carr Lightship, less than half that age.

Frigate Unicorn, Dundee
Click to enlarge
North Carr Lightship, Dundee
Click to enlarge

The Unicorn, oddly enough, has always had its strange roof—it has never been under sail. By the time it was built, the Napoleonic Wars had ended, and it turned out to be surplus to naval requirements. So the hull was roofed over and laid up. It eventually found its way to Dundee as a training ship later in the nineteenth century, and has been here ever since—a rare surviving frigate from the days of sail.

Between Victoria Dock and the waterfront, amid all the modern construction, there’s a little cobbled street lined with original dockyard buildings, now converted to flats, and evocatively named Chandlers Lane.

Chandlers Lane, Dundee
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The Lane brings you out on the Tay estuary, just east of the Tay Road Bridge, and close to an elegant viewing platform. To the west, all was sunshine:

Tay Road Bridge from near Chandlers Lane, Dundee
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But to the east, the North Sea haar was billowing coldly around the oil-rig decommissioning works at Port of Dundee.

Haar on the Tay, Dundee
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A little detour then took me to the strange perspective-defying artwork on the pillars of the bridge approach road:

Tay Road Bridge pillars, Dundee

For more about that, see my post on Perspective Tricks.

Then back to the shoreline to visit the Telford Beacon.

Telford Beacon, Dundee
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This used to stand on the west side of the entrance to King William IV Dock, which disappeared under reclaimed land in the 1960s—which is why Dundee’s Dock Street is no longer next to a dock, and Shore Terrace no longer leads to a shore. The little lighthouse (named after Thomas Telford, who designed the docks), incongruously survived the infilling of the surrounding waterways and the clearance of the harbour buildings to make way for the Tay Road Bridge. It then stood forlornly for decades in a little corner of parkland, marooned a hundred metres from the sea, just to the left of the old western off-ramp of the bridge. But with the remodelling of the Dundee waterfront and the bridge approaches back in 2011 there was a problem—the new off-ramp was due to go right through the location of the beacon. So they moved it:

At least it now has a view of the sea again.

Tay Road Bridge monument, Dundee
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From there, I strolled past the commemorative monument to the opening of the road bridge, which reproduces one of its support pillars and always reminds me of a giant incisor tooth, and then headed along towards the mad architecture of the new Victoria and Albert design museum.

V&A Museum, Dundee
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Next to that is the R.R.S. Discovery, the Dundee-built ship that took Robert Falcon Scott’s British National Antarctic Expedition to the Antarctic. After many wanderings, and considerable neglect, she found her way back to Dundee in 1986, and now sits in the old Craig Harbour.

RRS Discovery, Dundee
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Before the road bridge was built, the jetty of Craig Harbour, just to the right of the Discovery in the photograph above, was the departure point for the Dundee & Newport Ferry, universally known in Dundee as the “Fifie”—because it took you across the estuary to Fife:

And next to the Discovery is the Discovery Point museum, with its appealing penguin-dotted forecourt.

Discovery Point museum, Dundee
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Heading back to the shore, I soon encountered the commemorative plaque for a record-breaking seaplane flight—6000 miles from the River Tay in Scotland to the Orange River in South Africa, in October 1938.

Maia/Mercury plaque, Dundee
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As you can see from the plaque, the aircraft involved were interesting—the Short Mayo Composite was a seaplane perched on the back of a flying  boat. This was an early solution to the problem of long-haul flight—the little Mercury seaplane was lifted into the air on the back of the Maia flying boat, and therefore didn’t need to carry fuel for take-off. The Maia could go on to carry passengers on local flights, while the Mercury set off on its long-haul journey with a full load of fuel. They were instrumental in the first non-stop trans-Atlantic commercial flight in 1938, but were overtaken by the Second World War and the improvements in aircraft design that came with it—only one Mayo Composite was ever built. Here it is in action during a test flight:

From this point, it’s a straight walk to the Tay Rail Bridge:

Riverside Esplanade and Tay Rail Bridge, Dundee
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If you enlarge the photograph, you can just make out the stubs of the support pillars of the Old Tay Bridge in the water below the current span—a remnant of the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879, when the old bridge collapsed in a storm while a train was crossing.

The original bridge had prompted a rhapsody by Dundee’s Embarrassment Laureate, William McGonagall:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay!
With your numerous arches and pillars in so grand array
And your central girders, which seem to the eye
To be almost towering to the sky.
The greatest wonder of the day,
And a great beautification to the River Tay,
Most beautiful to be seen,
Near by Dundee and the Magdalen Green.

He then went on to add insult to injury with another alleged poem penned after the disaster:

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

For reasons lost in the records of some deranged town planning meeting, Dundee City Council decided to immortalize McGonagall’s earlier work in the form of McGonagall’s Walk, on the approach to the bridge:

McGonagall's Walk and Tay Rail Bridge, Dundee
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Lines from the poem are engraved in stone along the esplanade. And as if that’s not embarrassing enough for Dundee, spelling mistakes have been included, free of charge:

Misspelling on McGonagall's Walk, Dundee
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That’s really the end of the riverside walk. But since McGonagall mentioned Magadalen Green, I’ll just pop across the railway bridge to show you that this little area of parkland still exists, albeit unmown during the Current Unpleasantness. Dundee’s oldest public park is on the site of the mediæval chapel of St Mary Magdalene, and it boasts a rather spiffy bandstand, now well into its second century of existence.

Magdalen Green bandstand, Dundee
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Lock-down Walks: Dundee Law

Dundee Law (NO 391313, 174m)

5.1 kilometres
183 metres of ascent

Dundee Law route
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Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Another day, another park on the way to another Dundee hill. My starting point this time was the southwest corner of the steeply sloping Dudhope Park, on my way to the Dundee Law. Dudhope gets its name from the old word hope, meaning “valley”. Someone with a name like Dudda once owned the valley that separates Dundee Law from Balgay Hill, it would seem. And a law is an isolated conical hill, which is exactly what Dundee Law is. (Although, among Dundonians, it’s often known by the tautologous name “Law Hill”. Which is confusingly pronounced “La Hull”, just so you know.)

The Law is usually ascended from the town by any of several long flights of stairs, but these are narrow and run between high walls, and so are not ideal for maintaining two-metre separation from other walkers. So in the spirit of coronavirus lockdown, the route I’m about to describe follows paved roads and broad paths through parkland. It does contain a couple of very short sections that ascend narrow flights of stairs, but these are all easily negotiated by waiting for anyone coming in the opposite direction to get out of the way.

So I popped up some steps right next to the park entrance, and then headed upwards across the park, aiming for a northern exit that aligns neatly with the prominent memorial on top of the Law.

Dundee Law from Dudhope Park
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Another little flight of steps took me out of the park, from where I wove my up through quiet residential streets, gaining height all the time and beginning to glimpse views out towards the Tay estuary.

From the appropriately named Lawside Avenue I reached a junction with the appropriately named Law Crescent, which makes a three-quarter loop around the hill. I was getting out of the residential area and on to the wooded slopes of the Law itself. A jay started chattering at me from the trees, and I spent a bit of time fruitlessly trying to photograph it before pressing on uphill.

The route passes between two of the allotment garden areas on the Law slopes. Only a few people seemed to be working on their vegetable patches as part of their government mandated outdoor exercise.

Dundee Law allotments
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Once I’d wound around on to the north side of the hill, I dived off-piste into the woodland for a short distance, so that I could show you something interesting:

Dundee Law pillbox
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It’s a Second World War pillbox (a Type 24, to be exact), embedded in the side of hill. (During the war, this was a bare hillside flanked by two quarries, so the firing slits would have had a considerably better view to the north.) Long abandoned and ignored, it has recently been “renovated” and turned into a bat roost (though I’m not sure that strictly counts as renovation).

Dundee Law pillbox bat roost
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At the top end of Law Crescent there’s another interesting building.

"Water Tower", Law Road, Dundee
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This has the style of an old dovecote, but it isn’t one of those. It’s usually referred to as the Water Tower. Built in the 1920s, it received water from a covered reservoir and pumping station on the north side of the Law, and passed it through a coal-fired heating system in a (now demolished) building just down the road, from which the hot water flowed on to houses farther down the hill, as part of the innovative Stirling Avenue District Heating System, which is now long-since defunct.

A few metres up the road from the Water Tower (we’re now on the appropriately named Law Road), there’s a sign marking the location of the Law Tunnel, along which horses used to pull loaded wagons to connect to the Dundee-Newtyle railway.

Dundee Law Tunnel plaque
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The south end of the tunnel is now bricked up, and the north end buried, but see here for a lovely history of the tunnel, including the adventures of some local lads who found their way in during the 1960s.

Law Road completed my first circumnavigation of the hill, and then gave me a second almost-complete turn as I spiralled towards the top, with its impressive war memorial and wide views across the Tay to the south, and towards the Sidlaw Hills in the north.

Summit of Dundee Law
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The bronze finial of the memorial is a brazier, in which a fire is lit four times a year: on 25 September, for the beginning of the Battle of Loos, which was a disaster for the 4th (City of Dundee) Battalion of The Black Watch; on 24 October, for United Nations Day; on Remembrance Sunday in November; and on 11 November, for Armistice Day. (Those last two dates sometimes align with each other, so the brazier is lit only three times in those years.)

The summit also bears a triangulation pillar, a view indicator, and the inevitable communications tower. Someone has painted the building at the base of the tower with a pretty mural, so I got a photograph of a jay after all.

View north from Dundee Law
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Rather than retrace my long, winding ascent route, I took a more direct route down. A flight of steps descends into parkland to the east of the Law summit, but it’s easy to look over the railing, check for any approaching traffic, and skip down the first section of the stairs when the coast is clear.

Steps on Dundee Law
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A path through the park descends to Law Road, passing under a decorative iron archway in the shape of a whale’s jawbone. It’s a nod to Dundee’s whaling past, designed by Kevin Blackwell and erected in 2013 to replace a wooden version that was getting a little the worse for wear.

Whale bone arch, Dundee Law
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I retraced my steps as far as the Water Tower, and then headed south, picking my way through residential areas that include Stirling Avenue (the beneficiary of the the District Heating System mentioned above). Eventually I emerged at the northeast corner of Dudhope Park.

From there I took a little diversion for old times’ sake, to visit the mad Tudor-style splendour of the old Dundee Royal Infirmary.

Dundee Royal Infirmary
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It opened in 1855 and closed in 1998, and I worked there, on and off, for close to twenty years, often dashing in and out through the oddly unprepossessing entrance to the Accident and Emergency department, with its motto Pro Ægris Et Læsis—“For the Sick and Injured”. Nowadays, the whole building has been remodelled into flats.

Dundee Royal Infirmary entrance
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Then back into Dudhope Park through its east entrance, from where I found my way down to Dudhope Castle, a rather splendid 16th Century edifice with a pretty garden in front, which nowadays houses city council offices.

Dudhope Castle, Dundee
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From Dudhope Castle, it was just a stroll down the access road to return to my starting point. But the whale-jaw arch had put me in mind to visit a similar piece of sculpture nearby—Alastair Smart’s Whale’s Teeth, on Polepark Road. They evoke gigantic scrimshaw work, engraved with scenes from Dundee’s history.

Whale's Teeth, Polepark Road, Dundee
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