Category Archives: Walking

Glen Doll: Craig Mellon to Cairn Damff

Craig Mellon (NO 262773, 866m)
Cairn Broadlands (NO 270777, 852m)
Craig Damff (NO 247777, 846m)

15.5 kilometres
800 metres of ascent

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

Craig Mellon and Cairn Broadlands dominate the view up Glen Clova as you approach the road-head—neatly paired humps with Glen Doll on the left and upper Glen Clova on the right. The broad slope between the two humps is called The Ought, which comes from Gaelic an-t’uchd, “the brow of the hill”.

Craig Mellon and Cairn Broadlands from Glen Clova
Click to enlarge

Behind the pair, an undulating and steep-sided plateau separates Doll and Clova, an outlier of the larger massif that extends as far as Glen Isla, the Cairnwell Pass, and Lochnagar above Glen Muick.

It’s a round forty-five years since I’ve visited these hills—in 1976 my father, brother and I walked from somewhere near the high point of Jock’s Road, above Glen Doll, and descended The Ought to get back to the car park. This time, I aimed to follow a similar route in reverse—up The Ought, and then west across the high ground to descend on to Jock’s Road for my return journey.

There’s a zig-zag path through the forest and up to the plateau marked on my 1:25000 Ordance Survey map. It starts from the driveway of Glen Doll Lodge, and strikes up pleasantly through the trees, crossing a broad forestry track that isn’t marked on my map. When it reaches the tree-line, it used to run westward along the inside of the forest deer-fence to a tall stile. It still takes the same route, but the old fence is gone. Instead, you can just walk around the weathered remains of the stile and out on to the open hillside.

Remains of old stile and deer fence below Cairn Broadlands
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I followed the path for a while, but as I got higher it became hard to follow through the drifted snow, and I instead struck off on to my own route, which brought me out at the cairn of Craig Mellon, with an impressive view of Driesh, the Shank of Drumfollow and Corrie Kilbo across Glen Doll.

Driesh and Corrie Kilbo from Craig Mellon cairn
Click to enlarge

It’s a feature of all my planned hills for the day that they have an interesting promontory that extends outwards from a flat summit set back from the edge of the plateau. So after admiring the view from the cairn for a while, I strolled up to the featureless patch of tundra that is the true summit of Craig Mellon, and then made a ninety-degree turn towards Cairn Broadlands, which is the rounded lump in the middle distance in the view below, with the line of a path picked out be drifted snow.

Cairn Broadlands from Craig Mellon
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Drifted snow proved to be an impediment to progress—some of these little white patches are an innocuous inch or two deep, but some of them conceal holes into which a leg can disappear thigh-deep. So I picked my way circuitously, trying to stick to areas where I could see at least a tuft of vegetation.

The north wind blasting across Broadlands was positively Arctic, so I tarried only long enough on the summit to take a photograph of the view of snowy Lochnagar.

Lochanagar from Cairn Broadlands
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Then I dropped a short distance southwards on Broadlands’ own little promontory, where I sat for a bite of lunch out of the wind, admiring the view down lower Glen Clova.

Glen Clova from Cairn Broadlands
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Then up into the wind again, and a contouring line across the plateau to reach my next summit. The going was unpleasant in places, with the low peat hags full of snow and melt-water, and easy lines difficult to find, but by circuitous routes punctuated by futile cursing, I eventually arrived at a little bulge in the plateau with a cairn on it, and a view across to Mayar and the line of impressive crags on the south side of Glen Doll.

Mayar from Craig Damff
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This spot, justly ignored for centuries by all who passed it, has now been labelled Craig Damff, which is actually the name of a row of crags that form the north side of Glen Doll at this point. They fall away from the edge of the plateau in the middle distance of my photograph above, as partners to the crags on the south side. But this is a local high point, and in hill-bagging circles that means it requires a name, even if that is borrowed from some other part of the scenery. (Likewise, Craig Mellon correctly refers to the little craggy promontory that extends out over Glen Clova, not the undistinguished lump that has taken on that label in hillwalking circles.)

And so I descended a short distance to the interesting bit of this hill, Cairn Damff, which extends as a rocky promontory above Jock’s Road. (The view below looks back across Glen Doll towards Driesh.)

Driesh from Cairn Damff
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My descent route then took me around three-quarters of a circle, starting north and then contouring around below the steep western face of Cairn Damff while trying to say above the deep snowdrifts covering the burns running below. In fact, I was so keen not to descend into the snow-stuffed terrain below me that I forgot my chosen line to reach Jock’s Road, which would have crossed the watercourses higher up and then allowed a gentle descent to join the track.

I realised my error when I caught my first sight of Jock’s Road, an improbable distance below me.

Jock's Road and Glen Doll from below Cairn Damff
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Oops. No, not going down that way. So I turned around and made a descending traverse while the line of Jock’s Road rose to meet me, and I eventually came out on to the track some distance below the point at which I’d originally planned to emerge, at Davy’s Bourach. (I’ve written before about why this old droving route is called Jock’s Road, and about what a bourach is—see this previous post about the Mounth Roads for more information.)

Then it was just a matter of descending Jock’s Road below the real Craig Damff to reach the forest in the lower reaches of the glen.

Lower part of Jock's Road, Glen Doll
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No matter how often I walk Jock’s Road, I’m always surprised at how long the final section through the forest takes. But eventually I got back to the car park.

Primroses, Glen Doll
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Lockdown Walks: Three Brochs

Hurley Hawkin (NO 332327)
Craig Hill (NO 431358)
Laws Hill (NO 491349)

Dundee brochs
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Maintaining appropriate physical distance in the locked-down urban environment of Dundee has become increasingly difficult with Vaccine Optimism on the rise, and your correspondent has been getting tired of doing the bulk of the work in this regard, endlessly dodging those of his fellow citizens who are blithely distracted by conversations, pets, small children or mobile phones (and sometimes all four simultaneously).

The rules allow us to travel up to five miles beyond the boundaries of our Local Authority Area to “reach a safe non-crowded place” for exercise, and my general habit, pre-Covid, was always to take exercise in locations where I couldn’t even see another human being, which is about as safe and non-crowded as you can get. So that’s how I came up with a plan to visit some lowland broch sites.

Brochs are thick-walled Iron-Age towers of dry-stone construction, largely confined to northern Scotland and the Atlantic coast.

Broch map
Distribution of brochs in Scotland by Anameofmyveryown
Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence

After two millennia, and extensive stone-robbing for later building, very few are in any sort of good repair. As the map shows, there are a tiny number of broch sites in lowland Scotland, and most of them are mere archaeological traces. Surprisingly, three of these sites are within spitting distance of the Dundee City Local Authority Area—you can see them in a neat little row just north of the Tay estuary on the map above.

One of my very earliest posts in this blog concerned (among other things), the possible broch site at Little Dunsinane in the Sidlaws. It’s so “possible” it doesn’t even merit a red dot on the broch map above, but I’ve plotted it on my own map at the head of this post. All that can be seen nowadays is a suspiciously symmetrical mound in the moorland.

Remains of the broch below Little Dunsinane
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So I didn’t have any great hopes of seeing much at my three broch sites, but I did anticipate being able to spend some time in the open air without having to dodge other people.

Hurley Hawkin

Hurley Hawkins broch location
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

One of the most interesting things about Hurley Hawkin is its name. Andrew Jervise, in his report of excavations at the site back in 1865, had this to say on the topic:

It is known as Hurley Hawkin, a name which suggests an affinity to that of the hill of “Hurly Hackit” at Stirling, which is popularly believed to have originated from it having been the scene of a childish diversion of that name […] It would appear that the sport of “hurlie-hakket” consisted in sliding down a slope or precipice; and as Hurley Hawkin slopes rapidly towards the south, and is otherwise well suited for such an amusement, possibly the name had originated from much the same cause as that ascribed to Hurly Hackit.

The on-line Scottish National Dictionary agrees with Jervise about the nature of hurlie-hacket, and adds the lovely detail that children in Edinburgh, at the end of the eighteenth century, were playing this game using a horse’s skull for a sledge. In Scots, a hurl is (among other things) a ride; a hacket is a particular kind of cow (or sometimes a horse). So hurlie-hacket is a ride on a cow or horse—perhaps a reference to the inverted skull of one of these creatures, which would make a reasonably sized sledge for one small person. And hawkney is one Scots version of the now-disused English word hackney, denoting an ordinary riding horse.* Which makes me wonder if Hawkin is a metathesized version of hawkney.

Anyway, none of that has brought us any closer to the broch site, which sits on a little promontory of land flanked on its west and east by deep clefts, carved by two streams which merge on its southern side in the Gray Den. In a well-ordered world it would be inside the Dundee Local Authority Area, but the boundary takes a bit of a diversion around it, presumably following an old property line, as you can see on my map. What you can’t see on my map is any indication of my route of approach, for reasons that will become painfully clear within the next couple of paragraphs.

There are houses to the north and west of the site, but I stepped from the road on to a low retaining wall and then walked through open woodland to get to the head of Gray Den below the promontory. The Canmore entry for this site describes how there were a succession of structures on top of the promontory, with the broch built on the site of an earlier fort. You can see that it’s a fabulous defensive position. It’s also an ideal location for hurlie-hacket—or would have been, in the days before it was completely overgrown with trees.

Hurley Hawkin broch site promontory from the south
Click to enlarge

I scrambled up the steep face, and emerged on the flat surface of the promontory—and within a stone’s throw of the lawn of a house just north of the site, a great deal closer than I had expected. Apart from a raised suggestion of the fort rampart, there’s was no evidence of any structure among the trees. I paused to take a brief panoramic view with my phone—evidence of a lack of evidence, as it were—and then headed back the way I’d come.

Hurley Hawkin broch site
Click to enlarge

As I was picking my way back towards the road, I was hailed by a lady standing on the high ground to the north, and we held a shouted conversation across a ten-metre gap, during which she explained to me, without every using the word “trespassing”, that I was, well, trespassing. The property line around her house encompassed not only the lawn, but the patch of forest I was walking through, as well as the broch site. Picture her surprise, then, when I’d popped up in my bright red jacket at the bottom of her lawn. Oh dear. I offered my apologies and departed, chastened. This was not a good start to the Three Brochs Expedition.

Craig Hill

Route to site of Craig Hill broch
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Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Craig Hill, as you can see from my map, is another cracking defensive position, with steep ground on three sides overlooking the line of the Fithie Burn. And again, the Canmore entry for the site describes how the broch was built over the remains of an earlier fort.

There’s a lot of farmland around the site, and I decided to walk in along an avenue of old trees that starts on the road near Houletnook. (Another splendid placename, which can be translated as “Owl Corner”.)

A faint path connected to a farm track, which ended at a broken fence. I stepped over the sagging fence wire, and climbed on to the grassy promontory—to be faced with a wall of spiky gorse bushes.

Approach to Craig Hill from the east
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Ruined fence below Craig Hill
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Summit of Craig Hill
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Circumventing that to the north brought me to a wall of non-spiky broom bushes, which overlooked the western slope of the hill. And that was that—any remnants of the broch and fort are obscured under vegetation. (And the black-and-white aerial photographs at Canmore show there was nothing to see even before the broom and gorse took root.)

Strike two.

Laws Hill

Route to Laws Hill broch
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Another craggy defensible hill, and another fort-and-broch combination, according to the Canmore entry for the site. The obvious approach on the map is from the east via Laws Farm, but that turns out to be a private driveway belonging to some houses among the farm buildings. So I made my approach from the northwest, following a dog-walkers’ track that begins on the Drumsturdy Road next to Laws Lodge. This eventually arrived at what my untutored eye interpreted as a silage pit. I popped over a metal gate just beyond this, which gave access to the steep open hillside. A bit of zigzagging up around crags and through trees brought me out on the bald summit—and an amazing conglomeration of ruined buildings, spanning millennia of occupation. Including, mirabile dictu, a few courses of stone remaining from the base of the broch:

Broch, Laws Hill
Click to enlarge

Perched above the broch is an interesting little turret variously described by Canmore’s documentation as a “summer house” or “charnel house“, which is a combination you don’t often see.

Broch and "charnel house", Laws Hill
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I’m guessing the “charnel house” was at some time used to store bones removed from the prehistoric burial sites recorded on the hill.

The masonry of the fort has been excavated and is still visible in places:

Fort ramparts, Laws Hill
Click to enlarge

And there are three ruinous structures of obscure function, described as “follies”:

Folly, Laws Hill
Click to enlarge

So the third time was the charm.

You can take a (rather jerky) tour of the area in the YouTube video below.


* Yes, hence the idea of a hackneyed phrase—one that’s been ridden around the block a few too many times, like an old riding horse.

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

Commissioner
Sir William Ray

Surveyor
Alexander Martin
Cupar

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

Clachnaben

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

Lochnagar from Morven
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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.