Dron Hill: The Hard Way

Dron Hill (NO 288321, 211m)

12 kilometres
210 metres of ascent

Dron route
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Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Dron Hill is an outlier of an outlier of the Sidlaws. I didn’t include it in my Sidlaws Gazetteer because it felt like it might be one of the Braes of the Carse, but it actually doesn’t feel like it belongs there either. Either way, it’s one of those rare instances in this area of a settlement taking its name from a hill, and not the other way around—dronn is Gaelic for “hump”. And this “hump hill” is reputedly easily climbed by walking a few hundred metres from the little hamlet of Dron to its east, but that really seems far too simple, doesn’t it?

So I walked in a couple of miles from the north-west, having parked at the gate of Little Ballo woodlands (NO 269348). I’ve been this way before, when I first visited Redmyre Loch and climbed White Hill, and I wanted to have another wander around that area. The path from Little Ballo to Dron is prominently signposted, but deeply disappointing. It starts as a broad woodland path, and ends as a broad farm track—but there’s a kilometre in the middle in which it is no more than a shoulder-wide muddy slot between whin bushes, rutted by the tracks of bikes and horses.

Little Ballo - Dron path
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I followed the track down past the Redmyre sheepfolds, Redmyre Cottage, and a grand-looking house just beyond that, to a corner (NO 291325) where the track turns towards the road at Dron. There was a field gate here that looked like it would give access to the hill, but I chose instead to dive into the open woodland to its left, with the vague expectation that I’d find a fallen fence or a broken gate at the top end. No such luck—although I was able to step over one line of fencing, I ended up teetering over some rather sturdy barbed wire to get access to the open hill. It’s not a good route.

Dron Hill from the east
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Finally on the approach to Dron Hill

But Dron Hill itself is a delight—rolling grassland dotted with beech and pine, the just discernible ring of a prehistoric fort, and lovely views south to Dundee and the Tay estuary, and north to the main Sidlaw ridge.

Summit of Dron Hill
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Summit of Dron Hill, looking north

From the summit I dropped northwards, following a prominent animal track towards a bridge over the Dron Burn that’s marked on the 1:25,000 map. That took me to a gate, which took me back to the field gate I had spurned on the way up. So that’s the easy route. (Oh well—you can’t guess right every time.)

From there I had aspirations to get back to my starting point by skirting around the south side of White Hill, where the map shows a track linking the Redmyre sheepfolds to the Redmyre estate buildings and then on to Littleton, from where I could walk up the road to my car. But this proved to be an abortive attempt. Although old maps show this as the main, tree-line approach to the estate buildings, there has been a determined effort to block the route, with electric fencing and a new plantation of trees in place. Walkers are instead routed northwards, on a line that eventually links back to the Little Ballo path I’d come along. I wandered southwards for a bit, to see if I could connect to a remnant of the old southerly route into Redmyre (also prominent on the old maps) but ran into even more fences.

Oh well. Time for Plan B. I headed back to the track junction at the sheepfolds (NO 287331), pausing along the way to commune for a while with a very relaxed red squirrel in the woodland to the south. (Redmyre have set up a squirrel hide here, but this little fella was just running back and forwards across the track on some obscure squirrel business.)

Red Squirrel hide, Redmyre Estate
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The squirrel hide

Then I walked back up the ghastly route to Little Ballo as far as a gate at NO 283338. (Note added 2021: Access here is now blocked by barbed wire. The best route to Redmyre Loch  and Farm is by heading west through a gate at NO 285334.)

Access to Redmyre Loch from Little Ballo - Dron path
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I stepped over the collapsed fence next to it (you can see it in the picture, above) and then followed a vehicle track through the trees and up to Redmyre Loch. Last time I was here, I was greeted by strange bird noises, which proved to be emanating from a little group of Whooper Swans. This time the loch was dotted with Mute Swans, Canada Geese, and whole flotillas of ducks … and there were more strange noises. Here’s what it sounded like, courtesy of the good people at xeno-canto:

Male wigeon, calling. They obviously didn’t get the “quack quack” memo from Duck Central.

Redmyre boat house
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Marching on past Redmyre’s eccentric mock-Tudor boat house, I followed the track south, to finally reach the Redmyre estate buildings, after walking a couple of kilometres around a triangular route to get there, instead of a couple of hundred metres along their old approach road.

After that, it was plain sailing—a scenic stroll westwards down what seems to now be Redmyre’s only access track (completely replacing its historical approaches from east and south), to reach a muddy junction at Littleton Farm, and then about a kilometre up a quiet road to my car at Little Ballo.

Redmyre track, looking towards Gask Hill
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The Redmyre track, looking towards Gask Hill

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