Glen Doll – Glen Clova Circuit

Cairn Lunkard (NO 232781, 863m)
Craigs of Loch Esk (NO 237786, 851m)

17 kilometres
790 metres of ascent

Doll-Clova route
Click to enlarge
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Path data © OpenStreetMap contributors under the Open Database Licence

This is a classic circular route over the plateau between Glen Doll and upper Glen Clova, but it’s been fifty years since I last walked it. I was put in mind of doing it again during my recent trip across the plateau from Cairn Broadlands to Cairn Damff.

Quite an obvious path links the glen heads, these days, but I aimed instead to pass over the low humps of Cairn Lunkard and the Craigs of Loch Esk.

So there was the usual forest walk along the lower stretch of Jock’s Road, before coming out of the trees and getting a sudden view of upper Glen Doll, with the thin ribbon of the path ascending along its north side.

Glen Doll and Jock's Road above the forestry
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I’ve described before how the old droving route of Jock’s Road supposedly got its name from a local shepherd in the nineteenth century. I’ve always thought that the prominent little knob at the head of Glen Doll, called The Lunkard, would be a good viewpoint from which to appreciate Glen Doll and the line of Jock’s Road, and so it proved to be.

Panorama of Glen Doll from The Lunkard
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While I was taking the panoramic view above, I was receiving the continuous attention of a pair of irate kestrels, who must have had a nest nearby.

“Lunkard” is a Scots word meaning “temporary shelter”, and the drovers may have made camp in the sheltered cleft below The Lunkard, after descending from the exposed plateau. The successor to these camps is the mountain shelter of Davy’s Bourach, which lies a little farther up the glen.

Davy's Bourach above Glen Doll
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I’ve written before about the Gaelic meaning of bourach—“a mess”. But it seems to have acquired quite a selection of meanings in Scots, of which “mound”, “heap” and “hovel” might all apply. Given the shelter’s construction, I think there’s also more than a passing connection to the verb bourach, which means “to burrow”. The “Davy” involved was David Glen, a local outdoorsman who was involved in the recovery of the bodies of five members of the Universal Hiking Club of Glasgow, who perished in foul weather on New Year’s Day 1959 while crossing the plateau. Glen set about constructing this emergency shelter soon after—three dry-stone walls and roof constructed of timber and corrugated iron brought laboriously up the glen, completed in 1966.

Beyond the bourach, I followed Jock’s Road a little farther, looping below the steep side of Cairn Lunkard and then walking to the summit along its short and easy-angled northwestern slope. I paused to take a photograph of the view of Cairn Damff and Craig Damff to the east—very much changed from the snowy conditions in which I recently visited them, then dropped off the hill into its northern lee for a bite of lunch.

Craig Damff and Cairn Damff from Cairn Lunkard
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A stroll across the moorland took me to the Craigs of Loch Esk, with a view of Broad Cairn and Lochnagar.

Broad Cairn and Lochnagar from Craigs of Loch Esk
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then a short descent to the north brought me in sight of the Craigs’ namesake, Loch Esk. I crossed the remote outflow of Loch Esk a few years ago, on my way from the Glittering Skellies to Fafernie Shiel—more on that trip here (including an explanation of what a skellie and a shiel might be).

Loch Esk, Craig of Gowal and Broad Cairn
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A few metres farther down the hill, and I was on the well-worn plateau path, which quickly took me down to the larches and Scots pines of Bachnagairn, at the head of upper Glen Clova, and one of my favourite places in the world.

Bachnagairn and upper Glen Clova
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From there, the path broadens into a track, which took me below the cliffs of Juanjorge. (I’ve written more about that odd name when I described a visit to the top of the cliffs last year.)

Juanjorge cliffs, Glen Clova
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And I finally got a chance to walk across the new bridge across the South Esk, just above Moulzie farm, which replaces the old one swept away by winter floods a few years ago.

New bridge over the South Esk above Moulzie
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It certainly beats the temporary bog-trotting route along the west side of the river which was the main route up the glen for a year or so, in the absence of a bridge.

2 thoughts on “Glen Doll – Glen Clova Circuit”

  1. A good read ! Your photography seems much improved . Did BC give you lessons , was the light do much better ( though it was quite overcast ) or did you have a better camera ???. Remember to get pictures of any wildlife in situ , especially of you spot a haggis on a hillside ,eh !

    1. The Boon Companion tells me I have subliminally absorbed some rules of composition from her images, but my artlessly naive preference is still mainly to put whatever I’m interested in slap-dab in the middle of the frame. The panorama of Glen Doll is courtesy of my antique Android phone, which has produced a number of panoramas for various walk and trip reports prior to this one. I did replace my old Canon Ixus with a new one just before this trip–it’s still just a tiny point-and-shoot that slips easily into a pocket of my trousers (I’ll never be prepared to carry anything larger), so any credit for improved image quality goes to the camera rather than myself!

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