Badandun Hill (NO 207678, 740m)
Mid Hill (NO 220709, 774m)
Bawhelps (NO 226722, 828m)
880 metres of ascent
This was a slightly odd little outing, but no less enjoyable for that. A hillwalking companion of many years (one of the CCCP crowd) was keen to climb Badandun Hill. We had a weather forecast that predicted heavy, thundery showers coming in at the start of the afternoon, but it still gave us all morning to enjoy the hills. So rather than simply trot up and down a single hill, we planned to wend our way north along the ridge separating lower Glen Isla from upper Glen Prosen. This would allow us to keep a weather eye to the east, from which direction the bad stuff was due to arrive, with the option to bale easily down and westwards at any point if things began to look threatening.
We parked by the river just beyond Auchavan, a location that I’ve used before to gain access to upper Glen Isla, but on this occasion we started off to the south along the tarmac road, heading for the interesting little bridge at Fergus.
From there, we followed a vehicle track up into the Fergus Corrie, only abandoning that easy route when it started to climb the rocky little shoulder of Craig Lair. We made a short traverse through long grass and short heather to reach the track that runs along the ridge line, just where it crossed the Fergus Burn, and then followed it up to the summit of Badandun. From there, we had hazy view northwards along the ridge we were planning to follow.
On the way up, we watched a pair of strikingly large wings appear from behind the hill—the skyline gave us a sense of distance from which we could deduce that this was a big bird, even before a couple of crows rose from the hillside to mob it, giving us another size comparison. The golden eagle (for such it was) affected to ignore them, but then gave a couple of lazy, contemptuous flaps of its wings before drifting away to try its luck elsewhere. Presumably it had an eyrie in the crags at the top of the glen, or perhaps it had come over from the head of Glen Doll.
From Badandun we retraced our steps, climbed Craig Lair to visit its neat little cairn, followed the track on to Mid Hill, and then strolled across to the rounded lump of Bawhelps. I wish I could tell you the origin of that strange name—in The Glens Of Angus, David Dorward hazards a connection to Gaelic ba, “cattle”, but throws up his hands in despair over the second syllable; in Place Names In Much Of North-east Scotland, Adam Watson offers bogha-chloiche, “stone- bow”, but that doesn’t seem to match either the location or the pronunciation. Take your pick.
From Bawhelps, we followed the track (now unmarked by the Ordnance Survey) on to the broad shoulder between the boggy headwaters of the Glencally and Fee Burns. The summit of Mayar was a mere kilometre away at this point, and some day I’ll come back to add it to my collection of “much-frequented hills climbed by unfrequented routes”—but cumulus was starting to boil up over the hills to our north.
So we kept to the track as it turned to the northwest, giving us the chance to check out the object marked as a “shelter” on the map. It turned out to be no more than an elaborate windbreak—a T-shaped construction of low dry-stone walls, much overgrown. A fine place to hunker down on a windy day for a bite to eat, but a pretty disappointing destination if caught out in a blizzard.
We walked off to the southwest, down the long grassy nose of Sron Deirg, aiming to pick up another vehicle track in Glen Cally. Out of the wind, we found ourselves descending into warm, stiflingly humid air—for the first time in the day it actually felt like thunder might be in the air.
But we got back to the cars and away down the glen before anything unpleasant happened.