Hill of Strone (NO 288729, 850m)
Driesh (NO 271735, 947m)
890 metres of ascent
Driesh is usually climbed along with it neighbour to the west, Mayar. Most people seem to come in from Glen Doll in the north, a route I’ve previously described, but the longer approach from Glen Prosen in the south has its merits, which I’ve also written about. Having also approached Mayar across the plateau to its west, I thought I might restore some sort of cosmic balance by walking to Driesh along the ridge to its east.
Previous wandering in the area revealed upper Glen Prosen to have been hard hit by Storm Arwen earlier in the year, with many trees down, some damaging property and others obstructing tracks in the Glenclova Forest.
The track from the road-end beyond Glenprosen Lodge, leading up by the Burn of Farchal and emerging at the Dead Water, has been cleared. But, at the time of this trip, my planned approach along the track running north from Cramie was blocked by windfall on a broad front just south of the stile and gate below Cairn Inks.
So Plan B was to head east from Cramie along the track to Craigiemeg, then turn north over the open moor immediately after emerging from the forest. Here, there’s a 4×4 track, just two parallel grooves in the heather and unmarked on any map I’ve seen, which runs parallel to the forest fence to serve the grouse butts on Mount Bouie.
There’s room for a couple of cars at the road-end, and also a flat bit of ground between road and river just short of Glenprosen Lodge, which has something of the aspect of a parking area (there’s a waste bin) but which also seems to fulfil a function as a turning area for large vehicles (the semicircular ruts of large tyres were evident). So I tucked my car well to the side and clear of the ruts.
(At this point, I’ll intrude a little premonitory and explanatory note on toponyms for non-Scots, to reduce the number of linguistic diversions in my walk report, which is already unusually crammed with interesting place-names. There are two Shanks and two Snecks coming up. A shank, in a topographic context, is a sloping ridge descending from a hill summit; and a sneck is a steep-sided col between two hills.)
My route began at the entrance to Cramie farm, where I was briefly distracted by a sign on the gate:
At first I parsed “Caution Walkers” as an instruction for walkers to be cautious of some unnamed peril, but then decided it was a directive aimed at drivers, warning them to be alert for walkers on the track. Or so I hoped.
I turned right at Cramie (the left turn goes up the hill until it eventually encounters the swathe of windfallen trees previously mentioned), passed a telephone mast, went through a gate, and then turned uphill next to the deer-fence that protects the Glenclova forestry. (Why this patch of forest in Glen Prosen is named after the next glen to the north is a mystery I have yet to solve.)
After a steep pull up a grassy slope, I picked up the 4×4 track, and marched north along one of the slots in the heather left by the vehicle wheels. As I rounded the corner on Craigiemeg Hill, I was able to get a view into Glen Clova through the gap between Cairn Inks and Cairn of Barns—the distant crags, by my estimation, are the cliffs above Loch Brandy, along which I’ve previously walked.
Cairn of Barns has nothing to do with farm buildings—in Scots, the barns in this context are large rocks. Cairn Inks is something of a puzzle, however, since the Scots word inks refers to water-meadows—shoreline pastures that are intermittently flooded by the spring tides. Watson hazards that the name might originally have been Carn Ing, invoking an old Gaelic word ing meaning (among other things) “neck of land”. And my view of the Craigs of Loch Brandy in the photograph above is indeed permitted by the low neck of land between Cairn Inks and Cairn of Barns. So it all hangs together.
There’s a natural law that, whenever one encounters a truly stout and well-maintained deer-fence in the Scottish Highlands, there will be deer inside it. And, sure enough, I soon scared up a couple of roe deer on the forest side of the fence. A couple of buzzards drifted over to see what I was up to, and then a pair of ravens came by, seeming to scold me with their flight calls.
Just before the ascent of Mount Bouie, I crossed a little lump with the intriguing name of West Mackermack; there’s an East Mackermack nearby. Mackermack is probably muc earranach, “area for pigs”, which gives a hint of what land-use must have been like in the days before the moorland became a managed duoculture of heather and grouse. And Mount Bouie gives another clue—it’s monadh buidhe, “yellow hill”, implying that it was once covered in grass, rather than the solid covering of heather it now sports for the benefit of the grouse and the people who shoot them.
After descending Bouie and crossing the unimpressive Sneck of Inks, I finally reached the northeast corner of the deer-fence, and a view of Hill of Strone in the distance.
Another, lower fence continues up the hill to the ridge-line, and I elected to slip westwards over the little wooden section in my picture, so that I could be on the same side of the fence as Hill of Strone. I needn’t have bothered, though, since I found a gate in the fence higher on the hill, of interesting construction.
I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a sliding wooden gate before. (In the photograph I’ve opened it slightly to check that it actually worked the way I thought it did, but I closed it again afterwards.)
From Cairn Inks, I was able to look down on the storm-induced carnage among the trees below. Here’s a view of the huge area of windfall that blocks the eastern track through the forestry:
There’s a path along the ridge-line between Cairn Inks and Hill of Strone:
This provides easy walking, with views back down into Prosen on the left, and the more dramatically steep-side Clova to the right. In the image below, you can see the grey bulk of Lochnagar on the skyline, with the cleft of upper Glen Clova in the centre, and the bulges of Craig Mellon and Cairn Broadlands peeping out from behind the foreground crags of Corlowie (coire loaigh, “corrie of the calves”) at left. I’ve visited both Mellon and Broadlands on a previous excursion, and have also written about my walk along the northern rim of upper Glen Clova.
After a short pull uphill, I reached the rounded summit of Hill of Strone. (In topographic terms, Gaelic sron, “nose”, indicates the end of a promontory of land. I’m guessing the sron that gave Hill of Strone its name is the southward ridge now called the Shank of Strone.) This gave me a view across to Driesh, which retained a crescent of snow on the rim of an unnamed shallow corrie.
It looks like more easy strolling in the photograph, but tucked away between Strone and Driesh is the cleft of the Sneck of Farchal, above Corrie Farchal in Glen Clova:
Watson translates Corrie Farchal as coire faireachail, “corrie of watching”, and certainly the upper reaches of the corrie, below the Sneck, would be a good vantage point, looking out over the junction of Glen Doll with Glen Clova.
The pull out of the Sneck on to Driesh was madly steep for a short distance, and then it lay back on to the long, easy-angled shoulder visible at left of my photograph, which took me to Driesh’s crowded cairn.
In many visits, I’ve only ever had the summit to myself in the foulest of foul weather, or the poorest of visibility.
After lunch at the cairn, I walked a little east of south until I picked up a view of the Shank of Driesh below, my route back down into Prosen:
You can see the prominent vehicle track that runs along the Shank. My old OS 1:25000 shows this trending around the west side of the shallow Corrie of Lick, whereas my aim was to keep to the east, heading towards Cairn Baddoch (the wooded summit in the middle distance above Prosen, in my photograph). I cast around for a path that appeared on my map, but was not evident on the ground, and then headed off cross-country, picking my way along fairly easy routes created by recent muir-burn, only to discover that the track I was aiming for, shown by the OS on the shoulder of Cairn Baddoch, didn’t exist either. So I descended through more muir-burn until I reached a decent track on the east side of the Burn of Lick. Looking uphill, I could see that it quite obviously linked to the track on the west side of Corrie of Lick—if I’d descended a little farther before striking off cross-country, I’d have found it. (If you check the map at the head of this post, you’ll see the current arrangement of tracks, as well as my pointless eastward excursion through the heather.)
Then it was just an easy descent in the sunshine, accompanied by the strange, burbling calls of curlews in the glen below: