East Lomond (NO 243061, 434m)
West Lomond (NO 197066, 522m)
Bishop Hill (NO 185043,461m)
710 metres of ascent
Having previously climbed West Lomond and East Lomond from the Craigmead car park, and having made a more recent traverse of Bishop Hill from the Holl Reservoir car park, I decided it was time to chain all three summits together into a circuit that would take me right around the three large reservoirs that nestle below these hills. The tracks on all three hills can be annoyingly muddy in places, so I chose a day that fell about a week into a period of static high pressure over Scotland. The dry spell reduced the amount of mud considerably, but unfortunately generated a lot of haze that obscured some of the longer sightlines.
I parked at Holl, and then headed down the short stretch of road that dips below the grassy slopes of the Holl Reservoir dam. Beyond the road end, the route crosses a bridge over the reservoir’s spill-way, and then follows a track that crosses the ridge of higher ground separating Holl Reservoir from Ballo Reservoir. In the plantation beside the path I could hear a wren singing, with its characteristic “soft machine-gun” trills, like this:
I cast about for sight of the bird—to be rewarded with no more than a momentary glimpse of a whirring, chocolate-brown blur as it dived for cover.
The path descends towards the buildings of Balgothrie, but then follows a tortuous and many-gated route circumventing the buildings and eventually pops out along the grassy shoreline of Ballo Reservoir, with a view of the cone of West Lomond in the distance.
The path eventually reaches the buildings of the Ballo Trout Fishery (visible in the distance above), then turns uphill after crossing the track that connects the fishery to Wester Glassie, and eventually emerges on the narrow ribbon of tarmac that serves the Craigmead car park from the south.
Here, I crossed over and passed through a field gate on the opposite side of the road, at left of frame in my photo above. There’s a fairly evident track that takes you through open pasture towards East Lomond here, but I made a bit of a dog-leg around the margin of the first field to avoid disturbing a flock of sheep before getting out on to empty grassland.
After a while, a rather impressive building appeared, surrounded by interpretive boards:
This is an old lime kiln—now pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but once it was a bustle of activity, roasting limestone to produce quicklime (calcium oxide) for fertilizer and building mortar. Why here? Because the central cone of East Lomond is surrounded by layers of Carboniferous coal and limestone, among other things. So back in the day the kiln could be supplied with raw material that was dug out of the ground in the immediate vicinity.
Onwards and upwards, then, joining the main drag from Craigmead to East Lomond and striking steeply up the final cone.
On a previous visit, I encountered a dog perched on the summit view indicator, but I had the place to myself this time. West Lomond stood out against a bank of distant haze, and Bishop Hill looked distinctly murky.
I descended to the main westerward track, following it almost as far as Craigmead before hanging a right turn on to a subsidiary track that joins the road a little north of the car park, almost opposite the entrance to the broad track that serves West Lomond.
After a couple of miles, I had to decide between going straight up the eastern side of West Lomond, or following the spiralling tourist route that branches off to the right.
Last time, I’d gone for the direttissima, so this time I took the spiral, just for a bit of variety. This cranks through a good 180 degrees before eventually climbing steeply towards West Lomond’s oddly eroded trig point.
The way in which the concrete base of the pillar now stands proud of the surrounding terrain makes it a fine place to sit down. So I was enjoying a Mars bar and the hazy view of Bishop Hill when I heard the sound of a phone ringing somewhere out of sight on the approach to the summit. Oh dear. I braced for one of those long business conversations that seem to take place on top of hills with phone reception these days, only to hear the phone’s owner take the call and say: “Ah’m oan the hill, man. Ah’ll phone ye back. Aye, tonight.” End of call. That’s the spirit.
Then I headed southwards off the summit, on a knee-straining path that drops down to a stile and then continues its descent over eroded ground to the head of Glen Vale.
I’ve been over this stile before, and reported it as being in poor repair, but I was pleased to find it had had some work done since I last saw it.
Having arrived at the lowest point, with a view down into Glen Vale, I started up the obvious track on to Bishop Hill, encountering about the only bit of serious mud on the whole expedition, in a little sump around the access gate. Here’s the view back to West Lomond:
I climbed alongside the fence for a while, until another little metal gate appeared on my right, giving access to the slopes of Bishop Hill, along a path that eventually emerged on to the long summit ridge.
As I strolled south towards the highest point, I suddenly noticed that an aero engine of which I’d been only subliminally aware had changed its tone quite dramatically. I glance up, and glimpsed a small aircraft diving away, having just released the tow-rope of a glider. Presumably it was one of the Eurofox tugs from the nearby Scottish Gliding Centre, delivering a glider to the region of ridge lift where the light westerly wind was striking the steep face of Bishop Hill, just to my right.
It wasn’t long before I arrived at the little summit cairn I’d previously encountered in thick cloud, but which now enjoyed a hazy view over Loch Leven.
I pressed on, then, towards Munduff Hill and the weather-radar station I described in my previous report from Bishop Hill.
Having navigated flawlessly to that summit in zero visibility during my last visit, I found myself wandering on to the wrong path now that I could see where I was going and was thinking about other things—so I had to take a short line cross-country, weaving through the abandoned quarry on the ridge, before I got back on track.
Then it was just a matter of picking up the service road for the radar station (also described in my previous report), and descending through the forest to join the long track through West Feal, which took me back to the car.