Ben Ever (NN 983001, 622m)
Ben Cleuch (NN 903006, 721m)
The Law (NN 910996, 638m)
810 metres of ascent
Another in my series of Ochils circuits, in which I trace a new outward route, but return by reversing the outward route of a previous walk. This one retraces my route over The Law, which was the start of my Tillicoultry-Dollar circuit. And it also reverses a short segment on the eastern shoulder of Ben Cleuch, walked some considerable time ago when I approached Ben Cleuch from the north.
The new section this time was to be the approach to Ben Cleuch over Ben Ever, and I’d had in mind to start by walking up the Silver Glen, but my route was substantially transformed by the fact that I turned up in the car park of the Ochil Hills Woodland Park just as my friend Dave was locking his car before setting out on his own walk. Dave is the “Old Ochils Hand” I referred to when I encountered him on Tarmangie Hill during my Glen of Sorrow circuit, and he immediately (and kindly) offered to be my local guide for this outing.
We set off through the pleasingly named Wood Hill Wood, along the route I would have taken to Silver Glen. Following this path, we’d eventually have ended up in the vicinity of the abandoned mine-workings that gave the glen its name. But instead we turned hard right on to the slopes of Wood Hill. Once out of the trees, the path follows the line of an old consumption dyke:
There’s a fine confusion of names, here. The original Ordnance Survey Name Book gives Wood Hill the following entry:
An elevated district thickly covered with mixed wood, the east side of which runs parallel to the stream forming the boundary between the [parishes] of Alva and Tillicoultry. Its western extremity reaches Silver Glen…
So the Ordnance Survey’s informants, in the mid-nineteenth century, seemed to view Wood Hill as being the wooded hillside we’d just ascended, rather than an actual summit. They offered a different name for the summit:
Rough Knowes is a prominent portion of Wood Hill. It forms a very conspicuous feature in the Ochil Hills. The name appears to be very applicable from the summit – being craggy and precipitous.
So my impression was that I was climbing Wood Hill in order to stand on Rough Knowes (or “Rough Knowles”, as the OS misprints it in their current 1:25000 mapping).
But Dave assured me that the summit itself is now known locally as Wood Hill (and he has an interest, because he’s very slowly expanding the existing cairn there), so that’s how I’ve marked it on my map, above.
From Wood Hill, the approach to Ben Cleuch rises in a series of gentle grassy steps. First comes the ascent on to the long ridge of Millar Hill, after circumventing a rather dramatic cleft locally (and mysteriously) known as the Canal. The greyish patch in the image below is the crag above the Canal, with the end of Millar Hill in cloud shadow beyond, and sunlit Ben Cleuch and The Law on the sky-line:
Then there’s a grassy stroll along Millar Hill towards the next rise, at Ben Ever.
I have slightly odd history with the padlocked gate in the middle distance above. On my previous visit to this location, back in the ’90s, I realized that I was going to arrive at the gate simultaneously with a small group coming in the opposite direction. So I put on a bit of speed and hastened to climb the gate so that I’d be out of their way when they arrived. In my haste, and in a way that I cannot now reconstruct or account for, I found myself standing on the top bar of the gate, looking down on the surprised faces of the approaching group. The only thing to do was to give them a brisk nod and jump to the ground, which I managed to do without breaking my ankle. So that was all good.
There’s now a little stile to the left of the gate, and I find myself wondering if my elaborate performance back then was made even more inexplicable for the onlookers because I’d failed to notice the stile. Oh well.
From Ever, we looked across to Ben Cleuch:
And soon we’d wandered up to the summit (and highest point of our circuit), distracted along the way by a serious discussion concerning the naming of pet cats. This summit photo takes in much of our route, with The Law on the left and Millar Hill on the right:
We stopped at the cairn for a bit of lunch, where we were entertained by the aerobatics of a small flock of swifts swooping overhead, feeding in the still air.
Then we descended towards the col between Andrew Gannel Hill and Ben Cleuch, where we picked up the outward route of my Tillicoulty-Dollar circuit. Here’s the view across to Andrew Gannel and King’s Seat, on a better day than my previous visit:
But we turned right, towards The Law:
There’s a nice grassy stroll as far as the summit, but then the gradient starts to steepen as Mill Glen and Tillicoultry come into sight below:
After a long spell of dry weather, the eroded path was treacherous underfoot, and we suspected that the last very steep section above the glen was going to be a bit leg-breaky. But Dave had an alternative route off in mind, involving a steep grassy descent in the Daiglen on our right, where a little bridge nestles in an area called Daiglen Green:
This took us across the Daiglen Burn, and connected to a long rising path visible to the right below, above the deepening cleft of Mill Glen:
The path took us above the disused Tillicoultry quarry … and then Dave worked a bit of Old Ochils Hand magic, involving another steep and trackless descent above Tillicoultry golf course, a climb over a fence, a bit of woodland walking, and an eventual connection to the main path-system of Wood Hill Wood.
And that was it—a pleasant deviation off the beaten track, in good company, and all because of a remarkable car-park coincidence at the start of the day.