Sidlaws: Auchterhouse Hill Circuit

Scotston Hill (NO 346400, 373m)
Balkello Hill (NO 361394, 397m)

9.5 kilometres
370 metres of ascent

Auchterhouse route
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Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

This little circuit was an effort to connect together various paths I’d used in three previous, longer walks in this area.

I parked at the Balkello Community Woodland and headed northwest, to pick up a path that runs westwards below Auchterhouse Hill. Just after the line of electricity pylons turns north, a vehicle track heads uphill between Auchterhouse Hill and Scotston Hill.

Scotston Hill from the southeast
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Scotston Hill and the track below the pylons

I followed this almost to its highest point, and then cut off westwards through the heather towards Scotston. There are some small lochs marked on the map here, but they’re little more than boggy ground.

A deer track took me to the top of Scotston, which sits back a little off the main curve of the ridge, affording good views towards Kinpurney Hill and Craigowl, as well as south to the Firth of Tay and Fife.

Kinpurney Hill and Henderston Hill from Scotston Hill
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Kinpurney and Henderston from Scotston
Craigowl and Auchterhouse Hill from Scotston Hill
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Craigowl and Auchterhouse from Scotston

There’s a stonking great vehicle track, churned by tractor tyres, crossing Scotston just west of its gently rounded summit.

Muddy track on Scotston Hill
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The churned-up track on Scotston

I was pretty sure this would take me north to the unnamed, forested lump between Henderston Hill and Auchterhouse Hill, and it did. A path, not marked on the map, runs east-west alongside the trees here, connecting at its east end (NO 352404) to a vehicle track that rises out of Denoon Glen and crosses the Sidlaws west of Auchterhouse Hill, turning into the track I’d climbed at the start of this walk.

But before I got as far as this thoroughfare, I happened upon a rather elaborate brushwood shelter tucked into the trees alongside the path—it even had a little low windbreak to shelter a log fire (now dead and cold) outside its entrance. I gave a hoot and a holler, but no-one was home. A fair bit of time has been spent building it, and I didn’t want to pry inside—I wonder what it’s used for?

Shelter in woods behind Scotston Hill
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On, then, to the head of the Denoon Glen—a remote-feeling patch of woodland behind Auchterhouse Hill, once the haunt of smugglers, which had been a riot of primroses the last time I passed through.

Craigowl above the head of Denoon Glen
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The little patch of woodland at the head of Denoon Glen

Then up and across to the head of Glen Ogilvie, below Craigowl, encountering a rather puzzling notice on the way—warning German walkers not to bother cows with calves. It’s a fairly out-of-the-way spot, and I found myself wondering why someone had travelled a few miles over rough ground specifically to post a warning to Germans about cows. Are Germans particularly known for their cow-bothering predilections? It’s certainly not on my extensive list of national stereotypes.

German cow warning
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I dropped down to a boundary fence and path that run up to the pass between Craigowl and Balkello Hill. The marked path is intermittent, and not much more than a trod in the long grass between fence and heather, but it was easy enough going.

Looking down Glen Ogilvie from between Craigowl and Balkello Hill
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Looking down Glen Ogilvie from between Craigowl and Balkello Hill

At the pass, I decided to avoid the muddy return via Linn of Balluderon, and so turned right up Balkello Hill. Although I’ve looked at the Syd Scroggie memorial cairn on the summit several times, I had never actually read the text before. The memorial uses Balkello’s “other name”, Balluderon Hill. This is part of the old problem, alluded to in previous posts, of Sidlaw hill-slopes taking their names from the farms below, so that sometimes a summit ends up associated with multiple names. South of Balkello Hill are the farms of Balkello, Old Balkello and North Balkello. Just a little farther east are North Balluderon and South Balluderon, and the Ordnance Survey attaches the name of Balluderon Hill to  the slope directly above those farms, which is actually the western shoulder of Craigowl.

Summit of Balkello Hill, looking towards Lomond Hills in Fife
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Looking towards the Lomond Hills in Fife
Summit of Balkello Hill, looking towards Auchterhouse Hill
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Looking towards Auchterhouse Hill

The memorial inscription features a fine, ringing Scots phrase, a tribute both to a blind hillwalker and to the companions who helped him in his wanderings, over the years:

He gae’d his ain gait a’ his life but whiles wi’ ithers’ een

(He went his own way all his life, but sometimes with the eyes of others.)

Syd Scroggie memorial plaque, Balkello/Balluderon Hill
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Down through Windy Gates, then, and a zig-zag below the steep face of Balkello, which turned up the only notable wildlife encounters of the day—a flock of long-tailed tits blowing through, looking like animated lollipops with their round bodies and long tails; and then a deer crashed away through the broom, unseen except for the agitated vegetation in its wake.

What was remarkable about this little wander was that I didn’t see a single person all morning. Admittedly, it was a mid-week day in October, but the weather was fine and I was only a few miles from the city. If the same route was in the Lake District, it would be waymarked and guidebooked and chock-full of serious-faced ramblers, madly over-dressed for the prevailing weather conditions.

So that’s all good.

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