Sidlaws: Ballo Hills

Ballo Hill (NO 263351, 301m)
Southballo Hill (NO 256348, 303m)
Northballo Hill (NO 251352, 319m)
Hill of Dores (NO 257360, 268m)

7 kilometres
270m ascent

Ballo route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

A shorter excursion this time—four hills tucked into the space between the roads at Ballo Glack and Tullybaccart. Mainly chosen because it was the first outing for a new pair of boots:

New Boots
Nu Shooz!

Emerald and pewter, apparently. And there was me thinking they were green and grey.

I parked at Tullybaccart, at the entrance to the Hallyburton Community Woodlands, and then struck off along the track that the map shows climbing to the ridge connecting Ballo Hill and Southballo Hill. The map promises a vehicle track, but it turns out to be a footpath almost obliterated by gorse, so I was glad to find a ladder over the deer fence at NO 261354, which let me out of the jungle and on to the marshy hillside. This would have been pretty boggy going, if it hadn’t been frozen solid. Below, Strathmore was full of morning mist:

Strathmore full of mist, Schiehallion in the distance

Ballo Hill’s radio mast was besieged by cows with calves, who seemed quite keen to see me on my way, so I jogged once around the fence and then headed off towards Southballo.Ballo HillA robust wall crosses the ridge, but there’s a gap at NO 258349 that lets you slide under the barbed wire. Beyond that a track (not on the map) took me to a lock-up just below Southballo’s conical wee summit. There was a nice view of Dundee and the Tay Bridge, as well as a glimpse of previously climbed hills:

King's Seat & Gask Hill
King’s Seat and Gask Hill from Southballo Hill

Northballo Hill is heavily forested on the map, but Google Earth showed me a relatively clear area running east from close to its summit, down to the forest track that terminates in the dip between its two tops. From Southballo, I could now see a promising looking gap in the trees with a burn in the middle of it, which looked like it might take me up to join the track at just the right spot:

Northballo Hill
A handy gap in the trees on Northballo? I dunno, I didn’t go up it.

The burn creates a gap in the boundary wall at NO 254350, which got me easily into the network of forestry tracks on Northballo. After the gorse and the icy marshes, the broad, flat track seemed so inviting that, instead of bundu-bashing up the aforementioned gap in the hope of connecting to the track above, I decided to circumnavigate the hill, which would give me a chance to peer down into Ballo Glack and across to Gask Hill, on which I finished a previous Sidlaw traverse.

But on the west side of the hill I encountered a lovely path (as usual, unmarked on the map) coming up from the Glack, crossing the forestry track, and continuing on up the hill. Someone had recently hung a spade on a tree, apparently marking the uphill side of the path. It seemed a waste of a spade—I presume they were planning on coming back for it. Anyway, up I went.

It all went cheerily enough until close to the top, when the path vanished under a leg-breaking assault course of wind-toppled trees:top of northballoBy the time I’d circumvented that, I found myself in the original clear area on the east side of the hill that I’d been aiming for all along. And the fallen trees were all pointing downhill on this bit of the slope, so it was easy enough to work my way up to the deeply boring summit of Northballo. In the unlikely event you ever want to climb this hill (for a bet, perhaps), the forestry tracks and that eastern clearing are definitely the way to come at it.*

More forestry tracks down to the Ballo Glen, then east towards Laird’s Loch. From just west of the loch there’s a firebreak next to a fence that takes you straight up Hill of Dores. The summit has been clear-felled, so you can now walk around the embankment of the Iron Age fort. Two other firebreaks connect to the summit, from the north and the east, but they both looked choked with windfall and undergrowth, so I went back the way I came.

The Iron Age fort on Hill of Dores, with a misty Strathmore and the Grampians beyond

A brief diversion to look at Laird’s Loch turned up a disconsolate family of Mute Swans, paddling around in the only patch of clear water in the middle of an expanse of ice.lairdslochAnd from there, back to the car.

Next up, I think, is the ridge on the other side of the road, which reaches over as far as Newtyle, and so links me up with my previous excursion to Kinpurney Hill.

Oh, and the new boots were very well behaved.

* Note added, February 2020: I revisited Northballo Hill as part of a path-mapping project, and found that the summit tangle has been cleared, with windfallen trees removed and many standing trees felled, so it’s now quite an airy and open place. It’s also now reasonably accessible (admittedly over very uneven ground clogged with forestry debris), by following the deep ruts left by forestry machinery, which now ascend all the way to the summit on the north side.

2 thoughts on “Sidlaws: Ballo Hills”

  1. Reading these provides me with vicarious pleasure nowadays. A book with the detailed maps and photos would be great !

    1. Well … the market for Scottish hillwalking humour was pretty small – I suspect the market for Scottish hillwalking masochism is even smaller!

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