Sidlaws: Blacklaw Hill & West Mains Hill

Another two-parter. These two outliers sit either side of the A923 just east of the point where it passes through the main ridge of the Sidlaws at Tullybaccart.


Blacklaw Hill (NO 288344, 284m)

7.4 kilometres
200 metres of ascent

Route on Blacklaw Hill
Click to enlarge

Well, this first one is a fine example of what happens if you just look at a map and choose what looks like the obvious route.

Ledyatt Loch
Click to enlarge
Ledyatt Loch

I parked at the trout fishery at Ledyatt Loch (a recently constructed body of water, absent from twentieth-century maps), and set off south through the trees. From the map, it looked as if a track and a firebreak would get me down to the Piperdam Burn. Google Earth showed a swirl of strangely pointless-looking tracks on the Blacklaw hill side just beyond the south-east corner of the plantation, so I thought I’d pretty easily find my way out at that corner and on to the hill.

Didn’t happen. The track going south petered out at a little turning point surrounded by fairly dense undergrowth—I made a couple of little sallies into the trees but soon got turned back. The transverse firebreak on the map at that point didn’t seem to exist. So I walked back to the line of the electricity pylons and used the open ground beneath them to take me to the east side of the plantation. There’s a little gate into a farmer’s field there, which probably provides a better line down to the burn, but I went steeply down through tussocky stuff and long grass at the edge of the plantation to wind up at a fence beside the burn.

Blacklaw Hill from Ledyatt Wood
Click to enlarge
The descent to Piperdam Burn, with Blacklaw Hill and its multiple vehicle tracks beyond

The fence was easily climbed at its corner post, and then I had to cast about for a way across the steep-sided cut of the burn. One of the swirls of grassy vehicle track took me up to the  face of the hill, and then I went direttissima through very steep heather to reach the ridge. Turning east to head for the trig point, I found myself crossing what amounted to a dual carriageway of well-graded but very muddy tracks coming up the hill from the direction of Piperdam Loch—in fact, the whole summit area was defaced by a branching trackway. There was even a turning circle beside the trig point. Although there were some big 4×4 tyre tracks here and there, much of this racecourse looks like it is being used by quad bikes.

Predictably, the Ordnance Survey map provided no hint of any of this stuff. There’s a trace of it on Google Earth, but someone has evidently been very busy up there since 2009, when the Google photos were taken.

Tay estuary from Blacklaw Hill
Click to enlarge
Tay estuary from Blacklaw Hill
Dundee from Blacklaw Hill
Click to enlarge
Silhouetted Dundee from Blacklaw Hill

From the summit, the views down to the Tay estuary and Dundee are beautiful, so I stood for a while admiring the view, and then decided I’d follow a grassy track that descended eastwards towards Piperdam Loch, to see where it came out.

Piperdam Loch from Blacklaw Hill
Click to enlarge
Piperdam Loch from Blacklaw Hill
Track to Piperdam
Click to enlarge
Track to Piperdam

After turning very muddy on its way through the trees at the foot of the hill, the path deposited me, disorientatingly, on a golf course. I wandered up the side of the deserted fairways, picked my way across a little patch of rough ground between two houses, and stepped out on to pavement. Suddenly I was on Osprey Road, in the Golf and Leisure Resort of Piperdam—curiously reminiscent of the community of Stepford, Connecticut, in the film The Stepford Wives. Slightly muddy and dishevelled as I was, I was surprised I managed to get down to the end of the road without someone calling the police.

Piperdam
Click to enlarge
The spookily quiet, frighteningly neat and vaguely threatening Piperdam

Then it was just a matter of walking back up the verge of the A923 to get back to my car. As my map shows, what started out as a simple there-and-back jaunt evolved into a pretty stupid zig-zag route. So I’m thinking of it more as an exploratory mission than a proper walk.


West Mains Hill (NO 315376, 290m)
Bowhouse Hill (NO 306374, 265m)

4.8 kilometres
180 metres of ascent

Route on West Mains Hill
Click to enlarge

For this one, I parked on the grass verge of the B945, on a little one-car flat patch at NO 321383, having spotted what I thought looked like a promising line on to a hill surrounded by farmland.

Approach to West Mains Hill from B954
Click to enlarge

The route took me in through an open field gate and up the broad unploughed margin of the field. Above that, I stepped over a wooden fence and into some sort of main drag for cattle—they are presumably transferred back and forth between the hillside and lower grazing through this narrow slot between two patches of forestry. So the whole area was a churned mass of mud. Fortunately I was there after a frost that still hadn’t thawed in this shady spot, so I was able to levitate my way across what would have otherwise been a fairly slaistery experience.

Muddy section on approach to West Mains Hill
Cow Alley
Click to enlarge

Above the forestry, I was able to cross on to the open hillside near the corner of the fence at NO 315380, at a section where the top strand of barbed wire had been stapled low to create an easy step-over. Another strand of barbed wire just beyond that  had a long slack run to it at this point—again, an easy step-over.

Up the hill over tussocky stuff, and the curious pointed cairn was soon in view. It’s quite eye-catching from the road below, and I’d always been curious about its construction. I turns out to be close to four metres tall, cemented together, and crowned with a sort of acorn finial that presumably started life on top of a more conventional building. The Canmore archaeological website tells me that the whole summit area consists of a Bronze Age burial cairn 20m across, and suggests that the current pointy cairn was constructed using spoil from the 1897 excavation of the Bronze Age burial. I’m prepared to bet that fancy finial isn’t Bronze Age, though.

Cairn of West Mains Hill
Click to enlarge

The summit afforded fine views of the central Sidlaws, as well as southwards towards the Tay estuary.

From there, I crossed the dip to reach Bowhouse Hill (that’s bow as in “taking a bow”, not “bow and arrow”). There’s a gate in the fence at NO 309375—it doesn’t open, but you can climb over alongside it. Bowhouse’s empty summit provides a nice vantage point from which to appreciate the steepness of Lundie Craigs.

Lundie Craigs from Bowhouse Hill
Click to enlarge

So, back the way I came, except for a detour to take in the little unnamed 279m hump southwest of West Mains. On the way across to West Mains Hill proper, I crossed a muddy vehicle track coming up from the south, marked with boot prints. So it seems I’d managed to come up with another off-the-beaten track route up another hill.

Cairn of West Mains Hill, Auchterhouse Hill & Craigowl beyond
Click to enlarge
Auchterhouse Hill and Craigowl over the shoulder of West Mains Hill

Wildlife? The only wildlife of the whole day was the brown two-second blur of a wren, whizzing across my path as I dropped back down towards Cow Alley.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *