Sidlaws: Denoon Glen

Berry Hillock (NO 372444, 282m [trig. point])
Carlunie Hill (NO 365432, 340m)
Ark Hill (NO 357426, 340m)
Unnamed Point 328 (NO 359408, 328m)
Denoon Law (NO 355444, 210m)
Crams Hill (NO 368450, 237m)

17 kilometres
580 metres ascent

Denoon Glen route
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Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

Denoon Glen is the next glen west from Glen Ogilvie, site of my snowy floundering last week. So the purpose of this excursion was to explore the ridge between Denoon and Ogilvie, which I’d baled out of when the snow got too trying last time.

Friendly horses in Denoon Glen
Horses take an interest in the car

Denoon has a narrow ribbon of tarmac running up its floor, and at first sight there’s not much sign of potential access to the ridge across the farmland. Or, indeed, many places to park a car off the road. I rolled on to the grass verge at NO 368446, and walked back to a gate at NO 369447, which gave access to an empty field. At the top of the field, another gate let me into a sort of no-man’s land around the forestry plantation—a narrow strip of tussocky ground flanked by the forestry fence on one side, and the fence around a field full of sheep and lambs on the other. Apart from a bit of gorse, this was easy going, and it took me straight up to the boundary fence that runs along the crest of the ridge. At NO 371443 there is a space where a gate has been, now traversed by nothing more than two strands of barbed wire. In the absence of any other fence wire, it’s easy to duck through the gap between the two strands, provided you remember to take your rucksack off first.

Berry Hillock from Denoon Glen
Access to Berry Hillock – up right side of forestry

And that was it—not many minutes after leaving the car, I was on top of Berry Hillock. The trig point is at 282m, but the ground is higher to the southwest.

The boundary fence follows the ridge to Carlunie Hill. Given that the fields on the east side of the fence were unoccupied, while those on the west contained sheep and lambs, I stayed on the east side. Three fences run up the slope from the Middleton farms, but none of them created a problem for me. The first, bordering a little patch of forestry, was in poor repair, and I stepped over a section that was missing its top wire. At the second, someone had wrapped a fertilizer bag around a section of the top barbed wire, creating an easy crossing point. And at the third, right at the summit of Carlunie Hill, the wire had been stapled deliberately low, and a chunk of fence-post was position to create a sort of stile.

It’s good striding country—springy turf and views on either side into the domesticity of Glen Ogilvie and the Denoon Glen.

Carlunie Hill from Berry Hillock
Good walking – Carlunie Hill from Berry Hillock

Carlunie was bunny city, and panic was rampant as I ambled down the ridge towards Ark Hill. There was a wall in the way, which turned into a fence farther west. Between the end of the wall and the start of the fence there was a gap, at NO 363427. Ark Hill is dominated by stonking great wind turbines, and the rounded summit was noisy with their constant whump-whump-whump. I’ve walked with people who are reduced to frothing fury by the sight of a wind turbine, but I guiltily confess I quite like them. I do wish they weren’t quite so effective at killing bats, though.

Kinpurney Hill from Carlunie Hill
The tower on Kinpurney Hill framed by the Ark Hill wind farm

Down, then, to a gate at NO 357423, and another at NO 358422. This brought me out at the head of the track that comes up from Chamberwells in Glen Ogilvie. In the other direction, I had access to the service road for the wind turbines, though I don’t know where the bottom end of that comes out.

But I wanted to head a bit farther south, to the head of the Denoon Glen below Auchterhouse Hill. This involved me in a gate-finding detour, eventually finding one at NO 364414, some distance down the Piperden Burn. Then onwards, through the remains of old slate-quarrying activities to the top of a 328m hill that doesn’t seem to have a name, but should have—it’s a nice vantage point.

Despite the fact this area is served by 4×4 tracks coming up from Glen Ogilvie, the Denoon Glen and across the main Sidlaw ridge, it has a feeling of remoteness to it. The sun came out. Curlews sang. I whistled a bit as I walked down to the little bridge over the Haining Burn at NO 357405. From here, I could follow farm tracks and tarmac all the way back to the car.

In his book, The Sidlaw Hills, David Dorward describes this area as a “favourite haunt of smugglers”, and says that the remains of their bothies are still visible. I didn’t see any bothies, but it’s easy to see that this was a good route if you wanted to get into Dundee unobtrusively from the north.

Footbridge at the head of Denoon Glen
The Haining bridge, set among primroses

It was a nice stroll back down the glen. There’s an interesting feeling to be had from these low-level hills—a descent from windswept grouse moor to cosy farmland in the space of just a couple of kilometres.

Just beyond Easter Denoon farm, I swerved off the road to make a traverse of the odd little lump of Denoon Law, which is crowned with the ramparts of an Iron Age fort. The raised rim and central dip of the summit give the place the feel of a volcanic crater, albeit one full of mildly astonished sheep—I don’t think they get many visitors up there.

Denoon Law
Denoon Law

And then, just after Holemill, I took another swerve. It occurred to me that I might be able to get back to the car by going up and over Crams Hill.

Coming from the west, as I did, the summit is guarded by two fences. The first is easily circumvented if you go up through the woodland on the northwest side and then step through a gap in the wall. But the second is a serious and forbidding construction—a deer fence with an electric fence inside it. The top of the hill is only about 50m inside this fence, in the middle of rolling green pasture. This otherwise empty pasture was being grazed by a solitary deer, oblivious to the irony of her location.

Well, there had to be a gate at the other end, otherwise no-one could get in and out. My map showed that the (deer-fenced) woodland to the southeast contained a track that might bring me out at the far end of this vexatious pasture. Could I get to it? Turns out I could. The deer-fence protecting the forestry had a single low section in it, easily stepped over. Curiously, someone (or something) had prised up the bottom of this section, to create a crawl-way. I obviously wasn’t the first person to come this way.

Gap in the fence on Crams Hill
The mysterious crawl-way

Anyway. Into the forest and along the path, to pop out at a pair of gates that took me into the pasture. All I had to do was step over a strand of the electric fence. It was at knee-height. I’d been stepping over higher stuff all day. Odd how the prospect of an electric shock made it so much harder to step over. I was actually halfway over, one leg in the air, when I realized I was clutching the metal gate for support. Brilliant—the only thing worse than a tickle from an electric fence is a tickle from an electric fence while connected to a lump of earthed metal.

But I survived unshocked. Walked up the field along a narrow path trodden into the grass. Admired the view from the top, which was pretty much indistinguishable from the view to be had on the other side of the fence. Went back to the gates and the electric fence. Survived the crossing again. And then just dropped pretty much straight down to the road along a forest path that was marked on the 1:25,000 map.

Now that was the way I should have gone up in the first place …

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