Sidlaws: Dunsinane to Gask

Dunsinane Hill (NO 214316, 310m)
Black Hill (NO 219319, 360m)
King’s Seat (NO 230330, 377m)
Buttergask Hill (NO 230340, 307m)
Lintrose Hill (NO 234343, 325m)
Gask Hill (NO 238344, 358m)

16 kilometres
610 metres ascent

Dunsinane to Gask route
Click to enlarge

So, I found myself uncommitted this morning, and decided to have a wander through the Sidlaw Hills. I was undaunted by the forecast of morning fog—I figured it would burn off later, and I’d get nice views of a mist-filled Tay estuary and Strathmore.

Yeah, right.

So I climbed up on to Dunsinane in thick mist, walked the ridge in thick mist, and came back along the road with the hills shrouded in thick mist. Sunlight appeared when I was approximately four steps from the car. But the hills were still covered in thick mist.

Start of track to Dunsinane
Click to enlarge
Start of track to Dunsinane (taken at the end of the walk, not the start)

There’s a wee patch of roadside parking on the bend in the road just south of Collace (NO 207321). It’s only about 150 metres of ascent to get to the hill fort on the summit of Dunsinane, spuriously associated with Macbeth, and (according to one story) where the real Stone of Destiny was dug up in the nineteenth century.

There are crags on the direct line from Dunsinane to Black Hill, so you need to go a little SE, towards the plantation, and then zig back again into the rather steep-side cleft between the two hills. A path takes you up and over Black Hill, but then I always seem to mislay it on the way down to the little lochan where the Den Burn starts. There’s a broch marked on the map, below Little Dunsinane, but nothing to see on the ground apart from an oddly symmetrical hummock. I’ve never been able to find anything written about it, or about the other two brochs reported in the Sidlaws.  They do seem a very long way from the usual territory for brochs:

Broch map
Distribution of brochs in Scotland by Anameofmyveryown
Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence

On a good day, you can get a nice view down the Tay from the top of the scarp slope of King’s Seat. But not today.

King's Seat trig point in mist
The view from King’s Seat

Then off the north slopes of King’s Seat—again, paths seem to come and go. I often scare up deer here, and today was no exception, with two white rumps disappearing into the mist at my approach.

There’s a lying path at the bottom of the cleft between King’s Seat and Buttergask Hill. A prominent 4×4 track runs through and looks like it’ll take you down to the farm access at Ledgertlaw, but it instead it disappears into a wilderness of gorse and fences. I’ve never been able to find a way down that didn’t involve barbed wire and skirting along the edge of someone’s fields.

Buttergask was new territory for me. I scaled a barbed wire fence between two posts that made a nice little stile, minimizing the damage to either myself or the fence. Buttergask seems to be enclosed by this fence (I found it again on the far side, below Lintrose), but covered in ATV tracks. There must be some gates somewhere …

ATV tracks took me almost to the top of both Buttergask and Lintrose. In the lumpy ground and rubbish visibility, I need to fish out the GPS receiver to make my way to the two “summits”, which in the mist bore a remarkable resemblance to that lethal patch of moorland in An American Werewolf in London.

The dip between Lintrose and Gask is seriously chewed up by large tyres going back and forth outside the plantation fence. There’s a padlocked gate in the fence at about NO 237342. I walked past it thinking I was going to find a fenced track through the trees a little further on, but that turned out to be no more than a double line of dilapidated fenceposts. Hopping over the gate is probably the best route through the trees, since the fence on the far side of the plantation is effectively non-existent.

A little sidetrack to the (surprisingly craggy on the south) summit of Gask Hill, and then along a vehicle track marked on the map which is at best a footpath on the ground. Then what I thought was going to be a bit of forest orienteering turned out to be a stroll through the wreckage of the plantation, which had been felled and (by the look of it) partially burned. New plantings farther down were just starting to peep up between the stumps of the old trees.

Forestry cleared on Gask Hill
Click to enlarge
A blasted heath

Then back along the road to Collace. It’s a narrow road, but it’s quiet and straight and traffic isn’t a worry.

Some clear day I’ll go back for another wander around Buttergask and Lintrose. I suspect there are better ways on and off than the ones I found, and I’ve no ambition to go back through the felled wasteland at the NE end of Gask.

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