Sidlaws: Long Loch Circuit

Lundie Craigs (NO 281378, 353m)
Keillor Hill (NO 281385, 334m)
Donald’s Brae (NO 293396, c280m)
Auchtertyre Hill (NO 293398,  278m)
Newtyle Hill (NO 296399, 270m)

8.5 kilometres
210 metres of ascent

Round Loch circuit route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018
Additional paths and tracks marked have all been walked by The Oikofuge

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new walk in the Sidlaws. This one accesses an old ridge-walk from a new direction. I’ve previous visited these hills either from Tullybaccart to the southwest, or Newtyle to the northeast. This time, I’ve followed a circular route that passes through the farmland around Long Loch. I left the car at NO 298379, where the tracks from Wester Keith and Sunnyhall join—there’s scope here to roll a couple of cars on to the rough verge beside the cattle-grid, out of the way of all farm traffic.

A short distance up the track to Wester Keith, I passed the big coded-entry gates that bar unauthorized vehicular access to the boat-houses on Long Loch.

Road entrance to Long Loch
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But the track to the loch and adjoining Palmer Wood is accessible for pedestrians through a little gate opposite the Easter Keith farm buildings. I passed that, and carried on along to Wester Keith. Here, just beyond the farm buildings and cottage, a rather muddy patch of ground provides access to the fields beyond. My route from there went through a succession of farm gates to reach Westerkeith Hill.

Westerkeith Hill from West Keith Farm
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The grazing land was entirely unoccupied when I passed through, but there was copious evidence underfoot that cattle had been here—so it’s not a route that will always be accessible. At the upper end of the field system, a broken wooden gate (easily stepped over) gives access to the hill slope beyond. I climbed steeply uphill for a short distance to join the broad grassy track that swings around the shoulder of Westerkeith Hill and on to the ridge. (This track is just visible in my photograph above, as a narrow line of darker green crossing the hill in a rising rake from left to right.)

Following the track around in a long ascending curve gave me a fine view down on to Long Loch.

Long Loch from Westerkeith Hill
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And then, shortly afterwards, got me to my first summit of the day, Lundie Craigs.

View towards Keillor Hill from Lundie Craigs
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My onward route took me across to Keillor Hill, the heathery lump in the middle distance in the photograph above. Apart from a tiny bit of bundu-bashing through the heather to acquire the summit of Keillor Hill, the whole traverse follows fairly evident (if intermittently boggy) paths and tracks.

The Keillor Hill summit is traversed by an old 4×4 track, rapidly becoming overgrown, and I followed the remaining slot in the heather downhill for a short distance until it reached a gate in the ridge-line fence, and a fairly major track that runs the full length of the ridge.

After following this track for a while, I arrived at the Mackenzie Meridian, an isolated stone tower which I’ve written about in my report from a previous visit.

Mackenzie Meridian and Kinpurney Hill
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Some distance beyond the Meridian, the track reaches a junction, with a left turn that takes you down into a confusion of paths from which you can eventually find your way into the Newtyle Path Network. Straight ahead it passes through a gate and runs farther along the ridge. I seem to remember a “Beware of the Bull” sign at this point, some years ago, but it was not evident on this visit. Also at this junction, there’s a little stile that gives access to the grazing land on the slope of Pittendreich Hill above Long Loch.

Gate and stile on Pittendreich Hill above Long Loch
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I hopped over it to take a look at what sort of access it might provide, but very quickly found myself approaching a flock of sheep with young lambs, so retreated back to the ridge-line and the main track.

Track between Mackenzie Meridian and Newtyle Hill
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This runs on over Donald’s Brae, and then passes a little south of the summits of Auchtertyre Hill and Newtyle Hill. So I made a short excursion to visit the two rounded summits, both clothed in spiky yellow gorse which was giving off a strong smell of coconut in the still air.

I missed my line slightly at this point, and ended up having to bear right a little (and then search for a gap in the gorse) to find my way back on to the track as it descended into the moorland below Newtyle Hill.

Track descending off Newtyle Hill
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The scent of coconut from the gorse was now pretty overwhelming, as you might be able to realize from the picture.

On previous visits, I’ve encountered English Longhorn cattle grazing around here—I presume the same herd I photographed during a previous trip up the other side of Newtyle Hill. And I presume they account for the “Beware of the Bull” signs one encounters in this vicinity. I’m prepared to walk a long and circuitous way to avoid disturbing an English Longhorn bull, but on this occasion it wasn’t necessary. I could hear cattle lowing in the distance, but never saw one.

The track eventually makes a right turn to service some wildfowl hides at the oddly named little pond of Hunkrum Dubs. But my route took me along a narrower path that continues straight ahead, to the southeast. There’s a trick to getting off the moorland at this point, which is pretty much moated around with fences. An obscure little path branches southwards at NO 305393—it’s actually more visible if you look for it in the distance to the right, rather than trying to detect any sort of branch directly off the southeast path. After a short distance, this took me to a stile over a fence into a little corner of woodland. And after a short walk through the trees (scaring up a particularly astonished-looking roe deer in the process), I arrived at a decaying bridge over the Neuk Burn, with a gate on the far side that gives access to an open field otherwise surround by an electric fence.

Broken bridge over Neuk Burn near Thriepley
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I don’t trust that bridge at all. The woody has the spongy consistency of expanded polystyrene, and I elected to step across the burn below instead.

Again, the field was empty of livestock, and I was able to head south along its eastern edge, where the forestry marked by the Ordnance Survey has now been cleared. At the end of the field I arrived at another gate, which took me out on to a farm track that continued southwards.

Keeping to the southerly line, this track eventually gives way to a path that runs along the length of a strip of newly planted trees, their green protective covers looking like some sort of odd art installation.

Farm track returning the Thriepley
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Then there was another gate, and a track down the east side of the private grounds of Thriepley House took me to the road. Then it was just a matter of walking a short distance along the tarmac, past Thriepley’s mad mash-up of Scots Baronial and Italianate styles, and I was back at the car—wondering where I might be able to source a cherub finial for our garden shed.

Cherub finial, Thriepley
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2 thoughts on “Sidlaws: Long Loch Circuit”

  1. Nice to see another bit of a walk for you. The scenery in this outing seems to be a bit more benign than many of your previous treks. I did notice a couple of wind power turbines sneaking into your picture of Lundie Craigs . Were these part of a ‘wind farm’ or more for the benefit of the pastoral property?

    I have seen gorse in flower in NZ but never got close enough to smell them and didn’t realise that they had a coconut smell.

    And, every home definitely needs a cherub finial in the garden!

  2. Yes, the Sidlaws are benign—low hills moated around with farmland. The challenge is primarily in getting on and off the hill without disturbing livestock, tangling with barbed wire, or running into an electric fence. As a result, I spend almost as much time writing about route-finding as I do about the hills themselves.

    The two turbines you see are the entire wind farm. Sort of a “wind croft”, really. They’re visible at the extreme left edge of my little map, at top. Turbines tend to be scattered in ones and twos around the Sidlaws—the largest concentration is seven, on Ark Hill.

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