Sidlaws: Lundie Craigs to Newtyle Hill

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)
Ardgarth Hill (NO 277372, 320m)
Smithton Hill (NO 276366, 324m)

15 kilometres
460 metres ascent

Tullybaccart-Newtyle route
Click to enlarge
Contains OS OpenData © Crown copyright and database right 2018

In my continuing campaign of Sidlaw-bagging, this walk fills in a missing chunk of the main ridge between two previously explored sections.

I parked again at Tullybaccart on the A923, but this time headed northwards past the farm and into Pitcur Wood, which seemed to be hosting some sort of dog-walking frenzy at 10:00 am. The path takes anglers to Ledcrieff Loch, but I turned left just short of the loch, to take a sweep westwards and then northeast through lovely open woodland haunted by buzzards and kestrels, along a track that eventually services the radio mast on Lundie Craigs.

Lundie Craigs above Ledcrieff Loch
Lundie Craigs from Ledcrieff Loch
If you can see this view, you’ve come too far and missed the left turn

The 353m trig point at the east end of Lundie Craigs may or may not be called Westerkeith Hill—the OS 1:25,000 map labels the shoulder rather than the summit. A grassy path leads northeast from the summit, looping around the shoulder of the hill and then descending safely below the crags to come out near Ardgarth, if you want to make a short loop that connects the outgoing and return legs of this walk.

But I struck off along the path that heads northeast along the edge of the steep ground, which soon produces a fine view out over Long Loch towards the tower on distant Kinpurney Hill.Newtyle Hill and Kinpurney Hill over Long Loch from Westerkeith HillThen there was a bit of bundu-bashing northwards to get to the heathery summit of Keillor Hill, which is crossed by a fence. Following this fence downhill gets you to a handy gate at NO 281386, which allows you to switch to the west side of the fence, for easy access to the unlikely pleasures of the Mackenzie Meridian. The Meridian, at NO 285391, is marked as a monument by the Ordnance Survey, but it isn’t really.Mackenzie MeridianIt resembles a factory chimney, but has an interesting finial on the top. There’s no memorial plate or explanatory text. It’s another effort from James Stuart-Mackenzie, the amateur astronomer we last met in connection with the building of the observatory tower on the summit of Kinpurney Hill.

The Meridian tower is on the same line of longitude as Mackenzie’s residence at Belmont Castle, just outside Meigle, so it would have marked a precise southerly direction for any observations he made from home—a sort of elaborate, expensive and not very satisfactory sundial. In reference to his role as Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, the tower is also called Privy’s Prap. I was pretty sure this would turn out to be an obscene reference, but my Scots dictionary tells me that a prap is “an object or objects set up as a marker”. So that all makes sense.

The track descends the long curve of the ridge to arrive at the undistinguished hump of Donald’s Brae. From there, I crossed a short distance north to Auchtertyre Hill and then walked on through the heather to Newtyle Hill. Both afford nice views down on to Newtyle village and across to Kinpurney Hill and Mackenzie’s other tower. (These might have been eventful hills, though. A sign on a gate warns “Beware of the Bull”. But, like the similar sign on Dunsinane Hill, no bull was in evidence. Your experience may differ.)Kinpurney Hill and Henderston Hill seen over Newtyle Hill from Auchtertyre HillThen back the way I came, until I reached Keillor Hill and descended down the side of a burn draining into Long Loch. There’s a nice path on the east side of the burn (it pretty much goes without saying that it’s not marked on the map), that gives good views of the loch and surrounding hills.Kinpurney Hill and Long Loch from the descending path along the burn below Westerkeith HillI walked down to the lochside to take a look at the Mute Swans and some very nervous ducks that took off before I had a chance to identify them. This got me into a sort of awkward corner with farmland between me and my route back, but I lucked my way through empty fields and unlocked gates. (Keeping higher on the hill would get you past the fenced areas if there are animals grazing.)

Eventually I was out on the open hillside again, but immediately amongst some long-horned Highland cattle. The apparently inexplicable jink in my route on the map at this point is me trudging up the hill to circumvent their rather baleful presence.

Ardgarth Hill next, crowned by a prominent little knob, with nice views of Lundie Craigs, and also of Dundee and the Tay estuary.

Lundie Craigs from Ardgarth Hill
Lundie Craigs from Ardgarth Hill

Across a little dip below the almost nonexistent Smith Loch to get to Smithton Hill. David Dorward’s book The Sidlaw Hills tells me that there was a settlement called Smithton in this dip, “deserted, abandoned and demolished within the past half-century”. I certainly saw no trace. [Note: I was wrong about the location of Smithon. See the Note at the foot of this post for a correction, and my post More About Smithton for a description of a visit to the real settlement site.]

Smithton Hill gives views westwards towards territory previously explored.

King's Seat and Gask crags from Smithton Hill
King’s Seat and Gask Hill seen through a gap in the Ballo Hills

A decent track runs southwest from close to the top of Smithton Hill, and took me all the way to what seemed like a dead-end against the boundary fence above Tullybaccart. But the path turns hard right and runs alongside the fence, down towards a corner of the forestry, where there’s a gap in the barbed wire and an easy step-over. [Note added in 2020: there’s now a prominent stile over the fence.] Then down the hill, around the old quarry, and back to my starting point. All the dog-walkers cars were gone.

That’s the main ridge explored, from Dunsinane Hill to Craigowl. But there are still a lot of outliers that might be worth a visit.

Note: Ah-ha. The 1898 inch-to-the-mile of the area shows that the abandoned and demolished settlement of Smithton actually lay south of Smithton Knowe, so I was nowhere near it. It was at NO 281366, just where Horse Well is marked on the current 1:25,000 OS map.
Dorward wrote “There is no known smiddy that could have occasioned the name …” but there was a smithy on the track between Lundie and Smithton:

1898 OS inch-to-the-mile showing Smithton
Click to enlarge

2 thoughts on “Sidlaws: Lundie Craigs to Newtyle Hill”

  1. I was running up here today and was on google looking for info about the Mackenzie meridian tower when I found your article. Farmer friend was unimpressed: “What’s it for? I could anchor a fence to it I suppose”.

    Hope you and yours are doing well. Lesley C x

    1. Lesley! Thanks for dropping by. And I’m glad to hear you’re still running “through the broad, bright land”.

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