Laidloon Hill (NO 393420, 312m)
Broom Hill (NO 383421, c290m)
Gallow Hill (NO 391413, 378m)
Tealing Hill (NO 407402, c260m)
Ironside Hill (NO 399411, 354m)
Finlarg Hill (NO 406419, 336m)
Kincaldrum Hill (NO 414436, 309m)
Hayston Hill (NO 408449, c235m)
580m of ascent
It’s distinctly possible that no-one in the entire history of humanity has linked these two obscure little hills in a day’s walk before. (I do these things so you don’t have to.)
Each of them is a rather minor outlier from the main ridge, neither of them with what you’d actually call a summit. Tealing Hill is west of the road-crossing at Lumley Den, and Hayston is to the east. So this trip also addressed a minor agenda of mine, which has been to join up the obvious Sidlaw ridge walks (the sections bounded by the various road passes) with linking walks that traverse the passes. I’ve already done this for the slightly tricky links across Ballo Glack and Glack of Newtyle; the A923 crossing at Tullybaccart is straightforward, with a car park more or less on the ridge line and paths going off on to the hills in both directions; and the minor road crossing that separates Bandirran Hill from the rest of the ridge is rendered essentially impassable by the presence of Collace Quarry in the west side of Dunsinane Hill. So that leaves only the A928 crossing at Lumley Den—a steep-sided dell, stoutly fenced on both sides and distinctly unpromising-looking for a traverse.
But I had a plan. I parked at the layby just west of the Den, at NO 399418. There’s a metal gate in the fence at the east end of this layby, fastened with a rusty chain and hook, that gives access to the heathery slopes below Ironside Hill and Laidloon Hill. There’s rather a network of vehicle tracks in this marshy little depression, one of them prominently ascending the shoulder of Laidloon and then crossing the top of the hill just a few metres from the summit. (I briefly wondered if the little patch of marsh accounted for Laidloon’s name, supposedly from Gaelic leathad lunnd “slope of the marsh”—but there’s much more boggy ground on the other side of the hill, between Laidloon and Broom Hill, to judge from the network of drainage ditches marked on the map.)
The highest point is marked, not so much by a cairn, but by a sort of puddle of stones, which partially concealed a plastic clip-top box containing what seemed to be some sort of geocache. From here, there were fine views over the mouth of Glen Ogilvie and into Strathmore.
From there, I followed another track down and then up again to join the ridge between Gallow Hill and Broom Hill. A stout fence runs along the ridge line, broken by a single gate where the vehicle track crosses into Glen Ogilvie. Life is easier if you go through the gate to the southwest (Glen Ogilvie) side.
The summit of Broom Hill is on this side of the fence, although you have to climb another fence that crosses the ridge to get to it. On this trip I actually managed to find a single broom plant (namesake of the hill) on the Broom Hill ridge line, mixed with the predominant heather and gorse.
I retraced my steps and then went up Gallow Hill—a broad vehicle track on the Glen Ogilvie side of the fence makes the ascent much easier than the slog through trackless heather on the other side. At the summit, the cairn is just on the other side of the fence, but the wire is bent and slack at this point and very easy to get through.
Beyond Gallow Hill, I followed the fence down to the old stone wall above the telecom mast (there’s a little rusty iron gate in the fence here, hard against the wall), and gawped briefly at the fragile little inspection gondola, dangling from a wire, that allows access to the top of the mast.
Then I followed the wall east to an awkward three-way fence junction (at NO 398409). From here, I could see the gentle convexity of Tealing Hill—covered in grazing land, sheep and fine old dry-stone boundary walls.
I needed to get down to the edge of the farmland, which involved shinning over this three-way junction. I got myself on to the west (grassy) side of the fence running downhill, rather than its east (heathery) side, and followed it down to the field walls—where there was another nice old iron gate. So I did a circumambulation of the field walls (crossing some pretty, open moorland on the way) with the intention of getting as close as I could to Tealing Hill without getting in amongst lambing sheep. As it turned out the relevant fields were empty, so I was able to walk right to the vertiginous summit of Tealing Hill. I then crept slowly through another couple of fields with sheep at their far ends, and back out on to the hillside.
Flushed with the success of that little adventure, I climbed back up to the triple junction I’d come down from, hopped over it again, and slogged up a short heathery slope to the top of Ironside Hill, my last hill on this side of the Den. The hill supposedly gets its name from iron oxide in the soil, but I didn’t glimpse a single patch of exposed soil from which I could judge that.
Straight back to the car, then, and across the road and slightly downhill, to the bridge over the burn draining from the marsh below Laidloon. There’s a wooden fence on the bridge, which abuts the wire fence beside the road—with room for a person to slip through between the posts. There may be issues with lambing in this area, April to October, but when I was there (late March) the moor was devoid of sheep. There’s not much ascent to Finlarg Hill from this point, but what there is is heathery, and it brought me out at an electric fence I recalled from my last approach to Finlarg, from the opposite direction. As before, I was able to find a place to slide under the electric fence, and then slip through between the stands of the barbed-wire fence beyond it.
I had a bite of lunch on top of Finlarg, admiring the still-snowy tops of Ben More, Ben Lawers and Schiehallion, poking up over the horizon beyond the wind farm on Ark Hill, across Glen Ogilvie.
Then on along the ridge to Kincaldrum Hill. From my last time here, I knew to stay on the east side of the fence that runs along the ridge line—avoiding the complications of heather and electric fences to the west. There’s one cross-fence (the first after leaving Finlarg) that needs to be slid through, but the others were all easily traversed at gates or stepped over at sagging points.It was a fine stroll, enlivened by a little group of deer that eyed me reproachfully from the field below as I passed.
A tongue of forestry that abuts the fence at NO 411434 is easily circumvented—there are gates in the ridge fence on either side of it, so I was able to hop over on to the west side, nip past the thick trees, and then hop back to the east side again.
The name associated with the 309m trig. point that marks the highest point on the north end of the ridge is a little uncertain. The Ordnance Survey applies the name Kincaldrum Hill to the far north end of the ridge, where it terminates in a 291m summit above Kincaldrum House (Gaelic ceann caled druim means “at the head of the hard ridge”). The name Hayston Hill is applied to the northwest slope that leads down to a short ridge overlooking the farm of Upper Hayston. So the highest point, marked by the triangulation pillar, is left without a name, but with two nearby possibilities. It seems to me that the name Hayston should properly refer to the ridge above Upper Hayston (hills commonly being named after farms, hereabouts), leaving Kincaldrum as the best name to associate with the summit of the main hill, which lies just above the farm of East Cotton of Kincaldrum. So that’s the usage I’ve adopted here.
From the meadowy top of Kincaldrum, I wandered down to my last hill of the day, although it doesn’t have much of an independent summit.
I descended the slope the OS marks as Hayston Hill, and then walked out on to the flat moorland ridge beyond. The area is chopped up by little disused quarries, and ornamented by a copse of windblown Scots Pines.
Beyond the pines, there’s a prehistoric cairn marked on the map. The Sidlaws have a number of these summit cairns, but most are covered in turf and undergrowth, rendering them invisible to the untrained naked eye. This one, though, is indicated on the map by a little circle of outward-pointing arrowheads, suggesting that some sort of noticeable convexity should still be visible. And so it is—not just a high bushy knoll, but a definite trace of a circumferential rampart, too. I sat and ate an apple next to it, and spent a moment wondering who had once come up here to build such a thing, and why.
The return to Lumley Den was eased by a vehicle track that services the rather pretty dry-stone grouse butts on the ridge. (The hill itself was hotching with young pheasants, all resplendent in the sunshine with their fresh adult plumage—perhaps some of them were even the same stupid birds I met as juveniles last year, when I came this way from Arniefoul.)
The track takes a long diagonal through the heather above Ironharrow Well, and eventually emerges on the ridge at the little tongue of woodland (NO 411434) I mentioned above.
The days was cloudless blue by this time, and seemed to be entirely without wind—but some zephyr was certainly still present, blowing a cloud of spider-silk caught in the wire fence into sparkling horizontal threads.
At Finlarg, I decided I’d walk down through the pasture rather than crawling back through Electric Avenue—maybe I could eventually find a route on to this hill that didn’t involve dicing with electricity.
I discovered that the barbed wire fence continued straight downhill, descending extremely steep ground into Lumley Den, while the electric fence that runs parallel to it along the ridge diverges westwards, following the edge of the dip into the Den. Just as the ground began to get excessively steep, I found a sagging point in the wire fence that let me step over it, and follow the electric fence across the heather. This got me to a rather striking vantage point looking down into the Den from on high.
And as I approached the road, I found that the electric fence sagged to the ground, making it easy to step over, right where it joined the roadside fence at NO 400417—at which point, someone had wrapped the barbed wire of the roadside fence in plastic tubing, making it safe to climb over. It looks like a deliberate but informal access point—over the roadside fence, over the electric fence, up the shoulder of the Den and then over the sagging fence there and out on to the open hillside. But how long it will last is anyone’s guess.