Another Sidlaws day of two halves—the morning at the west end of the ridge, the afternoon at the east end.
Bandirran Hill (NO 203314, 275m)
130 metres of ascent
Bandirran is as far west as you can go on the Sidlaws ridge and stay above 250m altitude. To stay high and go farther to the west, you need to cross the B953 and climb into the Braes of the Carse, which run from Abernyte to Perth. The Sidlaws and the Braes overlap for three or four kilometres, so as you drive along the B953 from Abernyte to the village of Bandirran you have the eastern end of the Braes to your south, and the western end of the Sidlaws to your north.
I climbed Bandirran from its north side—the little village of Kirkton of Collace. I parked at the school there, and walked a short distance up the road to the Kirkton farm. There’s a signpost there, pointing out the path that runs over the shoulder of Bandirran Hill to Bandirran on the B953. It’s called the School Road. I wondered if any of the kids in the playground at the school had actually walked over the School Road to get there, or if they’d all been loaded into SUVs and driven three miles around by road instead. (When my father was growing up in New Zealand in the 1920s, he used to swim across a river to get to school, his books tied on top of his head. I imagine that would trigger newspaper headlines and an immediate Social Work intervention if it happened today.)
The School Road is marked on my OS 1:50,000 map but not on the 1:25,000. I soon found out why. It starts as a farm track, but terminates at a phone mast and an overgrown wooden bench halfway up the hill. From there it is simply the border between two fields, and then a vague slot in the long grass at the top of the hill. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t see the regular patter of tiny feet these days.
There’s a little fenced area of tree plantation up there, and I followed the fence as the most direct route to the trig point. But the space beside the fence is being colonized by spiky gorse bushes, and it’ll be impassible in a few years. A better route (the way I came down) would be to stay low until open grass appears to the left, which provides much easier access. The trig point is almost completely overgrown—jaggy gorse to the south, gentler broom to the north, so I looped around to come at it from the north side.
Then I wandered over to take a look down at Collace Quarry, which is rapidly removing the side of Dunsinane Hill. Some day Macbeth’s apocryphal castle (actually the remains of an Iron-Age fort) will be quarried away entirely.
I took a loopy route back—exploring the long grass for butterflies, and briefly pursuing a pair of buzzards who were flitting around the treetops.
At the edge of the trees, I noticed an interesting little structure. Someone had taken the plastic seats out of a couple of office chairs and bolted them to a sort of metal tower arrangement at the edge of the trees. The seats even have a couple of holes drilled in them, to let rainwater drain away. It looks like some kind of fire lookout, except it’s turned away from most of the surrounding trees, and aimed out towards the view over Strathmore instead.
Then back down the way I came, and off to Forfar for a bite to eat.
Fothringham Hill (NO 465456, 254m)
Hill of Lour (NO 472462, 232m)
390 metres of ascent
(including various detours!)
Two hills belonging to two estates. The Fothringhams were originally the Fotheringhays. They arrived in Scotland in the thirteenth century, according to David Dorward, and Fothringham Hill House, on the south side of the hill, is the current family mansion. The Lour mansion is east of the two hills, the centre of a large estate belonging to the descendants of Sir John Carnegie, who bought the land in 1643. Those dates indicate how old the land use is on these hills, and I would find evidence of that later in the day.
Fothringham Hill is as far east as you can go in the Sidlaws and get above the 250m contour, so it was a suitable bookend to the morning’s trip up Bandirran.
I parked in the car park next to Inverarity church, and walked around almost as far as Fothringham Home Farm. A very pleasant track strikes north from there, through a little strip of woodland. My first destination was a location intriguingly labelled on the map as “The Henroost”. The ScotlandsPlaces database has a description dating from around 1860 which describes this as, “A small ornamental plantation with walks and seats on the home farm of Fotheringham,” and the 1865 Ordnance Survey six-inch map does show a little maze of paths in this area. Now it seems to be just a weed-choked wasteland, sadly.
I retraced my steps to the main path up the hill, and soon came across an interesting little folly, not marked on current maps, but which the OS described as a “Summer Ho.” in 1865. It sits on a little patch of grass at NO 465450, and looks out to the south. There a semicircular bench inside, and the date “1803” on the gable.
A little farther up the hill from the summer-house, I’d noticed that Google Earth showed a broad track through the trees, striking straight up towards the radio aerial on top of the hill, along a line where the OS 1:25,000 map was showing no more than a fence. And so it proved to be—it was a service road for the aerial, which took me almost straight to the top of the hill.
The top of the hill proved to be a surprise. Google Earth and the current OS map have it covered in forestry, and I’d expected to follow a firebreak from the aerial to the true summit. But some time in the last five years, pretty much everything above the 245m contour has been felled, leaving only a few dead trees standing, as if the hill had hosted its own little Tunguska event.
So I was able to wander over to look at the moss-covered trig point, which sits a little lower than the summit, and then across logging debris to the summit itself, which turned out to be served by the same forestry road I’d been following at the summer-house.
From here I had another little project in mind, which was to dive down along a clear fence-line marked on the map, to see if I could reach “Meathie Church (remains of)” on the north side of the hill. Things started off well enough, with only a little bracken and a few fallen trees to negotiate, and then I was into a lovely little grassy space between a field wall and a forestry fence, with views over the Wester Meathie farmland. But this soon turned into a ditch choked with bushes, and I eventually threw up my hands in surrender and turned back up the hill—Meathie Church is for another day and a different approach.
Back on the summit, I had another bit of forestry-diving in mind. At NO 468457, the map shows a triple line of fences descending the hill through the trees, with what looked like a clear space between them. It’s requires a bit of peering around to actually find the starting point, but once discovered this proved to be a quadruple boundary, with pretty easy walking down its midline—on my left I had a new forest fence and an old wall. On my right I had a very old wall (no more than a foot-high ridge of moss), and a slightly rickety forest fence. I was on the centuries-old boundary between the Fothringham and Lour estates. At NO 468458 another ancient wall headed off northeastwards, accompanied by an open grassy strip on its downhill side. This easy walking took me past a little fire-watchers’ tower, and then to a gate and the open cow-pasture of Hill of Lour.
Lour (pronounce it “loor”) is crowned by an object the OS calls a “Temple”. It has a central crenellated tower and an imposing circular boundary wall with a padlocked iron gate. It’s marked on the 1865 map of the area, which indicates that the area inside the wall contained trees at that time. Nowadays there’s a little precinct on the west side, containing graves of the Carnegy family dating from the middle of last century. All around are airy views of Strathmore—as last resting places go, it takes some beating.
I retraced my steps for a while, and then struck up a grassy firebreak that took be directly towards the “Wireless Station” marked on the map at NO 470456. This proved to be a dilapidated brick structure next to the stump of a radio mast.
From there, I strode back down the forestry road to the foot of the hill, and decided to vary my route back to the car by walking out to the road past the farm at South Bottymyre (which hosts the Angus Riding for the Disabled centre). Bottymyre was Bottomire on the Ordnance Survey’s 1865 map, and then Bottomyre in 1927—there’s apparently beeen a strange, creeping enthusiasm for the letter y.
The Bottymyre route is not entirely welcoming—I found this sign on my way out.
The “shooting” warning is permanently fixed in place, which seems both implausible and dangerous on a track with active forestry at its top end. Given that the southern approach I used has no posted warnings of any kind, it’s probably a less contentious route up the hill.
Martins and swallows were feeding over the fields as I walked back to the car. Some posed for a photograph.
* Since I took the photograph of Bandirran Hill from the School Road in 2016, much has changed. The western shoulder of the hill was clear-felled in the summer of 2018, leaving it with a distinctly lopsided appearance.