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The Sidlaws range consists of:
- a main ridge, running roughly west-east in the form of a long, recumbent, reversed “S”
- three ridges extending northwards, between them delineating Denoon Glen and Glen Ogilvie
- a scatter of outlying tops to the south and east
A separate range of hills, the Braes of the Carse, extends west of the Sidlaws. The east end of the Braes of the Carse lies south of the west end of the Sidlaws, the two ranges being separated at that point by the valley followed by the B953.
The main ridge is divided by several passes, which are crossed by roads radiating outwards from Dundee. The main road crossings are, from west to east:
- the A923 to Coupar Angus, at Tullybaccart
- the B954 to Newtyle, at Glack of Newtyle
- the A928 to Glamis, at Lumley Den
These conveniently divides the main ridge into four sections:
- West: from Bandirran Hill to the Ballo hills, above Tullybaccart
- West Central: from Lundie Craigs and Smithton Hill above Tullybaccart to Newtyle Hill above Glack of Newtyle
- East Central: from Hatton Hill above Glack of Newtyle to Ironside Hill above Lumley Den
- East: from Finlarg Hill above Lumley Den to Kincaldrum Hill
There are two additional minor road crossings in the west section—at Ballo Glack, west of the Ballo hills; and at Collace, between Dunsinane Hill and Bandirran Hill.
A few isolated hills lie southeast of the Ballo Hills and the west central ridge, on either side of the A923.
The east central section gives rise to the three northward ridges:
- from Henderston Hill to Castleward, west of Denoon Glen
- from Auchterhouse Hill to Berry Hillock, between Denoon Glen and Glen Ogilvie
- from Gallow Hill to Broom Hill, east of Glen Ogilvie
Two distinct hills, Denoon Law and Crams Hill, lie at the mouth of Denoon Glen, separate from the ridges on either side.
Beyond the line of the A90 to Forfar the ridge becomes low and indistinct, and I treat the hills here as eastern outliers.
The name origins given here come almost entirely from David Dorward’s The Sidlaw Hills (2004), supplemented by a small amount of material from the Chambers Concise Scots Dictionary (1985). I have on occasion simplified or truncated Dorward’s etymological discussions—anyone who wants more details is referred to his excellent book.
It is a striking feature of the Sidlaws that so many hills are named after nearby farms or settlements, rather than having names of their own. The suffix -ton is therefore common in hill names, derived from the Scots toun, which in this context should usually be understood not as a town but as a “farm toun”—a crofting settlement of just a few houses. The prefix bal-, derived from the Gaelic baile, usually has the same meaning.
Because the names of so many hills come from small settlements at the foot of their slopes, it’s quite common to find different names attached to the various slopes of a single hill, making it occasionally difficult to say with certainty which name should be applied to the summit. I’ve tried to provide some discussion of how I made my choices in the entries for individual hills.
There are also a small number of significant hills, remote from farm settlements, that appear to be unnamed. I’ve listed them as “unnamed points” in the gazetteer, identifying them by their heights.
For those who like to use tables of hills as a guide to their explorations, there’s nowadays a very wide choice, most of which can be found on-line as part of the Database of British and Irish Hills. The lists relevant to the Sidlaws are all based on the concept of prominence—how much a hill sticks up above its surroundings. This can be given mathematical meaning by defining a hill’s prominence as the distance between its summit and the lowest contour which completely surrounds the hill while containing no higher hills. Scott Surgent has a nice simple discussion of the concept of topographical prominence on his website here. But if you really want to see the topic being beaten to death by a committee, the Wikipedia page is here.
For the purposes of the Sidlaws there are three relevant hill lists. Firstly, we have the Marilyn list, which originated in Alan Dawson’s book The Relative Hills of Britain (1992), which is based on a topographical prominence of 150m. This splits the Sidlaws into two sections separated by the deep cleft of the the Glack of Newtyle, with two corresponding Marilyn summits—King’s Seat in the west and Craigowl in the east. Next is the HuMP list, an acronym for Hundred-Metre Prominence. By definition, the Marilyns all qualify as HuMPs, but the more relaxed prominence requirement produces three additional Sidlaws HuMPs: Gask Hill and Lundie Craigs, separated from each other by the shallower Tullybaccart pass, and Fothringham Hill away to the east. In addition, Northballo Hill shows up as a sub-HuMP (just short of being a HuMP), courtesy of the Ballo Glack separating it from Gask Hill.
Finally, there is the Tump list, which are hills with thirty-metre prominence. Again, while the Marilyns and HuMPs also immediately qualify as Tumps, the lower prominence requirement allows many more Sidlaws to appear on the Tump list—there are 27 additional Tumps in the main range and outliers I discuss here.
So for each qualifying hill in the gazetteer, I indicate if it’s a Marilyn, HuMP or Tump, and provide a link to the Database of British and Irish Hills home page. Here’s a sketch map showing the distribution of hill classes, colour-coded:
For most hills, links are provided to “routes”. These connect to blog pages in which I describe a visit to the hill. They’re usually part of a longer walk, so perhaps not the most direct approach to that hill. Nor should they be taken to indicate that the route described will always be accessible or appropriate—in many cases hills are on farmland, or are surrounded by it, and access will depend on crops and livestock. When crossing farmland, I spend a lot of time looking for tracks, gates, gaps in fences or areas where there is an easy step-over between fields, and I report any useful findings—but situations change, and a broken fence one year can be replaced by a deer fence or an electric fence the next. Caveat ambulator.
Links for further information about archaeological features or buildings go to the Canmore database maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.
Entries are alphabetical. For ease of access, the index letters below link to the relevant sections of the gazetteer: