Hill Tracks

Making tracks

What a difference a decade makes. Today, I hiked up the Firmounth Road from Tarfside in Glen Esk en route to the summit of Hill of Cat. I did a similar walk in 2002 and, as I set out from the car park, I had happy memories of walking the old road all those years ago.

However, above the renovated lodge at Shinfur, I quickly discovered that over recent years the original hill track – a long established right of way linking Tarfside in Angus with Dinnet in Deeside – has been replaced by a much more robust estate road, one of many on the Millden Estate constructed to service numerous lines of grouse butts.

Grouse butt building

It wasn’t particularly pleasant underfoot, but did make short work of the ascent to the top of Tampie where, as part of the estate’s ongoing drive to upgrade its grouse moors, a line of butts was in the process of being rebuilt.

The ‘upgraded’ Firmounth Road lifted me up and over Tampie and as I progressed towards the next peak, Gannoch, it became apparent that the redevelopment was not yet complete. Ahead of me, at the end of the newest section of track, sat a mechanical excavator – poised to carve up even more of the original route.

It is a great pity that the old Firmounth has been bulldozed out in such a fashion. Gone is a wonderful old hill track. In its original state, it was an integral part of the landscape. Weathered and overgrown, the heathery highway lay hidden amongst the hills. Now, sadly, it is an all too obvious scar of grit and gravel.

For more on the Firmounth Road, visit Heritage Paths.