Isle of Rum

Rum rainbowJust returned from a few days on the Isle of Rum. A real mixed bag in terms of weather, midges and mountains. Look out for a full write up and pics shortly…

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Walking in the Angus Glens

Angus Glens coverThe summer of 2012 dispensed some of the most unpredictable – and wettest – weather I have encountered for a long time in Scotland. Despite this I managed to achieve a long term personal goal – to produce a book of walks covering the Angus Glens, my favourite part of the country.

Living in Dundee, the glens are on my doorsteps. I began walking there as a child, both with family and through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, and have an enduring passion for the area. Over the years I have explored the hills and glens in all seasons and never fail to be inspired by the varied scenery and rich heritage of the landscape.

Hill and valley walks abound and a clutch of mountains, including several Munros, provide more challenging excursions for those seeking high ground and some of the best views in eastern Scotland. While the Munros are well known, I hope this book will introduce walkers to many lesser but equally satisfying peaks.

Coire Fee and Glen Doll

Coire Fee and Glen Doll

After many days wandering the mountains and valleys with notepad and camera in hand and countless hours tapping away at the computer keyboard with a ready supply of coffee close by, the end result is now at hand – Walking in the Angus Glens was published by Cicerone in June. The book covers the five main glens – Isla, Prosen, Clova, Lethnot and Esk – and contains 30 routes ranging from mountain ascents to linear hikes following the ancient Mounth highways linking Angus and Aberdeenshire. Lots of info on the book, including a sample route, can be found here.

Wild Camping – more perfect pitches

Updated the Wild Camping – Perfect Pitches page with five new entries and some new photographs. Summer – what there was of it – may be coming to an end but there is still plenty of time to pitch up and enjoy a night or two under the stars in a wild and beautiful corner of Scotland. Read more…

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.

West Highland Way Round

Delighted to announce the publication of my latest title for Kindle and Kindle apps – West Highland Way Round.

The ebook describes a 99km circular walking trail through the Scottish Highlands, starting and finishing in Glen Nevis, near the UK’s outdoor capital, Fort William.

The route follows the existing West Highland Way between Fort William, Kinlochleven and King’s House before heading east to join the ancient Road to the Isles at Rannoch Station. From there it heads north to Corrour Station before roaming through wild, uninhabited glens. Read more…

From waste to wildflowers

Invergowrie Bay

It is all too easy to miss great walking opportunities right on your doorstep. The other day I was dropping some rubbish off at the local civic amenity site where, by chance, I stumbled upon a relatively new path network right next door.

The Riverside Nature Park has been created on top of what was for many years Dundee’s main landfill site. Now full to the brim, the city’s waste has been covered in a generous layer of topsoil and replanted. The result is a square mile of grassy meadow and young woodland located alongside the estuary of the River Tay.

To enable exploration, paths have been created, there is a viewpoint at the top and a bird hide has been constructed overlooking the mudflats of Invergowrie Bay. A car park is located on the southern edge of the park, reached from Riverside Drive via Wright Avenue.

Riverside Nature Park

After disposing of my waste, I donned my boots and set off, spending a good hour or so exploring the area. The longest stretch of path runs from the car park up to the bird hide by the bay. Returning, I had the option of heading over the top of the mound – where the viewpoint is located – or following a path that runs between North Meadow and open fields usually occupied by Highland cows. Here there is a small pond where two swans were in residence.

Continuing east, various paths skirt round fields and patches of woodland, emerging either into the car park or on to Wright Avenue, close to its junction with Riverside Drive.

The landfill site opened in 1967 as part of ongoing efforts to reclaim ground from the Tay Estuary (nearby Dundee Airport is built on artificially created land). The site closed in 1996 and has since been the subject of extensive landscaping. The meadows have been planted with an array of wildflowers and there are various patches and strips of native woodland.

Swans on the pond

One of the highlights is the opportunity to spot wading birds on the adjacent mudflats. Geese are regular visitors while other species you may see include lapwing, shelducks, oystercatchers and curlews. The Tay Estuary is also home to white-tailed sea eagles, which were released over the water in Tentsmuir Forest as part of an ongoing reintroduction scheme. Mammals which frequent Invergowrie Bay include otters.

For more information click here to open a copy of the park information leaflet (with map) in pdf format.