Tentsmuir Point

Pillbox near Tayport

Pillbox near Tayport

Research for a book on narrow gauge railways took me to Tentsmuir Point the other day, on a quest to find the remains of an old wartime wagon revealed by the shifting sands.

Setting off from the Fife town of Tayport, I soon encountered Second World War relics in the form of tank traps. As part of Tentmuir Coastal Defences, scores of these sturdy concrete blocks were manufactured by Polish soldiers in 1941 and placed in a line along the high water mark. This stretches from Tayport round the point although thanks to the shifting landscape and the gradual expansion of the coastline seaward many of the blocks now sit some distance inland from the water.

Close to Tayport I passed the derelict compound of a former meteorological station originally linked to RAF Leuchars and two pillboxes that cast a heavy stare over the estuary of the River Tay.

Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve

Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve

The line of tank traps extends east along the beach from here towards Tentsmuir Point and I followed it dutifully over the sand to an information board heralding my entry into Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. While the main path continues east towards the sea, I opted to bear right and follow the block line south. Along the way I passed a couple of gun emplacements, the sand slowly filtering into and filling their dark interiors.

The line of blocks eventually ended, so I set a course for an obvious wartime landmark, a green prefabricated corrugated iron hut (known as Green Hut) mounted on concrete legs.

The wagon

The wagon

A short walk inland from here I found the railway bogie, mounted on a plinth. The 2ft gauge wagon – along with sections of rail and corrugated iron sheets used to mould the tank traps – was discovered by a walker after the beach was eroded by winter storms. It is believed that temporary railway tracks were laid to convey materials used during the making of the blocks and the track and wagons were simply abandoned after the war.

For a walk around Tentsmuir Point click here.

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.

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…

All Terrain Pushchair Walks: Scottish Lochs and Reservoirs

Researched and written last summer, it’s great to see my new book – All Terrain Pushchair Walks: Scottish Lochs and Reservoirs – nearing publication. Scheduled for release on June 30 by Sigma Press, 2012, it describes 30 loch and reservoir family walks in Scotland, all of them suitable for all terrain pushchairs. Of course, you don’t have to have children or an all terrain pushchair to enjoy them! It is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Locations covered include Camps Reservoir, Crawford, Gladhouse Reservoir, Penicuik, Harlow Reservoir, Edinburgh, Strathclyde Loch, Motherwell, Mugdock & Craigmaddie Reservoirs, Milngavie, Loch Spling, Aberfoyle, Loch Coille-bhar, Lochgilphead, Gartmorn Dam, Alloa, Glendevon Reservoirs, Auchterarder, Loch Leven, Kinross, Birnie & Gaddon Lochs, Collessie, Crombie Loch, Carnoustie, Forfar Loch, Forfar, Loch Lee, Glen Esk, Loch Kinord, Aboyne, Cambus o’May Lochans, Ballater, Loch Mharaich, Glen Shee, Loch Shandra, Glen Isla, Ledcrieff Loch & Laird’s Loch, Coupar Angus, Cally Loch & Mill Dam, Dunkeld, Uath Lochans, Kincraig, Loch an Eilein, Aviemore, An Lochan Uaine, Glenmore, Loch Ossian, Corrour, Loch Oich & Loch Lochy, Laggan, Carbisdale Woods Lochan, Bonar Bridge, and Loch Fleet, Golspie.