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years the original hill track – a long established right of way linking Tarfside in Angus with Dinnet in Deeside – has been replaced by a much more robust estate road, one of many on the Millden Estate constructed to service numerous lines of grouse butts.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…

Lochs and Reservoirs – little gems in the landscape

My latest ‘big project’ is a book of 30 loch and reservoir walks in Scotland for Sigma Press and along the way I have discovered some real gems, places I had never visited before but wish I had found much earlier. Here are some of my favourites to date with external links to sites offering more info…

Birnie & Gaddon Lochs, Collessie, Fife – It is hard to believe that Birnie & Gaddon Lochs were once part of an industrial site. For many years this was a quarry from which sand and gravel were extracted. When quarrying finished in the late 1980s, two small lochs were created and the area was replanted with native saplings. Now it is a haven for birds and wildlife. Click here for more info.

Harlaw Reservoir, near Edinburgh – One of the many reservoirs nestling in the folds of the Pentland Hills, there is a good path looping round Harlaw and a wee visitor centre at the start. Click here for more info on this easy to access spot close to the nation’s capital city.

Lochan Spling, Aberfoyle – Lochside trails abound in the Trossachs and a real gem to be found lurking amidst the trees of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park is Lochan Spling. Accessed from the popular tourist town of Aberfoyle, a track loops around the water and there is plenty of interest to see along the way, including some fascinating wildlife sculptures. Click here for more info.

Uath Lochans, Kincraig – Four small pools of tranquil water located deep in Inshriach Forest form the Uath Lochans, one of the most scenic spots in Strathspey. Carved out during the Ice Age, the captivating marshy pools lie in the shadow of Farleitter Crag, a dramatic escarpment of rough rock rising high above the canopy of ancient pine and tall fir trees. Click here for more info.

Gartmorn Dam, Alloa – Gartmorn Dam’s natural beauty belies its industrial past. The reservoir was created in 1713 as a source of power for water-driven pumps designed to combat flooding in local coalmines. At the time it was the largest artificial body of water in Scotland. Today, clues to this industrial past can be found around the reservoir. Click here for more info.

The book is due for completion by the end of the year and should hopefully hit the shops sometime in 2012. After all the walking it is now time to site down and do the write-ups. Will keep you posted!

Glorious Good Friday on Rannoch Moor

I could not resist the lure of Rannoch Moor once again and, setting off to walk the Road to the Isles from Corrour Station to Rannoch Station, I was rewarded with an excellent day, dry with hazy sunshine and a cooling breeze. After driving to Rannoch Station, I boarded the 11.08am train for the short journey north to Corrour. The carriages were packed with walkers, the majority of whom spilled out on to the platform when we arrived at Corrour. Read more…

Tentsmuir Sea Eagle Walk

The return of the sea eagle – or white-tailed eagle – to Scotland is one of the great conservation success stories. The last native bird was shot on Shetland in 1918 but in the 1970s the raptor was reintroduced and experts estimate there are now 200, most roosting in the isolated western isles. Thanks to ongoing work, Britain’s largest bird of prey is now soaring over east coast waters too. Read more…