Of the Angus Glens, it is fair to say that Glen Lethnot is the least frequented. The single-track road in does not actively encourage visitors. As it winds deeper into the valley it becomes narrower, more potted and increasingly less inviting. But despite the potholes and clunky cattle grids that jolt suspension springs into life, the journey is worth making for it reveals an isolated, some may say desolate, landscape of rolling hills, grassy slopes and heather moor. Apart from the occasional cottage and a grand pink hunting lodge, signs of life are few and far between and herein lies its charms.
For at the road end I found the rough and ready little car park empty. I laced up my boots, hauled on my rucksack and escaped into my own little world. Tramping past the cottage and barns of Waterhead there were no interruptions, no clatter of farm machinery or raucous howls of sheep dogs, just an eerie silence. And I was content enough with that.
Beyond a stone dyke on my right, the climb proper began. Bearing right at the next track junction, I found myself presented with a steep, unrelenting ascent. Somehow the local estate, which survives on deer stalking and grouse shooting, is able to get its vehicles up here but I struggled a little, pausing frequently to admire my surroundings and was glad to finally reach the top of Hill of Berran where a fine view of craggy Coire na Berran awaited.
The track, now rather less demanding of heart and lungs, gently skirts the southern edge of the glacial bowl, passing below the top of Wester Hill, and leads to a stalkers’ hut at the top of Burn of Corscarie. I discovered it was not so much a hut, more an open sided shelter but the opportunity to take refuge from the chilly wind and pause for a sandwich was taken none-the-less.
Above the hut, a track rises on to the featureless plateau of Ruragh. Rougher vehicle tracks descend to the murky black peat-hags of the col below and the climb on to Dog Hillock was undemanding.
Having negotiated a double line of fences, one of which appeared to be electric but, after some tentative prodding, proved to be lacking any charge, I joined another estate track for a relaxing saunter to Hill of Glansie’s lonely trig point.
The descent east was steeper dropping to Birse Shades where I left the track, and headed left across open ground, Mount Sned my next destination. After crossing a tangle of fences, I found a track of sorts to the top of this outlier and a fine romp over soft peat took me down to the col where a robust wooden stile marked the start of a short detour on to Hill of Mondurran, my final peak of the day.
Back at the stile it was time to return to Glen Lethnot. The path down is rather vague and indistinct, particularly on the grassy higher ground, but after a bit of coming and going I picked up its line. Resisting the temptation to drop to the valley floor too early, it led me to a wooden gate and down to a simple bridge spanning the cascading Burn of Corscarie. From here, a track over rabbit-infested rough ground returned me to Waterhead.
The yard was as devoid of life now as it had been earlier in the day. Were I in one of the other Angus Glens – Clova, Isla, Esk or Prosen – I would doubtless have happened upon others by now. In Glen Lethnot, however, I managed to go a whole day without seeing another soul. Not bad for somewhere so close at hand yet so remarkably isolated.
Distance: 10 miles/16km
Time: 4-5 hours
Start/finish: Car park at end of Glen Lethnot road, near Waterhead (GR: NO 464171)
Maps: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 44 (Ballater & Glen Clova); Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheets 388 (Lochnagar, Glen Muick & Glen Clova) and 389 (Forfar, Brechin & Edzell)
Route: Cross bridge over Water of Saughs, follow track through Waterhead and at next junction, beyond wall and metal gate, go R, ascending track on to Hill of Berran. Swing L on track and continue over Wester Hill to stalkers’ hut at GR NO 433718 where track forks. Go R and track leads to summit of Ruragh. Descend SW to col, climb Dog Hillock and continue E to summit of Hill of Glansie. Descend SE on track to Birse Shades. Leave the track at its highest point and walk E to Mount Sned, crossing double line of newer wire fences but staying with line of older fence before descending E to col. Cross stile, climb Hill of Mondurran then return to col, re-cross stile and descend N, then NE on initially indistinct path to bridge over Burn of Corscarie below Waterhead. Follow track up to Waterhead.