Saturday 31 October 2009

Moncreiffe Hill,Culteuchar Hill,The Clevage Hills.

Boy did we pick the right day weather wise by going out on the Saturday.Sunday was grim even just tramping round the shops in Glasgow.
After the usual amiable discussion,each chipping in suggestions suited to our own tastes, we agreed on something and headed for a wooded ridge overlooking the River Tay and the fair city of Perth. 58.

Looking at it on the map Moncreiffe Hill is one of two cliff edged ridges,each 3 kilometers long,which stand guard either side of the River Tay.The other is Kinnoull Hil l(pictured here) which is the one most people go up as it has a folly (castle) on the cliff edge.Together they make up the southern outliers of the Braes of the Carse.Lovely often overlooked hills.See Pole Hill on this blog.
Admittedly Moncreiffe Hill is not as good as Kinoull but the views are different,it`s quieter and has its own little secrets which we were to find out...or not!

The way up was uneventful through mixed woodland, mainly pine, golden stands of larch being prominent everywhere.This was another hill Alex was cursing not having a GPS on.Being old school I think they take the wonder and some of the serendipity out the day but we`d half glimpsed a trig from the car below the hill which looked to be on a cliff edge surrounded by thick forest at the western end.
Our car park lay at the eastern end.There was no trig on my well used map (ahem,it may have been worn off on a fold) .After a wee bit of thrashing through conifers and sundry undergrowth all around the top to find the highest point we looked for the trig.We weren`t even sure if there was one up here it was just a glimpse below of something small and white. (Not standing proud and declaring itself boldly like say..... a Monument :)

Anyway it was a fine hill and a sunny viewpoint but once again we`d picked a deceptive little maze of a hill.Despite much searching the elusive trig couldn't be found in the wooded folds of this wee massif.We were on a time limit as the days were shorter now and we still planned on doing another 2 hills today.

Down we went again Alex cursing his luck and forgetful fingers when packing.Bet he`s got his GPS next week folks.
Back at the car we found an info board with a picture map of the hill.The trig was proudly shown further to the west of where we were looking.Also missed (sigh) was a dramatic gorge with steep steps leading into it."No visit to the hill is complete without an ascent of this glory of the crag" it said.Ah well, give us an excuse to return some day.
Hill number 2 of the morning was Culteuchar Hill which was just across the valley of the River Earn 6 klms away but required a short car journey.
We parked on the minor road beside wooded Craigoway Hill then followed good paths over the rising moor to the summit slope.

Yet again a big herd of cattle, ominously deep black in colour, appeared to block our path.I tell you now folks if this blog suddenly ends abruptly we`ll be found trampled mushy under a hundred hairy hoof prints.This time we managed to fox them however by using the contours of the land and skirted round them to sneak the prize.

Another comprehensive view of Perthshire,with the Lomond hills catching the eye most.The light was good as well, sunny but with dark clouds and brief fleeting effects.

Hill number 3 we bagged mainly for the name though they did look nice from Forteviot.Another 5 km car trip to the highpoint of the minor road at spot height 251 saw us skirting up beside the wood then across Boghall Hill and tussock grass city towards gold lit moorland.

It was a very breezy summit.Another 2 remote Ochils bagged as we get to know this deceptive and complex little hill range that extends a lot further than most people think including us."Whose bagged all the Ochil tops then?" asked Alex.
"That would be a fine wee challenge for someone."
"When I die I want to be made into a monument!" I proclaimed on a different train of thought.
Just dump me upright on a nice hill and pour a few bags of postcrete over me that`ll give you a start.Nothing too extravagant, 25 feet high will do nicely."

Roe deer were spotted again and the sun gave us its company for 3 nice empty hills in a new area for us.Not bad for old guys as it was a fairly taxing outing of pimple ticking.

Then once again it was back to the west slipping under the usual blanket of cloud again.

An atmospheric day out in superb light.


Thanks for writing it up Bob :)

I was playing around with the camera settings on the Clevage Hills.I reckon I know about 5% of what it can actually do.Discovered the multiple exposure part which takes three exposures,normal,one stop under and one stop over.So,I blended them together in Photoshop and here are a couple to have a gander at :) You might have to enlarge them to see them properly.

Bob on the summit of the Clevage Hills.

The Lomond Hills from the Clevage Hills above Dunning. The Clevage Hills are yet another site that may or may not be Mons Graupius where the Picts and Romans clashed.I think we have been to 4 of the contenders this year so far.See here for more detailed info...

Mons Graupius

Will have to save up the pennies for a proper DSLR camera.....

Sunday 25 October 2009

Cairnie Hill and Dunbog Hill.The Lost Ochils.

Time creeps on.On the first official hills of winter the only sunshine this Sunday was central and eastern Fife or Northumbria and Newcastle."Waay aye pet". Fife it was then.Map O.S.59.
Alex was all for going straight up and down these two hills then going somewhere else but I fancied making more of a day of it,exploring some new areas I hadn't been to on the glorious map of Fife.
We stopped in Collessie village in the only available parking space we could find which was right under a railway bridge.Anywhere else would have been anti-social in someone`s private area.

A lot of the small villages in this part of Fife are very pretty and this was no exception.Picture postcard and elevated with some of the residents in church at the top of the brae.

We had a wander round then took the signposted right of way to Collessie Den and after that took a track just before a free range chicken farm which led us right up over the grassy hillsides to wilder lands above.
Although we didn't know it yet todays walk would take us into a remote and unfrequented region with a surprisingly "big" feel to it for such modest hills.Even within Fife these two hills get few visitors.Although I was not aware of it until now (there are brighter bulbs in the box) this is the eastern end of the Ochils hill chain.
It looked fairly straightforward on the map but the tracks we were on now did not appear on the O.S. map and distance and direction were complex as we couldn't see the summit heights of our first hill from anywhere.There were paths through this region the secret was finding them.
Cairnie hill summit was ticked off by accident as we ascended a rise between trees just to see where the hell we were.Alex then recognised the natural stone summit block from the description in his well thumbed guide at home.

The route across to the trig on Dunbog hill became obvious now as did the realisation that this area was plastered with cows.

The route across was over rolling hillsides studded with gorse and brambles skirting the edge of the escarpment to avoid a remote habitation, the only one in view.We never spied a soul until we reached civilization and minor village roads 3 hours later.
As we drew closer we were still under the impression that the summit was ours for the taking.Even with bullocks if you walk towards them in a confident manner they usually back off after a bit of bravado and hoofing of turf.
Never had so many cows guarded one little trig however.It was a wall of cattle with half grown calf's.

Alex was up to the task though. He dodged ,he weaved, he fainted left and right.He crawled pleadingly on his belly, wee paws in the air in a submissive manner.The cows refused to budge.These were mums on a mission and they had the mean look of happy trample, make my day, in their watchful eyes. They blocked our every move, a solid wall of bovine menace.We gave up.

In our day we`d climbed every icy Munro summit put before us.Scrambled along knife edged pinnacles chased by gibbering monkeys.Casually jumped with a hearty laugh across Europe's crumbling glaciers and crevasses yet here we were humbled by a herd of tail swishing grass munchers.Gutted was not the word.
Still, Alex got a photo of his prize and seemed content with that.
The way back was over fields of corn stubble still on tiny paths not on the map,skirting woodland and any growing crops by keeping to the margins. Apart from the Lomond hills which are busy only by comparison this area must be the wildest in Fife.You could easily have big cats here and they would go unnoticed if they left the sheep alone sticking to more natural prey.

Don`t know what Alex was up to here unless it was an attempt to steady the camera for a zoomed shot of this fine monument he`s still to do.He keeps talking about it.His missed trig :)

It was a nice walk back to the car via woodland paths to Letham then Monimail following quiet minor roads back.

We met a local couple here. The only folk seen since leaving Collessie.
There was still time for a short endeavour.I wanted to explore the wilder parts of Glenrothes as I `d heard there were some parts at night even the police don't fancy going into.Good fun! Alex,he`s so predictable, wanted another trig.It was his car.
Sunset found us wandering up a lane then through fields of stubble with two timid roe deer grazing to find a wee concrete lump surrounded by a ring of houses and farms called Hilton of Forthar.I`ll say one thing for Alexs choice of trigs. You fairly get to see some of the strangest corners of the country and Hilton of Forthar is right up there.

Good views of the setting sun over East Lomond.
An interesting and rewarding day. Breezy but fairly mild and for the most part sunny. A nice choice at the very end of the Ochils range.


Bob walking into Letham....

This walk might look a wee bit agricultural on the map but it was quite tough going and had a surprisingly remote feel to it.Pity about the bolshie cows though..!

Colessie and Letham now feature on my places to retire to list :)

Saturday 17 October 2009

Beinn a`Mhanaich and Ardmore Point.

Thank God for le dodgy Froggy electrics :) Normal service was resumed today on the hills..!

I drove over to Bob`s early to give him a socket set to change his battery.Like all modern cars nothing is simple and in this case,to change the battery,he needed a right angle socket extension.The deed done it started no problem but to be safe we set off in mine.

The vast majority of folk drive past the Luss Hills on their way further north,something of which I too was guilty of in the past.I wandered over them in my late teens when the winter bus timetables prevented day trips to Glencoe.Because they weren`t "real hills" I never kept any written records of which tops I visited so decided to do them all again a few years back.Nowadays I tend to do only do one hill a day to give time for other diversions later on in the day and to enjoy them all the more.Well,that plus my knees are knackered..!

The morning had been full of promise as I drove over to Bob`s...the River Clyde at Bothwell was shrouded in early morning mist with blue skies above.So it continued as we left Bob`s along by Dumbarton and up to Loch Lomond.The boy was desperate to stop for photos of the inversion over Loch Lomond.Must admit,it was quite nice as the wooded tops of the islands pierced the bed of low lying cloud.The hills beckoned though......for me at least :)

A non stop string of superlatives gushed from the Capn`s mouth as we turned left and gained height on the Glen Fruin road above Loch Lomond.Fortunately there was no place to pull over to indulge his passion :) We eventually pulled off the road at NS 275 904 where there is room for three or four cars at the entrance to the glen between Beinn Chaorach and Beinn a`Mhanaich.

In November 2008 everyone else had gone up the Cobbler whilst I fancied something different.I had set off up Beinn Chaorach in limited visibility and eventually broke through the cloud and had a fantastic day in the snow ,the only downside being I had to break trail all day through the snow myself.

Inversion over the Clyde with Ben Bowie sticking up on the left......

Taken by self timer on the trig point...

No chance of a repeat of that day again as we were now in clear crispy autumn weather.We set off up the south ridge of Beinn A`Mhanaich in t-shirts.Now Bob and I had been hillwalking and rock climbing for 25 years together before deciding to bow out gracefully and concentrate on the smaller hills and see different areas of Scotland.Rock climbing is fairly safe nowadays with modern protection but the general public still perceive it to be "dangerous". On the other hand most folk would think that bagging smaller hills,Marilyns for example,would be a fitting day out for two guys of our advanced years :) Not so..! On Hill of Garvock in Angus last year we had an encounter with a herd of demented cows with murderous intentions and no escape route.We`ve been electrocuted by fences and last Sunday coming to a complete halt on the outside lane of the A77 with no power for the hazard lights was up there at the top of the list.We hadn`t as of yet been shot at though.......

Nothing was going to deny us a summit today however....

You can hear the pop of the rifles in this video clip.Faslane below.

We contemplated exchanging the red flag for a white t-shirt but the summit urge was overwhelming.... well,for one of us at least :) Bob then phoned them up and told them they had no right to kill us as we were legitimate baggers going about our lawful business and, that if they really wanted to riddle us with bullets, then could they please postpone until after we had ticked the summit :)

That seemed to do the trick and they probably went away to tattoo each other with snakes and daggers or have a cuppa or something.

That little problem behind us we proceeded up the long easy angled ridge towards the summit.The views were opening up although a bank of cloud covered Islay and Jura.Arran was a bit hazy which was a pity because it looks spectacular from here.A grandstand view of the new Mark bothy over Loch Long....

The junction of Loch Goil and Loch Long....

The gnarly wee Steeple with Beinn Bheula behind...

Over to Beinn Ime and the Brack...

We wandered over to the summit and dropped down to the north to find a sheltered spot for lunch..

Back down the ridge we went into the sun and back to the car.

Knowing that we had a shortish hill day in prospect we had decided beforehand to round it off with a visit to Ardmore Point near Cardross and see what it had to show in the way of birds.On a previous visit there had been all sorts of waders and hundreds of shelduck and the like.It also had a trig point I had neglected to bag on that occasion as I had a proper life back in they days :) I suspect that most of the winter migrants haven`t arrived as yet and it was the wrong time of day anyway.They were probably dining out on Friday night`s regurgitated pizza and kebab across the other side of the Clyde.Couple of lazy herons and a flock of whimbrel was about it.There were good views across to Helensburgh however....

...oh aye,and an alpaca in a nearby field.They always seem to mince along in a manner that makes me smile, it`s as if they are trying out high heels for the first time..

Was lucky to bag the trig point as it was well hidden....

One of the numerous small beaches at Ardmore....

We then headed up and over the Carmen Muir road to see if we could get a good view of Loch Lomond but couldn`t find a safe place to park.Bob was a litle bit frustrated as he had only taken a few hundred photos so far."Head to Bowling Harbour..!" he commanded.We did and he got his quota of "arty" shots" there which, he assures me, will see this blog top the Google rankings for "brilliant photographs" :-)

I should point out before anybody complains that we were quite within our rights in accessing the hill and the firing was coming from further down on the range....just having some fun :)

Sunday 11 October 2009

Maidens Bay,Culzean Castle...........

A change is as good as a rest they say so we put it to the test and headed for an old favourite.Parked at the Maidens by the sea front (Culzean is pricey to park your buggy inside the grounds) then walked along the beach towards the castle.

The local pony club was out and the sea was pretty frisky with white horses of its own.It was a nice relaxing walk first on sand then past the first cliff over several rocky bays.It gave the view out to sea over to Arran a raw untamed feel but it wasn't that cold.

It has come to my attention, browsing through a couple of photography books from my local lender that certain photographers of low standing think they can improve on natures perfection by rearranging things to suit themselves.You won`t catch me indulging in that nonsense.I keep it real!

We spent a bit of time messing about looking at rock pools then took a wee detour inland as this walk is stuffed with interest round every corner.

After another nice bay we spotted the castle ,impressive on its clifftop setting overlooking the sea.It`s got to be one of the most stunning with its position and outlook.

Where we were headed was the cliff underneath the castle as this was riddled with caves in all shapes and sizes.The best ones, in which I spent a very spooky night bivvy on my own years ago, are now locked with iron gates. Think there is now a guided tour for them from inside the castle.
We were left therefore with the open ones which still had a few sizeable passageways in them.

Here`s the best one we were able to explore.

After that we wandered round the grounds.Last time Alex was here he was a young kid.Good colours starting to show on the trees as we made our way round the large estate.We didn't go into the castle as the sun came out and wallets were returned to dark pockets with relief.

Had lunch beside these guys which was a change from wind swept hill tops.Next up was happy valley, my favourite track in the estate at any time of year,towering rhododendrons on both sides ,pines and eucalyptus trees giving it an exotic feel.

This led us past the swan pond back to the beach where the tide was now out.Oh dear,I feel an arty picture coming on.

You can almost smell the sea off this one :)
A nice little walk on the west for a change.Weather sunny away from the hills hence the reason why we were here.It was now our intention to bag a hill for Alex the nearby Mochrum wood hill,which looked good for views but a nasty surprise awaited us when were got back to my newish car. (Wish I`d kept the old one now) It was dead, no life an ex Megane.We borrowed a spanner and got a jump start (thank you good Samaritans) but it was no use. Think of the worst place to break down and we broke right there.Twice!!!

First at the lights on a busy roundabout then later in the dark in three lanes of fast traffic.We were towed back in disgrace to Glasgow cursing French electrics.That all I`m going to say on the matter...... Yours disgusted. A fine little walk spoiled by the nasty sting in the tail.Thanks to Alex though for being his usual calm self while I was tearing of a branch to beat the crap out of it with.
A true friend.And he`s definitely doing the blog next week now he`s back on line.