The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

The Sidlaws

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Distance: 9.7 miles
Time: 5 hours (including stops)

For once the malevolent weather gods of Aberdeen had taken a Sunday off, the coach arrived early and we even got a stop for bacon rolls at the services of Strathcaro where the authentic seventies experience is free. At the back of the coach it was Baltic and so the frigid air at Lumley Den was not much of a surprise as we kitted up under promisingly blue skies.

Climbing up Iron Hill

This might have been a new part of the world for the Stockets but the fresh air got us moving quickly up the steep slopes of Iron Hill away from the road. We observed the bus driver taking a quick self-portrait – evidently even he thought the surroundings were nice. After Liz barrel rolled through a fence we had a much more sedate climb up to our first summit where a flurry of snow from dark clouds hinted at a later change in the weather.

Walking towards Craigow Hill ?For now though we seemed to be in the one clear patch for miles around. From horizon to horizon we were surrounded by shifting clouds and falling rain but after the snow abated we enjoyed walking in beautiful sunshine and wonderful views.

Winter Sun over the Fields of Dundee

From Iron Hill we could have bagged Gallow Hill but a navigation error kept us on the distinct track through the heather towards the TV tower on the southern slopes of this eastern end of the Sidlaws. As we crested the ridge here we were treated to a view of the lower Tay valley with the Firth of Tay a glistening silver band beyond the city of Dundee. Everything glowed in the low winter sun.

The walk along the ridge to the road up to the weather station at Craigston hill was enjoyable and after a short tarmac’d section we reached the trig point and our high point for the day at 535m. Elevenses were had whilst we waited for the Dundee crew, including Sidlaw expert Alick, to join us. In the distance we could see the Folly on the day’s final hill. It looked a good distance and was also basking in the sun.

Examining the Trig Point, Craigow Hill

From Craigston we skirted around more radio paraphernalia then dropped down onto a good path winding its way up from Dundee which led us up to a look out on Balluderon hill. It offered fabulous panoramas and in fact under sombre clouds the base of some of the closer Cairngorms could be seen.

Craigow Hill in the distance

From here we zig-zagged our way amongst the heather-clad hills until we reached the remains of the hill fort on Auchterhouse Hill. There was a stiff breeze as we enjoyed views into Fife and all down the Tay and into the North Sea.

Shadows and Light

On the lea side of the hill several Stockets decided to break for lunch whilst others carried on across the somewhat boggy ground en route to Scotston Hill. In a small dell we paused for our lunch, remarking on the cloud that had crept in on the now stiffened south-westerly breeze.

Attempts to reach Scotston Hill were thwarted by an impressive fence so we skirted the contours back up to the main path. This led us above a small quarry and then onto a landrover track which wove its way around Henderston Hill. Bob appointed himself our forest guide and we wound our way through firebreaks and along hidden paths until we emerged somewhat away from our target of Kinpurnie Hill.

Firth of Tay

Crossing some more open land brought us up on to the final hill of the day where the impressive stone tower of earlier in the day turned out to be a somewhat disappointing shell with a propensity for funnelling the wind. The imposing clouds cut off the views from the panorama and it wasn’t long before we sought the shelter of the valley and the village of Newtyle only a mile or so below us.

Defensive

The descent was a treacherous combination of slick grass and churned up mud which only became worse as we slithered our way through the woods alongside a chattering burn. It was well marked and thankfully had adequate hand railings which became even more important as a heavy rain started to fall.

The last half mile or so along the road were desperately unpleasant with thick rain driven into us by a strong wind. Nevertheless the comparative shelter of the bus was obtained, dry waterproofs were donned and our day was rounded off by a pint in the pub and the knowledge of an unlikely triumph at Pitodrie.

See more in my Sidlaws Flickr Photoset.

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