Saturday, 18 June 2011

Glen Lethnot

Friday 17th June.
On my own today. With Mo feeling a bit under the weather this week she decided that she wasn't quite up for it, especially since this was a new walk so always a bit uncertain about what we might come across. So a bit of a confession to start with; as of about three or four weeks ago I'd never heard of Glen Lethnot, never mind knowing where it was! I'd only come across it while surfing the net looking for challenging, but not killer, walks that would get us out into hills. The Glen nestles between Glen Esk on the north and Glen Clova on the south, (there is a website that will give you more detail if you fancy). Like a lot of the Glens the access is along a narrow single track road that, in this case especially, looked like it needed some serious maintenance! The access road starts just outside the hamlet of Bridgend about five miles from Edzell and is signposted Hunt Hill Lodge. There was a bit of a delay a couple of miles in with a fair sized squad of workmen busy replacing fencing and they obviously weren't expecting some tourist driving in on a Friday morning. The road ends with a car park where another squad of workmen were in the process of building a road bridge over today's river, The Water of Saughs. So much for getting a quiet walk!!

 Car park or building site!

The walk itself started off along good, well maintained estate tracks. There was still some track maintenance going on at the start but, once past the third digger of the day, I finally got the place to myself and never seen another person for the rest of the walk.

 Route into the Glen

The estate road initially follows the Water of Saughs up into the glen until it bears right to head up the side of the Craig of Doune. Although there was no real climbing planned for today this first uphill section made me work a bit, so I guess it was keeping me honest! The walking itself is easy enough with the tracks well drained and smooth. The views, as ever, only got better the higher I got.

 Heading upwards

Eventually the path levels out and I had a very pleasant walk high above the river with great views back down along the glen. The weather was still holding fair, although I knew that the forecast was for it to breakdown later in the day. For the moment however I still had my jacket in my rucksack and was wearing a baseball cap to keep the sun off my bald bit!

 Looking back the way I'd come

There was a bit of confusion by now, and I'd come to the conclusion that either I was on the wrong track, (which I knew I wasn't), or my O&S map was out of date. It was of course the second, which is no real surprise considering that I've had it for the last fifteen years or so! The alternative route to this point was to have left the estate road where it turned up to the right and head straight on towards a zigzag path up to a buttress called West Craig. Where the two paths converged I took a detour along a faint path to the small cairn that marked the top.

 West Craig

Returning to the way I came I carried on along the path high above the river with good views up and down the glen until a junction on the left led me, via another zigzag route, down to the river. While I'd been walking I had been able to look across to the other side and see the path that was to be my route back but, rather worryingly, it seemed to come to a halt half way up the hill. Still even if my map was out of date the chances were the path shown on it would turn up. Initially I had planned to stop at the river for lunch but, being on my own, I was a bit ahead of schedule so decided to get the climb over with first. So after a wee bit of excitement getting across the river as ever I set off up the second and last climb of the day.

 Another river successfully crossed!

Although quite steep, the climb was relatively short, so I was still quite early when I left the track to follow a faint path that led up to quite a substantial cairn on the side of The Shank of Donald Young, (you've got to love the names). There were a couple of things that are worth a mention about this cairn; firstly it's not at the highest point, (this is marked by a much more mundane cairn); and secondly it was built with a brilliantly white stone that looks a bit like granite but probably isn't. It's probably a quartz of some kind but I'm open to suggestions.

Cairn on The Shank of Donald Young

By now the sun had disappeared to be replaced with low, threatening clouds and the wind was picking up, but I was hungry so I sheltered behind the cairn and had a fifteen minute break for lunch. By the time I moved on I could feel the first drops of rain in the wind. I dropped down to pick up the track where I'd left it earlier and carried on, hoping that my worries about it coming to an end were misplaced. I was to be disappointed!

 End of the road - literally!

My out of date map promised me that a path did exist down the side of the Burn of Duskintry, which was only a quarter of a mile or so across some burned back heather, so I set of for a bit of "wild walking". As it happens I picked up a faint path along the edge of the burning and, after one or two false starts, this slowly became an obvious if rather soggy track heading diagonally down towards the burn.

 Ghost of a path!

This turned out to be a pleasant part of the day. I was sheltered from the wind in the valley and although the path was boggy in places, (I don't think we'll do this walk in early spring or autumn), it was easy to follow and easy underfoot. Eventually the valley opens out a little where the burn feeds into the Water of Saughs and although my map had suggested another "interesting" river crossing, I was pleased, and a little surprised, to find an estate footbridge.

 Bottom of the valley

 Estate footbridge

The footbridge was a welcome sight, (the river was quite turbulent at this point and I have a feeling that trying to cross might have been more than interesting), however the bridge was built from timber and wire rope so it was a little bit bouncy! I'm sure that it's perfectly safe but it still made me smile a bit. I also love the notice that says it's for estate people only. I wonder if anybody reads it and decides not to use it and tries to get across the rocks instead. I think not! From the here the path follows the banks of the river until it crosses a small burn where it meets the route to the zigzag climb I mentioned earlier.

 Not quite as sophisticated

From here it was a straightforward walk back to the original estate track towards the car park. By now I was in full waterproofs and the wind was in my face, so not the most enjoyable walk out. The workmen were still there and although I'm sure it's a great place to come to work on a nice day it can't be just as great when the weather turns. As for Glen Lethnot, on the up side it was a nice walk and it's obviously a lot quieter than its neighbours, but on the downside it was almost completely devoid of wildlife. There were a few LBBs and lots of grouse with their chicks, but there were no deer and no "big birds", in fact I saw no raptors at all and only one or two crows. Maybe the workmen put them off.

 Wet end to the day

I had left the car just after half past nine and was back just after two o'clock. Walking on my own means that I walk a little quicker and don't stop as often or for as long so it might be an hour or so longer the next time if Mo comes with me.

More Photos

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Edzell, the North Esk and the Rocks of Solitude

Friday 10th June

It was a nice morning when we set off on this walk today. We had decided on a quiet, low-level walk for this week since Mo's health had been a little bit fragile for the last couple of weeks. Edzell is a small town just a few miles west of Brechin and was, for many years the town closest to a major American airbase. Despite this it has remained a largely unspoilt town and always gives the impression of somehow being happily stuck somewhere in the 1950's. It does have one or two claims to fame; there is the Dalhousie Arch at the east entrance to the town; a fantastic town hall in the middle; and a very picturesque church at the western end. For us though the main reason we visit, apart from the general ambience, is that we had a seat put in to commemorate Mo's mum who died in 2006 and who used to "summer" here as a teenager with her family in the years before the second world war.

 Betty's seat

We started the walk at the car park by the church and decided that, although the route is actually in the opposite direction, we would walk the length of the town and pick up the walk further down river. By doing this we were able to photograph the arch and the town hall before we set of on the walk proper. The Dalhousie Arch which straddles the road at the entrance of the town was built in 1899 by the tenants of the Dalhousie Estate in memory of the Count of Dalhousie, John William Ramsey and his wife Lady Ida. There's an interesting piece about their lives here.

 Dalhousie Arch

The first part of walk is along the southern banks of the river North Esk which skirts the edge of the town. Initially the river is wide and flows gently over strange flat rock formations and there's a pedestrian suspension bridge, inevitably called "shakkin brig".

 The North Esk and the Shakkin Brig

At this time of year the well trodden path along the riverbank is lined with trees in full leaf and a multitude of grasses, ferns and wild flowers, none of which we know the names of. However because we knew that this was going to be a walk that was predominately in the woods, we had decided that we would at least make an effort to positively identify some of the trees. So armed with a tree identifier app on my i pod touch we set off.

 River Path

Although the trees and verges are lovely, they do tend to obscure the view of the river, which is a nuisance, but we did come to the conclusion that the majority of the trees lining the path were beech, so that was a start. We met a man who was working for the Angus Salmon Fishing Authority whose job today was to drag dead salmon from the shallows of the river. Apparently the fish were dying because of the low water over the last couple of months and the fact that there had been an increase in the number of fish in the river this year. We asked if it was necessary to get all of the dead fish out of the river because some of them appeared to be in deep water bur he said that it was actually better to leave them in the water but the public complained if they were left. We couldn't work out why people would complain, but there you go!

 Beech Trees - probably!!

The path winds its way along the high steep bank of the river eventually exiting onto the B966 road at the Gannochy Bridge. Turning right, we crossed the river to the north bank and rejoined the walk by going through the blue door into the Burn House estate.

 Through the Blue Door

Burn House is now part of the Goodenough College which is an educational institute based in London supplying accommodation and support for predominately post graduate students from around the world. If you want to read more about their activities you can find it on their website here

The path here stays high above the river with steep banks that channel the ever more turbulent waters through deep narrow gorges. At one point however we were able to make our way down a steep path used by anglers and under a derelict bridge with a statue of a leaping salmon.

 Waterfall with fish ladder on the right

 Leaping Salmon

Also around this area on the walk we came across information boards that told us about the possibility of seeing otters and red squirrels as well as details of the mushrooms and lichens that grow in the area. Well we never saw any otters but we did catch a glimpse of a red squirrel for the second time in three walks. There was no mention of trees though, but by now we were quietly confident that we had seen and could identify Ash, Oak, Sycamore, Silver Birch and Sweet Chestnut as well as the Beech we had seen earlier. We were also pretty sure there were Pine and Larch but they might be open to debate.

 Information Board

There are other "educational" things dotted about like giant wooden toadstools and a carving of a butterfly, (or maybe a moth, I'm not sure).

 Butterfly or Moth?

From here the path makes its way along a quieter river towards the Stones of Solitude, although I'm not entirely certain I could pick them out for you. Somebody told us that we can't miss them because they are huge rocks set in the middle of the river, but having passed lots of huge rocks in the middle of the river, I'm still not sure. Anyway we did eventually come across a horseshoe shaped seat set in a cut out in the cliff and it was here that we stopped for a well deserved lunch.


The only real downside to this walk, apart from so many trees hiding the view, is that the only way back is the way we came. Still it was a pleasant walk and we varied it a little by taking paths further from the river and nearer the Glen Esk road and alongside Burn House.

 Burn House

Once back at the road we retraced the path down the south side of the river. There is a path on the north side that eventually crosses the "shakkin brig" but it's narrow and can be treacherous in wet weather so we decided not to risk it. We cut up a path at that took us out at the west end of the town close to where we had parked the car. We had left at around half past nine and arrived just before three. To be honest it's not a walk that should take as long as this but there is a lot to see with great views - when you get a break in the trees.

More Photos

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Bullers of Buchan from Slains Castle

Sunday 5th June

After a couple of weeks off we finally managed to get a descent walk in, albeit on a Sunday rather than a Friday! We were out on Thursday night then moved over to Cruden Bay to dog and chicken sit for the rest of the weekend. This meant of course that by walking the dogs each day we got plenty of fresh air and exercise but we needed to be careful where we walk them and this is what I find problematical. Anyway after their walk on Sunday morning, (around Slains castle and up onto Goats Hillock ), we decided that, as we were on the north side of the city, it was a good opportunity to take in the Bullers of Buchan. When we first moved over to the east coast from Inverness I must confess we had no idea what the Bullers of Buchan was. In fact the first time we passed the car park we thought it might be a shop! Anyway we've now walked this particular piece of coastline a couple of times. Once from the official car park on the A957 about four miles north of Cruden Bay. The second time we did a loop to the north side of Slains Castle, so this time we decided to link them up and walk from the Slains Castle car park along the coast to the Bullers and carry on north for a while to see what else we could see, (the walk actually goes all the way to Boddam, just south of Peterhead, but we decided that this was just a touch too far for this afternoon).

We set off from the small car park for Slains Castle just north of Cruden Bay. We then ignored the sign for the coastal path to Slains and took the direct track towards the castle.

 Quiet car park

 Towards the castle

Having explored the castle often enough and having written up the castle walk already we stopped short of it and joined the coastal route north at the first of many steep sided bays that give this part of the coast its distinct character, (for the sake of accuracy this one is called "Long Haven"). There is a waymarked post at the start of the path, but it's missing its sign so is less obvious than it might be.

 Who built that wall!!

The path itself is a distinct, well trodden route but it may become a bit overgrown in places at certain times of the year. At this time however there is little to worry about, as long as you remember to watch where you're going and if you're going to look at the thousands, (and I'm not exaggerating), seabirds that have colonised the cliffs then stop and look. Believe me, to try and walk and look at the same time is dangerous! We continued north along this spectacular path until we came to the next couple of bays that cut into cliff side, ("Twa Havens"), before we paused for a look back the way we had come and towards Slains.

 Twa Havens to Slains

The path continues to meander its way along the cliff edge, sometimes within stepping distance of the edge, sometimes more safely 50 yards or so away from the edge. Interestingly when the main path takes the safer route there always seems to be a faint track or two that lead back towards the edge, and as it happens, that's where the better photo opportunities are! Our next goal was the bird infested rock islands of Dunbuy and The Yaud. The number of birds and the noise they made is difficult to describe but it really was quite spectacular. There were a lot of different types of birds, but I'm not knowledgeable to name them all. What I do know is that there were Kittiwakes, Razorbill, Guillemot, Herring Gulls and Shags, (or Cormorants maybe - always difficult to tell from a distance). I'm sure there were other types of gulls but I'm afraid I don't know them well enough.



Dragging ourselves away from the dramas being played out on the cliffs we continued north. I have to say that it was a wrench because it really was the type of thing we could have sat and watched for hours without getting bored! The path continues to make its way north passing yet more bays cut deep into the cliffs with more birds perched on impossible edges and caves that disappear into darkness. The next spectacle comes as we reached the area that gives the area its name. The first point we reached is called "Robie's Haven" and was to give us our real treat of the day. I was busy taking photos of the coast to the north when Mo drew my attention to a couple of birds perched on a cliff around 50 yards or so away. And that was how we came to see our first Puffin in real life! When you consider everything that was going on around us it was a great spot by Mo and one I'm really pleased she made.

 Puffins - fantastic!

 From Robbie's Haven Looking North

From here we made our way down to the small hamlet perched on the cliffs above the Bullers itself. The Bullers is a collapsed cave system, (you can read more about it here ). I'm not too sure about whether or not I'd like to live quite this close to the cliff edge but some of the views and weather conditions you would get would be spectacular.

 The Bullers of Buchan

Officially this should have been the end of our walk for the day, but we decided to carry on a little further because the last time we were here I had managed to get some good photos further up the coast. The path past the Bullers becomes a bit more overgrown and footing would be treacherous in wet weather. Fortunately there was no sign of rain and the weather had been dry all week so with a little care we made our way around to the last "haven" of the day "North Haven".

 North Haven

I guess the only downside of this walk is that the only route back is to retrace your steps. So from here we turned back towards home and got to see all the views from a new perspective! We did of course stop and take more photos of the puffins on the way past!!  Everybody knows that Scotland has spectacular coastlines and cliffs but I wonder sometimes if people realise how close these wonders really are. We had left the car twelve o'clock and arrived back at quarter past three. I'm not suggesting that this is a three hour walk, but we spent a long time watching the birds and taking lots of photos.

More Photos