Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Cross Stone, Hill of Rowan, & St Drostan's Church

Saturday 11th February.

Friday was a wash out and despite the fact that we had said we would walk on Friday irrespective of the weather we decided to take the risk that the forecast was right and Saturday became our day of choice. Mo's health had been improving as the week went on so was up for coming with me, as long as it was achievable without the risk of over doing things. After some thought, and a quick skim through Walking Highlands, we decided it was time to visit the monument at Tarfside that we've driven past on numerous occasions on our way down Glen Esk, but had never investigated.

The walk starts at the public car park in Tarfside and when we arrived it was empty apart from a works van and the weather was promising with the early mist beginning to burn off.

Nearly empty car park

Water of Tarf

We crossed the Water of Tarf, past St Drostan's church, (we would visit this on our way back to the car), and headed up the grassy path towards the monument that topped the Hill of Rowan.

Today's goal

As usual we knew very little about Tarfside and its church or monument and as usual we vowed to do a bit more research on the places we were visiting before we set off. Of course we've said this in the past! The O&S map noted a couple of things along the route. There were "field systems" and "hut circles" but the locations are always too vague, and we're never sure what we're actually looking for, so I wasn't very hopeful. There was however an interesting note for a "cross stone" that looked to be quite close to the path, so we kept a close eye out for something that would fit the description. As it turned out we would probably have missed it if somebody hadn't marked the spot with a small cairn of white stones. The cross carved into the rock is well weathered but once you get your eye in it's fairly distinct.

Cross Stone
The stone is said to be associated with Saint Drostan who was a follower of Saint Columba. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce planted his standard on the stone prior to his battle with the Earl of Buchan in 1306. However it's also said that the stone was moved to its current location from somewhere else in the Glen in the 1800's. As with all of these legends I guess you believe the story you want to believe. Being a bit of a romantic, I like the Robert the Bruce story best! The Undiscovered Scotland webpage gives more detail if you're interested.

Looking back down the Glen

The walk up to the summit is a long slow pull and, apart from one or two places where it was slippery underfoot, was very pleasant. There was a wee bit of a steeper section where we left the path and made our way up through the heather to the monument. But Mo was comfortable enough and quite chuffed that we'd made it to the top.

Nearly there!

Hill of Rowan (380m)

The monument was erected by Maule Ramsay when he became the 11th Earl of Dalhousie and Baron Ramsey in 1866, (you can read a bit more about the man here if you're that way inclined). The building itself is empty apart from a broken iron gate and lot of rubble and some rubbish. There's an area of the wall that looks as if it may have had a plaque of some kind but now there's no information or even a name. Pity really.

Mount Keen

We sat for a while admiring the view and drinking coffee. The weather was very pleasant by now with blue skies and a gentle breeze. We played the usual game of trying to name the hills but it was straightforward today with Mount Keen and Mount Battock the two most obvious, so no disagreements. The route down took us to the road linking Tarfside to the Glen Esk car park and we had an easy stroll back towards the car.

St Drostan's Church

At the start of the walk we had passed St Drostan's Episcopal Church and the sign said it was open every day for visitors who may want to spend a few quiet moments in contemplation. For someone like me who has, despite my upbringing, become almost hostile towards religion, I still find churches fascinating places to visit, and St Drostan's wasn't a disappointment. Well maintained, it was bright, clean and functional with a beautiful timber roof and three stain glass panels up behind the alter. Well worth a visit if you're in the area.

From here it was a short walk back to the car. We had left just after ten o'clock and were back by two thirty, but we had taken it slowly and spent a fair bit of time at the monument so the walk could probably be completed in a couple of hours if you put your mind to it.


1 comment:

  1. Another interesting read, John. You do the same as me – intend to read up on places before you visit them, but don’t. I find I have to visit some places twice, having read up on them after I’ve got back. And I’m with you on the churches, too. No religion, thank you – but to sit in a remote church at the end of a walk for a few minute’s quiet contemplation is the perfect way to end a day.
    Cheers, Alen McF