Off Piste in the Ochils

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Last week I was up in Scotland combining business with pleasure with friends who live near Edinburgh. We’ve been talking for some time of getting out for a walk together so it was good to take the opportunity to take a day off, put on our boots and get out into the hills.

My time was limited but H and R had worked out a route in the Ochil hills, less than an hour’s drive from where they lived which would involve some climbing but also would enable us to take a break and a meal in a pleasant pub in Glendevon on . A slight navigational error led to the route being rather longer than intended but it was a very enjoyable day.

The Ochil hills are a range of steeply sided, grass covered, round topped hills, stretching 25 miles from the Firth of Tay to Stirling. A number of the hills are higher than 2,000 feet so they could, technically, be regarded as mountains, although they don’t have the rugged look of the Highland peaks. Our route took us to the top of two of these. It’s not a particularly well known area. Most visitors to Scotland rush past on the way to the Highlands.

We drove over to the pleasant village of Dollar and parked up near the commanding Castle Campbell which is perched high above the town. A characteristic Scottish late medieval tower house fortress, it used to be the lowland stronghold of the powerful Campbell earls of Argyll, it was also known as Castle Gloom. We didn’t have time to visit as we were keen to get up into the hills. Next time, perhaps.

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Our first destination was King’s Seat at 648m / 2126ft.

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On reaching the top there were good views over the surrounding countryside

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We took a short break – the chance for a welcome cup of tea, and then set off. We were now going to have to use our navigational skills for although a number of paths criss-cross the area many of them aren’t marked on the OS map. We took a path along he ridge that began to descend into the small valley between the hills. We took a path which started to climb again. It was at this point we made a mistake as we ended up climbing Andrew Gannel Hill (670m / 2198ft)DSC06456

Again there were stunning views down to the River Forth

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and across nearby hills (and wind farms!) to the Highland mountains on the horizon.

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We now had difficulty locating a proper path heading in the direction we wanted to go, so we ended up having to go “off-piste”, cutting across the moorland – rough and uneven under foot, so not easy walking.

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We eventually made it down to a track which ran along the Glendevon reservoirs. Not an unpleasant route but some miles to the west of where we originally intended.DSC06474

We eventually hit the Gleneagles road and had a few miles walk to our destination, the Tormaukin Inn in Glendevon village, several hours behind our schedule. The rain that had been threatening had started while we were walking down the road and was beginning to get heavy. Looking forward to some food, we realised we’d arrived just at the time they were due to stop serving to prepare for the evening menu. Fortunately, the staff were very accommodating and said they’d be happy to cook anything off the afternoon “snack” menu for us. A snack here wasn’t just sandwiches, but included full meals such as fish and chips which we decided we deserved after burning up the calories on our trek.

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Well fed, and grateful to the staff at the inn, we set off again. We still had about 5 miles to go to get back to the car.  It was still raining heavily, but it soon began to ease off as we headed down Glen Quey along the low level route. A well marked path with plenty of sign posts!

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that took us past a small reservoir

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and four miles later we were greeted by the sight of Castle Campbell

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Our deviation meant we’d walked a total of 17 miles so we were glad to get back to the car. A longer walk than anticipated, with an unfortunate few miles along a road, but nevertheless a very enjoyable day walking through some beautiful countryside.

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