I first came across Striding Arches in a tourist leaflet in 2016 and decided to explore with a view to leading my friends on the circuit. I reviewed reports in this forum to try and find a way which was a circuit rather than linear along forest roads. The first walk was a disaster; Dibbin Lane was not a lane but a bog with windblown trees and the clear area after Blackcraig Hill was blocked by more trees and the alternate was ankle breaking territory. I sought the assistance of others and appreciate the help from Bill in Forest Enterprise Scotland.
On 16th June 2019 my friends and I set out on a route which I found to be a successful way without the hazards of fallen trees. It did in fact use some of the new roads put in by the foresters.
Our start point was approx 5½ miles from Moniaive just after a copse of trees on the right with a stone wall and wooden steps for access; at the 2nd copse after this on the left there is ample parking on the grass beside the trees. Looking up to the right there is a wide firebreak with a marker pole at the bottom which is the return route. The pole marker is the upright of the stile across the fence.
We set off along the road up the glen for just over a mile to a signpost at a fork; taking the right hand track led upwards to The Byre and the 1st arch.. Good place for the first rest stop.
Left the Byre and returned to the road and continued up the glen. The road becomes a recently constructed forestry road. After crossing the flat bridge there is a junction about 200 yards further on where we turned left in a southerly direction ascending to cross the Back Burn (NX 694971).
Immediately after the burn we turned right up the left hand side of the burn at the edge of the forest. After about 8 - 10 minutes walking the path turns left into the forest and becomes very muddy but eventually becomes a small fire break. Continuing along this break we joined another fire break and turning right and followed this to the edge of the forest which is at Little Dibbin Hill (Grid Ref NX 687963)
Heading uphill and keeping the wall on the left and we reached the summit of Benbrack and the 2nd arch. From this vantage point the arches on Colt and Bail hills can be seen.
Leaving Benbrack we walked northwards which is the Southern Upland Way. Followed the SUW for nearly 2 miles across open hillside to reach the corner of a (now harvested) forest after Black Hill. At the forest the SUW went off to the left and our route went right and downhill.
We came to the forestry road which comes up from valley and walked staring ahead up a wide constructed slop to a large clear area. There is a road ahead going off to the right, which we ignored. After the large clear area the route was straight ahead and uphill adjacent to the fence. At the top of Colt Hill is the 3rd arch.
There now starts the walk to the final arch on Bail Hill and there are two routes depending on the forested section after Blackcraig Hill. Walking away from the arch to follow the wall in a southerly direction descending to Blackcraig Hill. Continuing on from Blackcraig Hill following the wall the route leads to a clearing between 2 forests. The forest on the left was harvested recently and then replanted. The forest on the right had windblown trees across the clearing and the route was blocked.
Without the clear access we routed to the right to the corner of the fence (NX 704978) surrounding the forest where there had also been harvesting. At the fence there is an opening into the forested area and a track leads ahead which becomes a stony track. We followed this track, ignoring the quarry, to the forestry road where we turned left.
Walking along the road for about 1 mille and after the left hand bend there is a stony track going uphill to the left (NX 765969). This would take us up to the boundary of the next harvested area where the hill top route to the 4th arch could be followed. However we continued along the forestry road nearly to the turning area and took a small track leading uphill to the left. This took us to the boundary fence after passing through a gate walked uphill to the wall.
Keeping the wall to our left we ascended to Bail Hill and turned right still following the wall. The 4th arch could now be seen ahead of us on a smaller ‘top’ and we reached the last structure.
It is from this arch that a good view of the valley can be seen. In fact it is the only location where all 4 arches can be seen albeit that the Byre Arch is on the opposite end of the building.
From the Bail Hill arch we descended northwest towards the valley and going downhill towards the forest and the fire break became visible with the stile to cross the fence. Then it was a case of downhill all the way (900 feet in total) to reach the lower fence with stile and then down some more to the road and the cars.
When we came to the end of the firebreak and with 200 feet still to go the car could be seen but it was surrounded by herd of cows - watch your feet before you get in the car!
During July/August/September the lower section of the firebreak is wall to wall bracken and is virtually impassable. If coming down the firebreak at these months and reaching the bracken it will be a difficult decision to go back to the top and go around the outside of the forest.
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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.