For us, March 2020 had already involved a distinct lack of hillwalking. A busy work schedule early in the month was followed by a week away in France (the last two days of which ended up being under French lockdown enforcements), and then by a weekend where my OH was working. Monday 23rd March was our first day off together, and despite a slightly uninspiring (cloudy) weather forecast we were keen for a half decent walk. We had an inkling that getting out and about might be increasingly difficult in the coming months - and sure enough, effective "lockdown" would be announced a few hours after we returned home.
The Highlands were certainly off limits following some negative press / irresponsible actions over the weekend, so we homed in on the local Pentlands. I'd been keen on the shapely ridge around Carnethy Hill for a while, but thought this might be a bit busy to practise social distancing, especially with so many people off work. Instead, we settled on the slightly less fashionable, quieter western end of the range around Baddinsgill and East Cairn Hill.
No other cars around when we parked at 9.30am. The weather was generally overcast, but the cloud was quite thin with a hint of sunshine breaking through. While the air was not especially chilly, there was a fierce southerly wind at times in exposure. We began the walk by heading back along the access road for a few hundred metres, taking a signposted path to a new footbridge across the Lyne Water, replacing a broken one. Then along the banks for a few minutes, before ascending the side of Faw Mount on a faint track.
Faw Mount is topped by a small mast, and is one of (arguably) seven or so summits making up the half-horseshoe ridge between here and East Cairn Hill. Second up was the much more significant Mount Maw, though with a gradual ascent and decent conditions underfoot.
Looking south towards Mendick Hill:
Eastern Pentlands from the summit of Mount Maw:
Looking back, good views over Baddinsgill Reservoir:
After a couple of insignificant summits (Carlops Hill and Grain Heads), the slightly bigger lump of The Mount is passed on the west side. Looking ahead to The Mount, Wether Law and East Cairn Hill:
The fencelines led to some interesting colours:
An area of boggy ground in between The Mount and Wether Law was easily avoided to the left. This was followed by a steeper and longer ascent to a second soggy col at Henshaw Mouth. East Cairn Hill up ahead:
Looking back from the ascent of East Cairn Hill:
East Cairn Hill is a sub-2000'-er and has three tops. The highest is in the middle but is the least interesting of the trio. The first (east) top has some small rocky outcrops:
A few old snowdrifts hanging on:
The west top has great views over Harperrig Reservoir, and also has a massive cairn:
All downhill from now, but West Cairn Hill (surely unfairly neglected as it's slightly lower than East Cairn Hill) looked enticing for another day.
The air was unpleasantly smoky due to muirburn as we joined the Thieves Road at Cauldstane Slap.
On the long tramp back to the car we passed two other solitary walkers (at a 2+ metre distance of course!), but it was otherwise quiet all day. Baddinsgill Reservoir:
Back at Baddinsgill Farm:
Straight back home, and in the evening we'd find out that it would indeed be our last trip into the hills - even local ones - for a little while. So I'm glad we got the chance while we could!
Travel and Coronavirus
Please check current coronavirus restrictions before travelling within or to Scotland.
Click for details
Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
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.