Donalds: Innerdownie, King's Seat Hill, Tarmangie Hill
Sub 2000s: Steele's Knowe
Date walked: 25/09/2020
Time taken: 7.75 hours
Not the best of puns, I admit. But at times, way too fitting!
Let's rewind. I'd been considering crossing the Ochils south-to-north for a few months, starting from Dollar or Muckhart and ending at the Gleneagles station. The forecast looked okay on Friday, at least in terms of rain, and out of the two websites I checked, one did warn of strong winds, while the other corrected it by saying that might be true for the Cairngorms (>60 mph), but in the Ochils, the gusts would barely reach 25 mph. So I packed my rucksack and headed to Dollar.
The sign at the entrance to Dollar Glen paints it as a popular place to relax and unwind, and I could easily see why, with the Dollar Burn bubbling below and Castle Campbell looking on from above. The path through the glen itself is well-maintained, too; though hidden between steep, mossy cliffs and under tree branches, the path and bridges felt safe, and I could easily imagine families using their Sundays to take a walk to the castle. At one point, the burn branches in two, the innocent-looking tributary passing through a few dozen metre-deep, narrow crevice splitting the cliffside in two in order to reach the other burn. Scary what water can achieve if it has the time.
A few waterfalls and staircases later, I reached the castle; a few more, as well as a bridge, and I was out of the foliage, with the Glen of Sorrow opening up in front of me, and the path up Bank Hill clear on the slope ahead. The town of Dollar was spreading below, though the views that way were still hidden behind the slopes on either side of Dollar Glen; once I made it to the summit of Bank Hill, they were sure to improve.
The path there is easy to follow and walk, and I made it to Bank Hill in a few minutes. That was the good part. What was worse was that once I escaped from the shelter of the narrow glen, cold wind was picking up all around, which I felt especially on the sprawling summit of Bank Hill. I still veered SW for a chance to snap a picture of the valley below, but I was sort of glad when the ascent started again, as I was both sheltered from the wind by the slope and generated heat by putting the muscles to work. And when I finally made it to King's Seat Hill, the first move wasn't to take a picture, or to eat something, but to fish out the jacket...
Seriously, the wind wasn't particularly strong, so maybe it really didn't go above the forecasted 25 mph, but it was so cold...
According to the map, the path I was following would veer left towards Tillicoultry, so I was looking at a pathless section of the walk. But I came across a junction in the path, and taking the right fork, I saw that it would lead right to the bealach between King's Seat Hill and Andrew Gannel Hill. Pathlessness averted, then. What's more, the path was crossing a fence right above the bealach; there was no stile in sight, but the top wire of the fence was very conveniently missing right where the path was, and so the way to Andrew Gannel hill was unbarred. What a well-mannered lad, that Andrew!
Funny thing about Andrew Gannel Hill: it was actually the highest point of this walk, despite not even being classified as a Donald, its proximity to Ben Cleuch and poor prominence from it probably preventing that. Speaking of, I'd been on Andrew Gannel Hill when making the walk up Ben Cleuch last year, making it the first Scottish summit (not counting the Dundee Law) I ascended on two separate occassions. Should I have left that spot for a more remarkable hill? Maybe - but at the same time, I can't help but feel like the way it turned out was just so me
Once again, the section between Andrew Gannel Hill and Skythorn Hill was meant to be pathless, but a path could be found hugging the fence. The path led me over Skythorn Hill and towards Cairnmorris Hill, except it seemed to shy away from the summit, choosing to head for the bealach between Cairnmorris and Tarmangie, so I veered off towards the Cairnmorris summit. Unlike what I'd expected, the little bit of descent from Cairnmorris Hill towards the bealach, where I met with the path again, was my first pathless section of the day.
From the bealach, it was only a short push to Tarmangie Hill which, sadly, didn't offer the King's Seat Hill-like luxury in the form of a wind shelter, so I found myself crouching down just below the summit on its southern side to eat my lunch, trying to find a spot out of the wind. I mean, it worked, and not every hill is meant to accommodate kings, so I'm not complaining.
Crossing a gate, the path then followed an almost flat section of land towards Whitewisp Hill, where I took a left, heading for Innerdownie. The drop between Whitewisp Hill and Innerdownie was a bit more pronounced, but still really clear and agreeable, so the walking was fast and didn't sap my strength. Unlike the wind.
-well, the wind wasn't going all out anymore, but it was sort of intermittent, so my jacket was going on and off all the time. But I managed to catch the Innerdownie summit in an 'off' stage, so snapping some summit pictures took no self-persuasion.
At first, the path from Innerdownie hugged a wall/fence and a forest, as it's meant to; they were meant to separate at some point, but as the map says it should be the path continuing straight while the fence bends left, I wasn't that worried and just kept descending. Then I came to a crossroads. The right path was the best of the three, and was leaving the fence; the middle one continued alongside it, while the left one was entering the forest. Looking back up the hill, I did see it bend on the horison, and after taking the right path, I came onto a junction, where I went left and descended down to River Devon, so I must've overshot the junction and ended up on the other tooth of the fork. I just can't remember a path, much less a better path than the one I was on, having split from mine around that horison.
Anyway, I was down by River Devon, and crossed it via a bridge a short while later. Neatly enough, there was a footpath along the A823 all the way to the Green Knowes Wind Farm track, which I then took and followed almost to the end, where I hopped over the fence to reach the trig point on Steele's Knowe.
Making it back on the other side of the fence, I then turned right, aiming to follow it all the way to Eastbow Hill, and then drop back down to the road. Easier said than done.
I mean, I wasn't that tired, and I could see the fence and the hill ahead, but unlike the previous few hills, the paths on this section were really faint and overgrown with heather, so the going was slower. But I was making progress, and once I made it over the 443 bealach and to the southern shoulder overlooking Corryuby Burn - as I felt like that would be the easiest way of reaching the A823 from there - I thought it was almost over.
Now, the ferns look all dried out on the picture above, right? And they were, at first. But if you look closely, it all starts turning green and more lively further down. Those live ferns weren't nearly as pleasant to wade through, especially as the slope could still be quite steep at places, and I couldn't really see what was below. The last few metres had to be taken at a snail's pace, and still involved several almost slip-and-roll-downs. In case anyone, for whatever reason, decides to ever tackle Eastbow Hill from this direction, I would advise against it really strongly.
Once I was down in the glen, the last stretch had to be taken on the road. No path there, but the traffic wasn't so heavy either. And neither was the wind anymore. But yeah, overall, for everything between Bank Hill and Innerdownie, chills really do fit this walk. Now, if only the Ochils were pronounced accordingly...
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Corbetts: Garbh Bheinn (Loch Leven)
Grahams: Pap of Glencoe
Date walked: 07/06/2019
- Munros: 37
- Corbetts: 20
- Grahams: 17
- Donalds: 8
- Sub 2000: 16
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- Trips: 1
- Distance: 29.4 km
- Ascent: 1399m
- Donalds: 3
- Sub2000s: 1
- Trips: 4
- Distance: 118.8 km
- Ascent: 7398m
- Munros: 8
- Corbetts: 3
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- Joined: Jul 08, 2019
- Last visited: Jan 21, 2021
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