East Cairn Hill from Carlops.....Watch out for the coos

Route: East Cairn Hill and Mount Maw circuit, West Linton

Sub 2000s: East Cairn Hill

Date walked: 22/10/2022

Time taken: 4.26 hours

Distance: 16.1km

Ascent: 337m

East Cairn Hill actual.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

On this short trip to the eastern lands, I had a day off and opted to tick off East Cairn principally as it has been on my to-do list for years. It is the status of highest point in the City of Edinburgh district.

Plenty of route options so I hummed and hawed and eventually decided on the start point from Carlops.

It was drizzling when I changed at the Carlops quarry starting point not the best sign. I intended starting at the eastern end of the village as there is a loop option to the North Esk Reservoir which I hoped would give me a bit of a circular and some different scenery on the return. However as soon as I started I could see the nearby Patie’s hill was full of running cows careering across the slopes. I had to pass by, or even over it and did not know if it was fenced off.

So being a big feartie I back tracked and went up the other route where before long I came to a field with a big herd of agitated cattle. I could see some cows still on Patie’s hill and others crossing the ground at the base. They were being rounded by a quad back but they had stampeded across the area I would have walked along. Did the farmer have an accomplice warning people? Even here the cows were skittish particularly the calves. This caused some mothers to come close to the small fence beside me, bellowing and wide eyed. Thank god I got passed them.


At the reservoir for some reason the track is signposted through another livestock field. Cautiously I walked onwards, eyes constantly scanning. It was a big field with no escape route and I was walking through the centre of it. Although signs of droppings no animals.

Looking for coos I missed the turn at the trees and continued to the end of them, going round the other side. This was very rough ground recently tree planted and fenced. I got down through the bracken, thought I had seen a gate but nope my dodgy eyesight. So a big fence needed to be scaled, not easy with a big jump on the other side.


What a start. I was now on the Bore Stane track which was narrow and boggy as it slowly climbed through the moor. The only sound abundant red grouse calling away.

From this section could see East Cairn summit and the ridge to the cairn up on my left but that was the last view as the weather soon closed in. Reached the col but I could not find the Bore Stane.

I had read a report where someone had followed the stone dyke to the top. I crossed the very rough ground and it was appalling. After about 5 minutes and narrowly missing plunging into two deep hidden pools I was a bit fraught. I did not fancy this terrain all the way up and was contemplating turning back. I headed over to the dyke and stayed close but the going was not much better. I saw a hole in the wall about 50 metres ahead and decided to go to it and if the other side was not any better turn back, Looked through the wall and a surprise, surprise, a gravel track, wow, delighted but how far did it go as I could not see any sign of it on the hillside ahead.

The gravel track soon petered out but there was a faint narrow track heading up. Although extremely wet and boggy in places it was a hundred times better than the other stuff. I was now well into the low cloud with light rain so visibility was negligible.

On I plod and reached the true summit at point 567m but this is not the end of the ramble. The hills main feature is a huge cairn which can be seen from miles away but is still some way off in the greyness. I wanted to see it so kept going. Surprised by a shout from a female who was on the other side of the wall. She had started at the more normal point at Baddingsgill Reservoir. So we headed to the cairn chatting away. It is indeed a huge cairn with a hollowed centre big enough for a party.


The clag lifted for about 30 seconds, enough to see West Cairn and down to Harperrig Reservoir.


We parted as she was heading down the slopes to meet up with the Thieves Road whereas I was backtracking my ascent route. It felt very strange each time the clag lifted as I did not recognise anything but at one point I could see the true high point ahead.

The cloud and mist descended for good but I was also descending with my track so no getting lost. I followed this to meet my ascent track about another 50 metres on from where I cut off, sods law.

I had spotted a sparrowhawk near the trees on my way up and on the descent found the remains of a Red Legged Partridge. Feathers strewn everywhere but no carcass, classic Sparrowhawk kill site.
Another look for the Bore Stane but no joy. After that a straight forward return, no fence climbing until I reached the field of coos.

There was no sign of them but very fresh droppings on the farm track. Not enough for a big herd but maybe an escapee or two! The only occupant was a beautiful bull who was interested enough at my appearance to start walking towards me. Was I being blamed for his missing ladies? Thankfully he soon found the grazing more interesting. I then came across an open gate on the field opposite where another large bull was sitting. Was he the owner of the dung? But again thankfully not interested so I walked back to Carlops safely.

An interesting and remote walk just a pity I did not get the good views.

Wildlife: Red Grouse; Buzzard; Carrion Crow; Meadow Pipit.

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Activity: Hill Bagger
Mountain: Goatfell
Place: Aviemore
Gear: Montane microlight hat
Member: RSPB, Ramblers
Ideal day out: Walking nice rounded hills in a remote place or long ground level remote walks
Ambition: The view not the height

Munros: 107
Corbetts: 100
Fionas: 98
Donalds: 89+38
Hewitts: 1
Sub 2000: 162
Islands: 16
Long Distance routes: Ayrshire Coastal Path    Clyde Walkway    Forth & Clyde and Union canal towpath    Great Glen Way    River Ayr Way    Three Lochs Way   

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Last visited: Jun 19, 2024
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