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TAKE A HIKE: A rare part of Angus where you can walk without meeting another soul

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Cairn Daunie, Glen Isla, Angus

I am not averse to a bit of box-ticking when it comes to bagging Munros, Corbetts and the myriad of other Scottish peaks ranked and listed according to their height. However, it is not the be all and end all of my outdoor life and I am a strong believer in the mantra of climbing a hill just because it is there.

Rising between Glen Damff and Glen Finlet, both offshoots of Glen Isla, Cairn Daunie is a top with no particular claim to fame but, plucking this obscure hill almost at random from the map, it offered me the perfect excuse to spend a day in one of my favourite corners of the Angus countryside.

To the west, the commercial conifers of Glenisla Forest cover neighbouring hills, although Cairn Daunie itself stands largely free of trees, and the small Forestry Commission car park at Freuchies, near Kirkton of Glenisla, is a well-placed starting point.

From here, I tramped the forest road north, initially following a signed route to Glen Prosen which skirts the lower slopes of Cairn Hill and Crock en route to Glenmarkie Lodge, a late Victorian shooting lodge with a commanding view over the valley.

Below the lodge, the Prosen trail branches up into larch woodland, crossing the northern shoulder of Hare Cairn before leaving the trees and dipping through pasture into Glen Damff, one of those rare spots where, often, you can walk without meeting another soul.

Beyond a metal gate, the valley track soon splits, the route up Cairn Daunie forking left, ascending the hill’s long southern shoulder. It is a steady but undemanding incline, the track at first grassy but more distinct as higher ground is attained.

Pausing to rest in the lea of a wooden grouse butt, Hare Cairn and Backwater Reservoir, to the south, caught my eye while, gazing west across Glen Taitney and the fringes of Glenisla Forest, Mount Blair and Badandun Hill were easily identified.

With the sound of logging filtering through the air from Glen Finlet, to my left, I pressed on up the track, the summit of Cairn Daunie looming into view above me.

The gravel track, which makes for easy walking, ends at a gate higher up the spur and, while the onward route is initially clear enough, it becomes less obvious as the summit nears.

However, keep to the right of a low bank of peat to reach stony outcrops where a stumpy cairn overlooks Glen Damff and the track regains its composure, the summit of Cairn Daunie, marked by a wee ring of stone, lying just off it, up to the left.

After detouring to the top, I returned to the track, weaving west to a gate in a high electrified fence. The route is a little circuitous but easier underfoot than attempting to cut a direct line through ankle-clasping heather.

Carefully unclipping the electrified strand, I safely negotiated the gate and descended into Glen Finlet, a pleasant grassy track sweeping down the western shoulder of Cairn Daunie towards the forest.

Cutting between conifers and felled ground, I joined the main forest road where stacks of freshly harvested timber were being loaded on to lorries for their onward journey to the sawmill.

My onward journey was simply a case of hiking the lumber tracks back to Freuchies.



1. Ascend initially surfaced track (signed Glen Prosen) past West Freuchie B&B and East Freuchie and continue north for 2.5km to junction.

2. Fork right (signed Glen Prosen) and follow track east then north for 1.4km.

3. Turn right (signed Glen Prosen) and ascend track through woodland to gate.

4. Go through gate and, bearing left off track, descend north-east to meet Glen Damff track beyond bridge. Go left, passing through metal gate to junction.

5. Fork left, ascending initially grassy track up southern shoulder of Cairn Daunie to summit.

6. Continue along track to reach gate in high electrified fence. Go through and descend grassy track to forest road in Glen Finlet.

7. Turn left and follow forest road south to junction.

8. Turn right, dipping to cross bridge, then ascend to junction in col.

9. Go left, ascending track. Swing left at top of incline and follow track south to point 2. Retrace steps to Freuchies.


Distance: 20km/12½ miles

Ascent: 650m/2145ft

Time: 5-6 hours

Grading: Moderately challenging route for fit, experienced hillwalkers following paths and tracks through forest and over open hillside with some well-graded ascent. Keep dogs under close control where livestock is encountered

Start/finish: Forestry Commission car park at Freuchies, 2km east of Kirkton of Glenisla (Grid ref: NO 224608)

Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheets 44; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheets 381 and OL53

Tourist Information: Dundee iCentre, 16 City Square, Dundee DD1 3BG (Tel 01382 527527)

Public transport: None