Sculpted into craggy slopes above Glen Clova, Loch Brandy is one of the best examples of a mountain corrie loch in Scotland. A relic of the Ice Age, the glacial bowl nestles below great bluffs of stone, a spectacular reward for an arduous ascent from the valley below.
A breather by the water will revive legs and lungs ahead of the climb on to the rim above, where an airy hike blessed with dramatic scenery and extensive mountain vistas awaits.
With the loch lurking out of sight above me, I set off from Milton of Clova, heading over Corrie Burn to the Glen Clova Hotel where the route enters the adjacent car park by a red telephone box and proceeds up over the gravel, passing a bunkhouse on the left.
Branching right at a Y-junction, a path rises through silver birch trees, a wee stream crossed by a footbridge before the trail squeezes between broom bushes, leaving the woodland at a metal kissing gate.
Here the route strikes out across moorland, a well-constructed path weaving steeply up the slope. With height quickly gained, excellent views over Glen Clova and the hills to the south prompt numerous rest stops. Thankfully, along the way, stone steps aid the ascent.
Eventually, with The Snub’s prominent dome beckoning, the gradient eases and a final short pull lifts the path on to the lip of the corrie cradling Loch Brandy, the pool shaped like a foot, its heel stamping deep into the rocky hillside, its toes tickling the heathery slopes beyond.
Mighty bluffs of grey rock riven with narrow gullies of grass and scree rise abruptly from the edge of the water, sloping skyward to the exposed apex of The Snub.
A good path skirts the southern edge of the loch, roaming across glacial mounds sitting above small pools where dragonflies hover during the summer, before curving left to cross the outflow by stepping stones.
Ascending the broad shoulder above, the heathery slopes scattered with boulders, this arm is less steep than the path up The Snub, on the other side of the corrie, and it also affords the best views of Brandy’s bowl.
The incline does become more demanding higher up but eases ahead of arrival at the cairn atop Green Hill. From here, Ben Tirran dominates the view to the east while, to the north, Scotland’s most easterly Munro, Mount Keen, is an easily distinguishable upland landmark.
Walking north-west from Green Hill, past a second cairn, a grassy track rounds the top of the corrie before dipping to cross a gully where a brief bit of bog must be negotiated ahead of a relatively easy dander on to The Snub.
Evidence of the precarious geological nature of mountain corries is clear to see here. A substantial strip of the upper wall has become detached and is slowly sliding away. In winter, heavy cornices of snow and ice put additional pressure on the fragile ground, increasing the risk of landslips.
Sitting safely back from the eroded escarpment, The Snub’s cairn occupies a promontory separating Craigs of Loch Brandy from Corrie of Clova, source of the Corrie Burn crossed earlier in the day. While the precipitous cliffs of the latter are every bit as breath-taking, the lack of a loch means it is rather overshadowed by its more visited neighbour.
1. Leave car park by main entrance, turn right and walk east along road, crossing Corrie Burn by stone bridge, to Glen Clova Hotel. Bear left and head up through hotel car park, passing bunkhouse on left, to enter woodland at top of car park.
2. Signed for Glen Esk, ascend path through woodland, crossing footbridge, to gate.
3. Pass through gate and ascend well-constructed path over open hillside to Loch Brandy.
4. Turn right and walk east, following path around the southern edge of loch to outflow.
5. Cross stepping stones and ascend path up shoulder to summit of Green Hill.
6. Turn left and follow path north-west around top of corrie.
7. Dip to cross boggy ground then bear left to ascend The Snub.
8. Descend path south to point 4, turn right and retrace steps down to Clova.
Distance: 8km/5 miles
Time: 3 hours
Grading: Moderate route with steep, strenuous ascent following good paths up to and above corrie lochan where there are steep, unguarded drops. Keep dogs under close control due to livestock and ground nesting birds
Start/finish: Milton of Clova car park, Clova (Grid ref: NO 326730)
Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 44; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 388
Tourist Information: Gateway to the Glens Museum, 32 High Street, Kirriemuir DD8 4BB (Tel 01575 575479)
Public transport: None