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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Fife

Walkers left wondering about absence of core paths from maps

August 13 2016

Keen walkers have been left puzzled as to why key path networks across Scotland are not featured on official Ordnance Survey (OS) maps. Rights of way have been marked on English maps since the end of the Second World War, but the omission of core paths from Scottish ones is now apparently causing some consternation. The issue has been flagged up by senior Fife councillor and avid walker Tim Brett, who has written to OS calling on the organisation to redress the balance. “A great deal of time, effort and expense has gone into developing the core path network throughout Scotland, so it is disappointing that Ordnance Survey maps, which are some of the best in the world and used by visitors and residents alike, do not currently include these paths,” the Liberal Democrat member for Tay Bridgehead commented. “From my discussions with local access officers I know that this has been the subject of discussion with Ordnance Survey for some time so it is not clear why they are reluctant to do this. “Core paths have now been developed for all 32 Scottish local authorities, providing access to some of our best countryside. “While many local people know the routes and use them regularly, visitors lack this knowledge and therefore rely on maps. “Clearly-marked routes on maps and signs at the start and finish of the paths makes it easy for everybody to use them.” No firm explanation has yet been provided as to why the core paths do not feature on OS maps, although it is understood concerns about their accuracy may have prevented their inclusion up until now. Mr Brett, who completed his Munros in 2004, pointed out that maps south of the border not only show rights of way but also long distance paths, and added: “I cannot see why this should not be extended to Scotland. “Discussion about core path development have been taking place with Ordnance Survey since 2002 and, whilst I believe they claim that the business case for inclusion is unclear, I am sure that the enhancement in tourism would justify it. “Whilst there is a general right to roam here, I know that many walkers would feel much more comfortable knowing they are on a designated path.” A spokesperson for OS said the organisation has been “investigating the options” around including core path information into its digital and paper products. “For some time we have been working with a number of stakeholders involved in the project including local authorities, the Improvement Service, the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Access Forum,” the spokesperson added. “At OS we recognise that there are potential benefits for including this information in our products and how valuable this level of information is for helping people and communities to get outside. “We are currently working with the project stakeholders on the core path data to ensure that it is as accurate and consistent as possible. “OS manages the geographic database for Great Britain and it is important that any information added to this database meets the highest standard of accuracy and quality.”

Outdoors

Munro crossed off bagging list after being reclassified

August 13 2011

Scotland's tally of Munros could drop by one to 282, following the release of new satellite data. The Munro Society of Scotland met in Perth on Tuesay and revealed that Beinn a'Chlaidheimh in Fisherfield Forest, near Ullapool, misses the cut-off by just 44 centimetres the height of an Ordnance Survey map. Members of the society, who have each climbed every Munro, used the latest satellite equipment to accurately measure the mountain and two other summits in the remote forest. Beinn a'Chlaidheimh, previously mapped at 916 metres, was recorded at 913.96 metres. Scotland's Munros must exceed 914.4 metres (3000 feet). Beinn Dearg Mor, a Corbett, was recorded at 906.28m while the previous Ordnance Survey map height was 910m. The third mountain, Ruadh Stac Mor, was measured by the society at 918.67m. The OS map measurement was a slightly smaller 918.65m. The society set about re-recording the heights of mountains just below and just above the Munro threshold back in 2007, resulting in Sgurr nan Ceannaichean in Wester Ross being re-classified as a Corbett in 2009. The official decision must be taken by the Scottish Mountaineering Club, after the results are verified by Ordnance Survey. Iain Robertson (75) from Perth led the recent survey expedition. Mr Robertson, who "bagged" all the country's Munros between 1953 and 1963, encouraged aspiring mountaineers to try and complete the feat saying it was his proudest achievement.Will not diminish experienceThere are 250 members of the exclusive climbing club, reaching from the far Highlands to Bristol and the Netherlands. Mr Robertson said, "In measuring the heights of mountains just below and just above 3000ft, 914.4m, we believe we are following in the tradition of accurate measurement established by Sir Hugh Munro who first produced the Munro's Tables in 1891. "Munro and his friends relied on aneroid barometers, the technology of the time. "In 2011 we use satellite technology to achieve yet greater accuracy, but we seek the same objective. "Munro never set down complete criteria for Munro status before his death in 1919, but it has always been accepted that 3000ft was the primary requirement." He added, "It seems unlikely that the thousands who enjoy the Scottish mountains every year will stop climbing them if and when their status in the tables changes. "All remain fine mountains in their own right and the experience enjoyed in ascending their slopes is in no way diminished." It is believed that any changes recorded are a result of better equipment rather than geographic alterations. Mr Robertson said, "Perthshire is surrounded by a number of impressive Munros and from an early age I was always eager to summit them. "After climbing a few I got the bug and decided I wanted to complete them all, which took me just under 10 years."

Outdoors

The trig pillars that mapped Great Britain

June 4 2016

No matter how dreich the weather at the top, there’s always something hugely satisfying about reaching the trig pillar that crowns the hill you’ve just climbed. And so it was when I scaled 841m Ben Vrackie, north of Pitlochry, last weekend. As I approached the summit after an hour’s slog through rain, fog and the odd glimpse of sun, the trig loomed out of the mist like a beacon. It was a welcome sight. This year is the 80th anniversary of the iconic trig pillar and the white concrete monoliths are being celebrated by Ordnance Survey (OS), Britain’s mapping agency.   Now largely redundant for surveying and mapping purposes, the humble pillars, also known as trig points, still help walkers, mountain bikers and mountaineers find their way. “Trig pillars are permanent surveying points dating back to the 1930s,” Duncan Moss, principal consultant to OS, tells me. Ordnance Survey’s first triangulation pillar went into use on 18 April 1936, beginning a 26-year military scale operation to accurately measure Britain. Triangulation is based on the most simple shape possible - the triangle – and involved the measurement of a network of thousands of triangles across the country from which all the features in the landscape were then mapped, explains Duncan. “The beauty of the triangle is that the angles of the three corners should always add up to 180 degrees. This meant we could check our measurements for every single trig point and ensure they all met the very high accuracy standards people have come to expect from OS,” he says. In total the re-triangulation had in excess of 30,000 measured points. The modern satellite based OS Net network performs the same function with just 110 points.   The pillars were devised by Brigadier Martin Hotine - head of the Trigonometrical and Levelling Division of OS responsible for the retriangulation of Britain - to provide a solid base for the theodolites used by the survey teams and to improve the accuracy of readings. While many are found on hill tops, they aren’t necessarily located at the highest points. “Some may well be on peaks but most importantly, they’re sited at the best vantage points, and from where other pillars are clearly visible,” says Duncan. Unsurprisingly, the highest trig point in Scotland is on Ben Nevis (1,346m). The lowest is on the Kintyre peninsula. At just 2.66m at Rhunahaorine, it commands a fantastic view across to Mull, Kintyre and even as far as Northern Ireland. The lowest in the UK, at Little Ouse, Norfolk, sits at just 1m below sea level. There were once about 6,500 trig pillars, built by the early surveyors at OS. Though the OS no longer uses them (they now use GPS), maintaining them is still its responsibility, and about 6,000 remain. “They are largely historical but they would enable us to continue mapping if satellites ever failed us,” says Duncan. “What’s amazing is when we re-measure a trig point using our state-of-the-art satellite positioning technology, we find that the new measurements and the original measurements from the re-triangulation agree to within just a few centimetres. However the new measurements can be taken in a matter of seconds whereas that would’ve taken weeks of work using triangulation. It’s testimony to how skilled the early surveyors were. This also means that we can update our maps much more efficiently than ever before and to a very high accuracy at the click of a button.” It’s important not to underestimate just how big the task of constructing trig pillars was, requiring teams of people to carry heavy material to build the concrete pillars, although some were made from stone available on location. Then it could take days - and nights - to survey and take multiple measurements. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the trig pillar, OS is asking people to take part in the Trig Pillar Trail Challenge. To get involved, you log on to an interactive map to see where 25 nominated pillars are and when you reach one, you take a photo and share it with OS on Twitter or Instagram using #TrigPillar80. Alternatively, you can just bag your favourite trig pillar (as I did up Ben Vrackie) and share your picture online. Pictures are chosen at random to win limited edition T-shirts to celebrate the anniversary and OS is giving away four each week until August 31. Danny Carden of Ramblers Scotland says it’s fantastic how the Trig Pillar Challenge has caught the imagination of walkers. “Trig pillars have been a familiar part of the summit experience for generations of ramblers in Scotland so it’s great to see them being celebrated in this way,” he says. “The challenge offers a fun new incentive for people of all ages to take to the hills and the many photographs being shared on social media highlight the diverse range of summits on offer here, from family favourites like Carrot Hill north of Dundee to much-loved Munros like Driesh in Glen Clova. “We hope the challenge will encourage even more people to enjoy our wonderful landscape on foot.” Dedicated trig baggers log their finds at trigpointing.uk, and Rob Woodall recently completed his 14-year mission to bag all of Britain’s trig pillars - clocking up 6,190 in total. The number is in constant decline, as land use changes and their conditions deteriorate. info Trig pillars often provide a 360-degree viewpoint - perfect for capturing a sunrise or sunset. They are also known as trig points, triangulation pillars, trigonometrical station, trig stations, and trigs. Trig pillars are quintessentially British, and even made it on to Bill Bryson’s list of favourite British items in his 2015 book The Road to Little Dribbling. Get involved in the Trig Pillar Challenge at www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/blog/the-trig-pillar-trail-challenge-trigpillar80/

Motoring news

Rising repair costs and whiplash claims behind insurance rise

February 11 2017

Vehicle insurance premiums hit a record high last quarter, rising by more than five times the rate of inflation in 2016. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that tax increases, rising repair costs and increasing costs arising from whiplash injury claims were to blame. According to the ABI’s Motor Premium Tracker - which measures the price consumers actually pay for their cover, rather than quotes - the average price for private comprehensive insurance in Q4 2016 was £462. The highest figure recorded before this was in Q2 of 2012, when the average price was £443. The Q4 figure for 2016 was up 4.9% over Q3, equating to a £22 rise in the average premium. It was also found that the average premium for all of 2016 was 9.3% higher than the average premium for 2015. ABI’s assistant director and head of motor and liability, Rob Cummings, said: “These continue to be tough times for honest motorists. They are bearing the brunt of a cocktail of rising costs associated with increasing whiplash-style claims, rising repair bills and a higher rate of insurance premium tax. “While we support the Government’s further reforms to tackle lower-value whiplash costs, it must not give with one hand and take away with the other. The sudden decision to review the discount rate has the potential to turn a drama into a crisis, with a significant cut throwing fuel on the fire in terms of premiums. “Insurers are open to a proper dialogue on how to reform the system and urge the Lord Chancellor to engage with the industry about setting a rate that is fair for both claimants and customers.” Meanwhile, the RAC has released research that suggests not indicating when turning is our number one annoyance on the roads. Well over half (58%) of the survey’s respondents said failing to indicate was the top inconsiderate behaviour. It was narrowly ahead (56%) of those who thought middle lane hogging was the greatest driving sin.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Take A Hike

End the year on a high

December 30 2017

Craigower, Pitlochry, Perth & Kinross. Craigower is a fine wee winter hill, its sheltered wooded slopes and summit ideal fodder for shorter days and the often less than predictable weather conditions that come with them. Small in stature it may be at just 407 metres (1335 feet) high, but the ascent is strenuous enough to burn off lingering festive calories and the views from the top, over the Tummel valley, offer ample reward. With a dusting of snow on the ground, I began my hike in the holiday town of Pitlochry, at the foot of the hill, a brief stint through mature woodland lining the shore of Loch Faskally warming my legs up nicely. Heading up through housing to the A924 (the town’s main thoroughfare), I negotiated the parallel railway line at a gated pedestrian crossing before ascending quiet Cuilc Brae. With ice underfoot, I stepped carefully, a sign part way up the lane leading me to the boundary of Pitlochry Golf Course, its 18-holes hewn from farmland in 1909 to replace a nine-hole course which, at the time, was considered below par for the developing Highland resort. From a wooden gate, a waymarked right of way crosses the fairways, kinking right around a low mound and small disused quarry before climbing along the edge of the course to meet a track just east of Lower Drumchorry. Care should be taken to avoid interrupting play. The ascent continues from here, another track rising to a red corrugated iron roofed cottage at Upper Drumchorry where the route to Craigower swings left, accompanying a wall bordering the northern edge of the course for a way before curving up into the plantation, part of the Tay Forest Park. A track briefly interjects before the incline intensifies, the way pulling steeply up below tall larch and pine, the summit temptingly visible through the slender trunks. A National Trust for Scotland marker post (the trust owns the upper slopes and summit of the hill) is a good spot to pause and catch breath before bearing right through silver birch and oak, steps concluding the climb. Atop the hill, the trail forks – the left arm leading to a bench offering a quiet spot to sit and savour views south over Pitlochry and the Tummel valley. Return to the junction and the other spur continues to a viewpoint indicator where a gap in the trees affords a vista west to Loch Tummel and the distant peak of Schiehallion. Below, the path dips back into the trees briefly before rising over felled ground to meet a forest track, my route of descent. Looping down, it offers a different perspective on Craigower’s wooded flanks. Returning to the golf course, I followed track then road past a steading at Balnacraig, the higher, snow-capped peak of Ben Vrackie appearing to the north, before descending a tree-lined lane past the clubhouse to Loch Cuilc. Heavily iced, a family of swans, all looking decidedly unimpressed by the cold snap, had managed to carve out a couple of pools in which to sit. If I had packed sandwiches I would have been tempted to share them, but my plan was to seek some warming sustenance in the centre of Pitlochry, now just a short walk away. So, with a tinge of guilt, I left them to their chilly puddles and trotted down into town. ROUTE 1. Descend Rie Achan Road under railway, bear left then fork right down to Loch Faskally. Go right along waterside path. 2. Turn right on path bordering wooden fence then continue up Lagreach Brae to A924. Cross to bus stop. 3. Go left along track behind bus stop, cross railway and ascend Cuilc Brae, branching left where signed for Craigower. 4. Go through gate and follow path across golf course, ascending to track. 5. Ascend track to red-roofed cottage and go left along waymarked path to meet forest track. 6. Go left briefly then right (signed Summit of Craigower) up path to summit. 7. Descend path (signed Return Route to Car Park), bearing right to meet track between two masts. Go right, descending track to point 6. Retrace steps to point 5 then walk east (signed Pitlochry) along track. 8. In 600m, turn right, descending Golf Course Road to Loch Cuilc. 9. Turn left, descending Golf Course Road and Larchwood Road to A924. Cross to Rie Achan Road.   INFORMATION Distance: 8km/5 miles Ascent: 350m/1150ft Time: 3 hours Grading: Moderate well-signed route follow tracks, paths and minor roads with strenuous ascent to summit. Stout footwear recommended and take care on untreated lanes if icy Start/finish: Public car park (Pay & Display), Rie Achan Road, Pitlochry (Grid ref: NN 936582) Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheets 43 and 52; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet OL49 Tourist Information: Pitlochry iCentre, 22 Atholl Road, Pitlochry PH16 5BX (Tel 01796 472215) Public transport: Citylink M90 or Stagecoach 24/27 bus services from Perth to Pitlochry or by train from Perth

Take A Hike

Trunk road to the top

May 27 2017

At first glance – whether on the ground or on the map – the summit of Innerdouny Hill appears cut off from the rest of the world by blanket forestry. Peeping out above the treeline, the top is an island in an all-consuming sea of conifers. There is, however, a way through, a route that does not require the walker to do battle with branches or negotiate needles. It starts on the Dunning Glen road, at Littlerig, from where a Forestry Commission track rises steadily on a stealthy approach that rounds the hill’s northern flank before targeting the top from the east. And, thanks to some extensive felling, there are plenty of views to enjoy along the way. Harvesting is evident from the outset, the track crossing open ground where a mesh of stumps and branches are all that remains of this portion of the plantation. Across Back Burn, the slopes of Third Hill are being planted out and doubtless the bit of hillside I was traversing will also end up under forestry once again. In the meantime, as height is gained, views open out to the west over Dunning Glen and Glen Devon to the main plateau of the Ochils where the higher, more popular peaks lie in neighbouring Clackmannanshire. Ahead of me, however, Innerdouny Hill remained very much tree-covered and, branching off the waymarked trail leading to Middle Rig, I rounded a knoll bristling with yellow gorse before dipping to cross Back Burn. Climbing steadily, the track skirts between conifers to the right and felled ground to the left and, pausing at a layby at the top of the incline, I sat on a stump and took in the vista over the valley of Water of May, small farms and redundant steadings occupying clearings in the extensive plantation. Crossing Mid Burn, I felt, for the first time in the walk, I was entering the forest, trees now flanking me either side as I looped round Scowling Craig Hill and mounted the north-east shoulder of Innerdouny Hill. At its highest point, the track crosses a clear strip not marked on the map and, to the left, beyond neighbouring Coalcraigy Hill, the distant peaks of the Lomond Hills, in Fife, were visible. To the right, a slender grassy path striking west off the forest road climbs by an old fence bordering the trees, passing through a gap in a wall before heading over open ground to the trig point. Innerdouny Hill may not be particularly lofty but, on a clear day, it boasts a panoramic outlook. Alongside the Lomonds, Benarty Hill and Loch Leven now feature while more distant Ochil Hills summits to the west enjoy sharper focus. The peak can also claim some historical significance as it was the highest point in the former county of Kinross-shire (now part of the Perth & Kinross council area). It also attracts folk intent on bagging Marilyns, a list of over 1200 hills of varying heights with one common attribute – they share a drop of at least 150 metres on all sides of the summit. While I was tempted to scout out an alternative way off the hill via the firebreaks snaking through the forest below me, the prospect of becoming ensnared in spruce led me to return to Littlerig via my tried and tested route of ascent. ROUTE 1. Pass round locked gate and ascend forest track (signed as path to Middle Rig) over felled ground. 2. At track junction with waymarker arrow post, fork right and continue along forest track, dipping to cross Back Burn before ascending between forest on right and felled ground to the left to layby viewpoint. 3. Continue along track as it loops right to cross Mid Burn before curving up the north-east shoulder of Innerdouny Hill. 4. On reaching gateway in fence, turn right and ascend grassy path running parallel with fence on edge of plantation through clearing. Pass through gap in wall and continue by fence briefly before following path over open hillside to trig point. 5. Retrace the route of ascent back to Littlerig.   INFORMATION Distance: 9km/5½ miles Ascent: 300m/990ft Time: 3 hours Grading: Moderate there-and-back route with well-graded forest track and path ascent to summit of low hill Start/finish: Small track-end parking area at Littlerig on B934 Dunning Glen road (Grid ref: NO 012070). This is the more southerly of two parking areas with Forestry Commission Littlerig signs Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 58; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 369 Tourist Information: Perth iCentre, 45 High Street, Perth PH1 5TJ (Tel 01738 450600) Public transport: None

Take A Hike

A clearing in the woods

August 5 2017

Rising from the north-east shoreline of Loch Tay, Drummond Hill is a sturdy little peak lost to forestry. Engulfed by evergreens, the regimented rows of conifers ensure views from its slopes are scant. There is, however, one craggy bluff protruding from the trees – Black Rock – where the vista over Loch Tay and the picturesque village of Kenmore ranks among the best in Highland Perthshire. Drummond Hill has long languished under woodland. It was probably the site of Scotland’s first managed forest, originally planted out with Scots pine, oak and birch by Sir Duncan Campbell, 7th Laird of Glenorchy, back in the 17th Century. Today, it remains a source of timber, one now managed by the Forestry Commission. It was also the place chosen for the re-introduction to Scotland of the capercaillie in 1837. Over hunting and the loss of forest habitat drove the bird to extinction in the mid-18th Century. Teetering on the brink of annihilation once again, Drummond Hill is one of the few places in the country where this elusive member of the grouse family clings precariously to existence. The direct ascent from Kenmore to Black Rock Viewpoint is short but strenuous and I opted instead for a longer, more leisurely approach, following the River Tay downstream from 18th century Kenmore Bridge before entering the plantation at Peeler Gate. Wandering along the grassy riverbank, the way rises into the wooded policies of Taymouth Castle, the 19th century mansion sitting across the water. Lurking amid the trees on this side of the river, Maxwell’s Temple is one of several follies to be found scattered through the grounds. It was erected in 1831 by the fourth Earl of Breadalbane as a memorial to his wife, Mary, and was inspired by the Eleanor crosses commissioned by King Edward I as a tribute to his late wife. Ahead, running through a band of oak, beech, sycamore and rhododendron, the path, perched on a terrace above the river, offered Victorian visitors to the estate a pleasant promenade. Following in the footsteps of the gentry, I passed above the currently closed Chinese Bridge – a crossing point to Taymouth Castle – and proceeded round to Star Battery, a viewpoint with crenellated walls that, in its day, posted a very agreeable vista over the castle and its gardens. Today, the battery is slowly crumbling and trees obscure the scene. The path swings left at this point and, beyond a quaint little wooden cabin, strays away from the Tay, crossing farmland to the base of Drummond Hill. Peeler Gate, at the northern end of the hill, offers access to the forest, the track looping up past a small parking area to a rather messy intersection above a gate. Keep left, ignoring tracks branching right, and the plantation road leads south-west, a couple of lengthy inclines eventually topping out at a crossroads above Kenmore where a sign confirms the onward route to the viewpoint. Lying just off the track, and helpfully signed once again, the walled lookout sits atop a rocky outcrop, a window framed by Scots pine and larch offering nothing short of a breath-taking bird’s eye view. Far below me, Loch Tay shimmered in the sunlight, Kenmore, with its white kirk, white-washed cottages and well-tended greens, a perfect village in miniature from my elevated vantage point.   ROUTE 1. Follow Aberfeldy Road (A827) through Kenmore and over Kenmore Bridge. 2. At northern end of bridge, turn right along riverside path (signed for Comrie Bridge and Aberfeldy). Pass chalet park on left and ascend into woodland, ignoring path branching right. 3. Ignore path branching left (signed Drummond Hill Paths) and continue ahead on path running above river. 4. Pass round locked gate and, approaching road, bear right along parallel path. 5. Go through gap in wall, cross road and ascend forest track to Peeler Gate car park. Continue up track to junction. 6. Ignoring tracks branching right, bear left and continue ahead on forest track. 7. At track crossroads, continue ahead to Black Rock Viewpoint (signed). 8. Return to point 7, turn right and descend to car park. 9. Branch right at gate, descend path to road and turn right, following minor road then A827 back to Kenmore.   INFORMATION Distance: 10.5km/6½ miles Ascent: 350m/1155ft Time: 3 hours Grading: Moderately easy, low level route following riverside paths and forest tracks with some strenuous and prolonged ascent on the latter. Stout footwear recommended as some parts can be muddy underfoot Start/finish: Public car park (Pay and Display) on Pier Road, Kenmore (Grid ref: NN 773453) Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 52; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 379 Tourist Information: Aberfeldy iCentre, The Square, Aberfeldy PH15 2DD (Tel 01877 820276) Public transport: Caber Coaches bus service 91 links Aberfeldy and Kenmore on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays only

Take A Hike

Shooting for the summit

April 29 2017

Hill of Wirren occupies the high ground between Glen Lethnot and Glen Esk and is most commonly tackled from the former, either from the hamlet of Bridgend or from further up the single-track road that runs through the sparsely populated valley. However, the peak can also be approached from the Esk side, a strenuous upland circuit taking in a handful of other tops along the way, all lying deep within the grouse shooting country of Millden Estate. However, with the start of the season (August 12 to December 10) some months off, this is a good time to explore a less well walked area of the Angus glens. Setting off from a small parking area just west of Millden Lodge, I tramped up the glen road, branching left on to a track leading to Keenie. The way drops through woodland to cross the River North Esk by a sturdy bridge spanning rocky pools before looping up to an information board extolling the virtues of land management. Extending to almost 20,000 acres, the estate has a long history of grouse shooting, breaking records back in the 1930s for the numbers of birds bagged. In common with many Scottish moors it witnessed a decline in grouse numbers in the 1980s and 90s, a trend that has since been reversed. Forking left, the track rises through a cleft below Craig of Dalhastnie on to the heather-clad northern flank of Bulg, my first top of the day. A rougher road running parallel with a fence and a line of grouse butts presents a strenuous if direct route to the summit, a substantial cairn and stone windbreak capping the shapely dome. Hunkering down to escape a stiff breeze, I enjoyed an extensive vista over the Angus lowlands towards the distant waters of the North Sea from this elevated viewpoint. To the west, the blue ribbon of the River North Esk drew my eyes up Glen Esk towards the prominent cone of Mount Keen, the most easterly of Scotland’s Munros. Progressing on to neighbouring Craigangower, I took an equally direct line, staying with the fence as I descended into the Slack of Forbie col, picking my way down through rocky outcrops and strands of abandoned fence wire, before embarking upon another leg-sapping climb. Thankfully, once atop Craigangower, the hike becomes less demanding, a high-level track (dual carriageway at one point) scaling the eastern shoulder of Hill of Wirren, the occasional noisy eruption of grouse from the flanking moorland keeping me on my toes. The trig point atop Hill of Wirren sits off the gravel road, mired in a maze of springy black peat hags and fences which, with the ground relatively dry, proved straight-forward enough to negotiate. Back on the track, I followed it on to neighbouring West Wirren, a well-defined outlier and the point from which I began my drop through grass and heather into the valley below. There is no path here but a line of grouse butts met part way down the slope guided me on to a track below. After fording Burn of Keenie by an old wooden hut, this continued over rough pasture, passing through the ruins of an old settlement, and then by woodland to Keenie Farm from where, with the river below me, I hiked track then road back to Millden Lodge. ROUTE 1. Walk 500m up road then go left, descending track to cross bridge. Turn left, then go right, ascending to fork. 2. Bear left, ascending track through gate to junction. Continue ahead, through gate, to highest point of track. 3. Branch right on rough track rising steeply by fence to summit of Bulg. 4. Descend south along fence line into col then climb by fence line to summit of Craigangower. 5. Join track and follow it south-west along ridge to a pair of gates. Go through gates and continue ahead, towards Hill of Wirren summit. 6. Detour left along fence line to trig point then return to track and follow it to summit of West Wirren. 7. Descend north to top of grouse butt line, continue down by butts then track to base of glen. Cross Burn of Keenie and ascend to track junction. 8. Turn right on track to Keenie Farm. 9. Below Keenie Farm, turn right to re-join outward route.   INFORMATION Distance: 16km/10 miles Ascent: 780m/2570ft Time: 5-6 hours Grading: Challenging upland hike with strenuous ascent, suitable for fit, experienced hillwalkers. Go equipped for all conditions and keep dogs under close control to protect sheep and game birds Start/finish: Small car park by BT phone box at Millden Bridge, Glen Esk (Grid ref: NO 540789) Map: Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 44; Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 395 Tourist Information: Gateway to the Glens Museum, 32 High Street, Kirriemuir DD8 4BB (Tel 01575 575479) Public transport: Term time weekday school bus services from Edzell are available to the public

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