Sunday dawned sunny and bright, though there was a distinct nip in the air. Seven of us set off from Bathgate and drove to Dollar where, after a minor hitch, we met up with Julia (and my missing sock!).
We set off up the side of the burn on a path that took us through woods filled with fresh green, the sound of running water and birdsong from every quarter. After crossing the burn we ascended some steep steps, where clumps of wood sorrel and primroses nestled among the trees, and soon reached the edge of the woodland. Those in the lead came across a fox. A stile gave access to the hillside above and after topping Bank Hill we stopped for something to eat in the lee of some small knolls and took in the ever expanding view. As we toiled up one of the steeper bits we were overtaken by a couple of fell runners: the rest of us had to stop for breath periodically.
Once over the top of King’s Seat we headed down the ridge towards the Right of Way from Tillicoultry to Blackford. From the col we ascended Andrew Gannell Hill. Its oddly shaped top, with a rocky aspect to the south, provided ready-made places to sit while we ate our lunch – looking out over the links of the River Forth. Refreshed, we then followed the ridge to the top of Ben Cleuch – the highest of the Ochils. What a tremendous view in all directions – summits too many to name, but including Goatfell, the Cobbler, the Crianlarich Hills (snow covered) and the Lawers group.
The bitter wind and threat of snow spurred us on. We returned down the broad shoulder of Ben Cleuch but headed to the north of our previous summit. Crossing Maddy Moss, where the normally boggy ground was frozen solid, we ascended Skythorn Hill and Cairnmorris Hill – with views of the Glen Devon reservoirs and wind farms spread over nearby hills. After a tussocky descent SE to the next col we had another steep climb up the march fence onto Tarmangie Hill and its neighbour Whitewisp Hill. Then it was all downhill over the steeply angled side of Saddle Hill to Castle Campbell.
The descent of a flight of stone steps took us into another world. The rich verdure of the tree-filled glen was likened to a rainforest. The smell of wild garlic filled the air. Sections of the walkway were suspended from the sides of the ravine above the rushing water. Ferns, mosses and liverworts, some of them cascading from tree trunks, added to the tropical feel of the glen. The noise of the burn was intensified by the Burn of Sorrow (whose catchment we had completely circled) rushing down a narrow cleft to join the Burn of Care on its short journey to the River Devon and thence to the Forth.
This superb 12 mile walk involved an astonishing total ascent of 1111 metres!