Friday, 14 April 2017

The Most Boring Hill in Scotland

"The Scottish hills are the best hills in the world!" said a friend.

"What," we chided him, "even the boring ones?"

"Aye. Even the boring ones."

And there are plenty boring hills in Scotland. Alan Dawson in The Relative Hills of Britain states that:
To be sufficiently boring a hill should be at least a couple of hours walk from the nearest road, so that a full sense of anti-climax can be experienced on reaching the top.
though he also cautions:
Some walkers would argue that all of the Scottish hills are full of interest compared to parts of the English Pennines.
On Windlestraw Law in the Moorfoots:


Can anywhere in Scotland match the Pennines for dullness? We do have some particularly boring hills near our house - the Moorfoots. I have attempted their two highest summits on two separate occasions, only to be repulsed by ennui the first time and by my hillwalking partner mutinying the second time. Yet I've always wanted to stand on top of the Moorfoots. Seen from the path to our local Tesco they glow in late evening sunshine, a world of wilderness and wind rising above our suburban existence.

And that's how we came to be setting off for a walk up Dundreich, a Donald (though not a Marilyn) just over the Peeblesshire border.

South from Dundreich:


The walk starts pleasantly enough along a tadpole-filled loch, a noisy gathering of gulls evoking a harbour with crows and buzzards quartering the lochside forests.

Portmore Loch from the hill:


But it was up on the shoulder of the hill that the magic started. A soft spring breeze tousled our hair. The air flooded with sunshine and lark song and we watched and listened to these small birds courting for a good half an hour.

Shoulder:


The top gives view after view of windfarms. Close to hand on the Moorfoots, away in the distance on the Lammermuirs, and really really far - I had the binoculars out - at Whitelee to the south of Glasgow, the biggest onshore windfarm in Europe. And what were those peaks shimmering in the haze beyond Whitelee? I was amazed to be looking at the peaks of Arran. Not something I expected to see from Peeblesshire.

Distant windfarms:


We descended well satisfied with the day. The Moorfoots may well be the most boring hills in Scotland, but this route at least had entertained us greatly.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Stacks of Duncansby

John o' Groats has a lot to answer for. 'Is that it?' is the most common reaction to the tiny hamlet. And despite its fame it is not the furthest point on the British mainland from Land's End - that's Duncansby Head. (In fact Land's End isn't the furthest point from Duncansby Head either - but that was the subject of a previous post.) So we aren't going to discuss John o' Groats any further. This post is all about Duncansby Head, just 3km from John o' Groats.

The Knee (mini stack)


And the great thing about Duncansby Head is its scenic drama - a fitting headland for most north-easterly point on the British mainland.



Duncansby is topped by the ruins of a WWII encampment. Like Hoxa Head, guns were placed here to deter the German navy. The scenery starts pretty much immediately, small seacliffs, a stack, and a geo - the first place my wife ever saw a puffin.

At the Geo of Sclaites:


Beyond the geo the cliffs march south towards Freswick and the impressive Stacks of Duncansby appear. These sea-stacks are 60m high and were first climbed in 1958. They are less famous than the 137m high Old Man of Hoy but are probably seen by more tourists.

Stacks of Duncansby:


We continued just beyond the three stacks where the crowds thinned dramatically. Perched precariously on the very edge of the cliffs was a couple in flagrante delicio, adding an extreme sport frisson to the act of coitus. It was well seeing that the midge season had not yet started.