Monday, 20 June 2022

Lowland Hills and Highland Hills: the Southern Uplands

Three summer evenings, three hills, three geological divisions of Scotland.

Homeward bound:

Everyone knows Scotland is split in two: the Highlands and the Lowlands. The geological fault line runs between Helensburgh and Stonehaven. Everything north and west is the Highlands: south and east, the Lowlands. 

But the Lowlands also have two faces. To the south and east of the Lowland boundary line, the deserted sheep country of the Southern Uplands: north and west the Central Belt, all firths, farmland, coalfields and cities, where the vast majority of the population live. 

There are hills in the Southern Uplands, proper hills, but they are lower and less glamorous than the Highland hills. They are tight and steep and a mystery to most Scots, who live in the Central Belt and turn their eyes north to the Highlands whenever they want a proper walk.

Bowbeat Hill from Windlestraw Law:

All this is a preamble to Windlestraw Law, which I had previously disparaged as the high point of the most boring hills in Scotland. Yet of the three evening hills it was the wildest, and easily the least visited. Only half an hour from my house in the Central Belt and completely deserted, at least by recreational walkers.

Yet it is home to golden eagles and merlins and mountain hares, as the shepherd told me. He came over on his quad bike on account of the sheer novelty of seeing a hillwalker. He recommended a local fellow who trains tracker dogs, and while we were on the subject, asked if I would continue keeping my own dog on the lead on behalf of the sheep and ground nesting birds? One day, I tell myself, my dog will be so well trained she won't need a lead. Until then, happy to oblige.


Peat and heather and grouse butts form the top of Windlestraw Law, a little pool of peaty water shivering in the wind at the summit trig point. A wonderful sense of space and freedom. I waited at the top hoping to see eagles but the dog was getting bored, so we came down as the sun set.

Arthur's Seat from Windlestraw Law:

Hooray for summer evenings, still light after ten o'clock at night! What would next evening's walk in the Central Belt bring I wonder?

2 comments:

blueskyscotland said...

About 30 years ago, after bagging most of the Highlands, I started exploring the Southern Uplands and the East Coast/Lothians etc and it was a real delight. So much so that when I visit the Scottish Highland hot spots now, like Skye, Knoydart, Aviemore etc they seem too touristy and overcrowded compared to how I remember them decades ago yet the Southern Uplands, being less dramatic are untouched... and long may that continue. Also the Loch Lomondside summer traffic jams
almost spoiled any trips north on the return in later years, even worse now with petrol prices at record highs. The Southern Uplands/ Borders regions are very special in their own way with generally better weather and easier walking as you get older. Hills to really appreciate with the wisdom of age.

Robert Craig said...

Yes, hooray for the quieter, easier hills! I went up a Munro for the sunset last night (longest day of the year) and my knees were feeling it by the end.