Glorious in the glen!

While the east coast of Scotland was shrouded in a blanket of thick freezing fog, a quick check of the mountain weather forecast (www.mwis.org.uk) told us things were somewhat better inland so Carol (another of my walking buddies) and I decided to hit the hills!The destination that day was the hills to the west of Loch Lee near Edzell in Angus and I was delighted to see that Carol had brought along Sal’, her adorable wee west-highland terrier for the hike. It’s a delight to watch her scurrying through the heather in her element! As soon as she saw me she knew she was in for an adventure and got herself into an excited fizz in anticipation!With gear and bodies bundled into the car we set out through the fog, up the A90 Aberdeen road, turning off for Edzell in slightly clearer conditions. We passed under the famous arch and on through the town, a quick stop to pick up a bag of dried fruit (just for emergencies) at a small store on the main street, before taking the Glen Esk road north and west toward Loch Lee. It still looked decidedly dull under the low clouds as we passed The Retreat, which now boasts a museum of life in the glen, but our doubts were soon dispelled when the clouds opened and presented a glorious blue sky, igniting the landscape with colour.

We pulled up at the car park a few hundred yards from the Loch, now eager to get on our way. With our legs strapped into gaiters and our rucksacks fitted to our backs, we set out for the Loch, Sal’ scurrying around our feet excitedly! We passed the old castle, admiring the imposing position of Invermark Lodge, perched on the hillside to our right, before the view of Loch Lee and it’s surrounding hills opened around us. The old church, nestled right on the shore harks of times long gone, it’s empty walls a poignant presence in an otherwise empty winter landscape.

The sun was hot on our faces and the breeze light and cool as we rounded the Loch by the landrover track, a thin layer if ice on the water’s surface the only reminder this was still winter, as the hills ahead were merely spattered with the occasional white patch, more resembling an April than February scene. Global warming per chance?!We crossed the wee road bridge and made our way by Inchgrundle farm, noting that some storm damage had been done to one of the outbuildings, must’ve been wild here at some point! We then stomped over a small footbridge and began the ascent of the Shank of Inchgrundle, a clearly defined ridge leading us to our objective, the collective summits of Cairn Lick and Craig Maskeldie.The path, a substantial track, meanders up from the trees, opening up splendid views of the Loch and it’s theatre-like surroundings and brings us straight to the first summit, Cairn Lick. A quick stop for a cuppa and the all important summit pic, we set off north to pick up the three other summit points on the map.We zig-zagged our way across the summit plateau thankful that the majority of the boggy patches were frozen enough to make the going quite easy and, taking our time to admire the panoramas, we reached the summit cairn of Craig Maskeldie in good time. Once again we paused for a moment, watching numerous clouds of smoke billow high into the clear sky as the ghillies, invisible at this distance, burned patches of heather on the surrounding hills.With the tang of peat-smoke in our nostrils we set off for the descent, and rather than retrace our steps back to the track, we set off on a southwesterly bearing, cutting a route directly towards a footbridge at the head of the Lee Water gorge.For some way down the hillside, the heather had previously been burnt down to the scrub and fresh shoots were appearing all around. But while this made the going easier for us, little Sal’ was clearly unimpressed, her little legs unable to carry her underside clear of the thorny stubble. She gave a delighted yelp of approval when Carol lifted her and set off for the soft grass some way off!As we descended the flank of the hill, picking our way through the heather on well-worn sheep tracks, we were gifted a fine view of the thunderous Falls of Damff, cutting the first deep gouge on the rock. The low sun sparkled off the river like sterling silver as it filtered through the sepia-like, smokey haze and finally the ground levelled as we approached the footbridge.Now on the opposite side of the river, we turned north and followed the path down into the gorge. Some careful steps were required as ice coated much of the rocks in a deep chasm seldom blessed by direct sunlight. The cliffs seemed to close over us as our view of the sky narrowed and the deeper we descended, the steepness of the walls increasingly gave the impression of the more rugged west-highland landscapes. With the sun now making it’s mid-afternoon descent to the horizon, the only light afforded us was reflected off the spectacular walls of Bruntwood Craig, a horseshoe curve of rock glowing rich gold before us as we left the confines of the gorge and walked out onto the glade.Looking back the way we had travelled, the Falls of Unich set a shining jewel in an otherwise dark and foreboding scar in the earth’s crust, yet ahead lay a pleasant open glade, littered with the remains of a township long abandoned and overgrown. What a beautiful place this must have been to spend the summer months.Gingerly we forded the river and set off, now with the low sun warming our backs once again as we put distance between ourselves and the high hills behind. Spirits bouyed, we joined the main landrover track once more and revelled in the splendour of the late afternoon light which danced on the loch’s surface. Marching steadily we debated Scotland’s future as we passed the lonely old ruined church on the loch’s far shoreline once again and arrived at the car park in fine form.

With gear thrown in the back we set off for the pub and the blanket of freezing fog in which rest of east Scotland remained submerged. We arrived back in Dundee to see faces depressed by the day’s miserable weather while we beamed like kids knowing a secret!

… If only they knew!

Jock

Glorious in the glen!

barbreck

Dundee, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Friends enjoy the sunshine as they take a walk over a Scottish hillside.

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