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Issue 48 - 10 Best Easy Walks with Great Views

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Scotland Magazine Issue 48
December 2009


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10 Best Easy Walks with Great Views

Although Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain it does not necessarily mean it has the best view. Indeed for many, including myself, some of Scotland’s best vantage points are from smaller hills, several of which rise to only a few hundred feet in height. I have listed my own 10 favourites and graded the walks as easy, moderate or difficult depending on height, gradient and the terrain. The start and finish point of each route is the same with the ascent and descent covering the same route.

The Muckle, Kippford, Galloway – easy The Muckle (this is a local name – it is marked on the map as Mark Hill) climbs above the Galloway village of Kippford and provides an exceptional viewpoint. Leaving Kippford, the Jubilee Path strikes its course towards Rockcliffe and about halfway along the track an indistinct path climbs north through mixed woodland to the top of The Muckle. The views are absolutely superb with both the Scottish and English landscapes visible from here (not bad for a wee hill) The great mountains of the Lake District rise only a few miles away across the Solway Firth whilst the rugged and beautiful Galloway Coastline lies below. A great view of Kippford is also presented with an abundance of yachts and boats moored along the rough firth.

OS Landranger Map 84 Start/Finish Grid Reference NX836554 Byne Hill, Girvan, Ayrshire – moderate The Ayrshire Coast has a few small hills along its length, each providing superb vantage points to observe this wonderful part of Scotland and Byne Hill above Girvan is a good example. Although only 214 metres in height the ascent is steep but mercifully quick. The best start point is beside a small cemetery lying next to the A714 on the outskirts of Girvan. A road leads through Daltippan Farm and once by the farm a track passes through a small wood and then climbs sharply up a grassy path to the summit. Great views are granted along the Ayrshire Coast towards the renowned Turnberry Lighthouse whilst the wonderful outline of Ailsa Craig rises abruptly from the Firth of Clyde.

OS Landranger 76 Start/Finish GR NX187956 Kaim Hill, Fairlie, Ayrshire – difficult Kaim Hill rises to nearly 400 metres above the village of Fairlie near to Largs on the Ayrshire coast. Unlike Byne Hill, Kaim Hill’s ascent is tricky and although the ascent is gradual, underfoot can at times be boggy and good navigational skills would be required especially in misty conditions – but it is worth the effort.

From Fairlie Railway Station turn left along a path to reach a cottage. Turn right here into Fairlie Glen, the path climbing past Fairlie Castle and onto open moor-land.

Yellow markers are on some fenceposts when the direction of travel is unclear and an indistinct path leads well away from the coastline as it follows the line of a deep gully.

It then doubles back on itself to climb to the summit of Kaim Hill and here magnificent views are presented across Cumbrae and Little Cumbrae, over Bute and onwards to the serrated, iconic outline of Arran.

OS Landranger 63 Start/Finish GR NS210547 The Kilpatrick Hills, West Dunbartonshire - easy The Kilpatrick Hills, on the outskirts of Glasgow, offer a superb vantage point to look along the River Clyde. The wilder surrounds of the hills presents a nice contrast to the great industrial backdrop that lies below and although there is no distinct peak a walk from Old Kilpatrick to Loch Humphrey is a simple route to enjoy the superb panorama. From Old Kilpatrick Railway Station the A814 travels under the A82 and from here a side road leads north then north-west past Drums Farm onto Kilpatrick Braes. A good track climbs gradually providing wonderful views with the River Clyde drawing the eye west towards its outflow at Greenock and east across the great industrial expanse of Clydebank to Glasgow. As you continue towards Loch Humphrey and height is gained the biggest surprise is the extent of agricultural land that still surrounds Glasgow.

OS Landranger 64 Start/Finish GR NS468728 Keith Fergus takes us on some Duncryne Hill, Gartocharn, Dunbartonshire – easy Gartocharn sits at the entrance to the Loch Lomond National Park and Duncryne rises conspicuously from the village. Although only 142 metres in height the view from her summit is quite extraordinary extending along the full length of Loch Lomond and beyond to the spectacular panorama of the Southern Highlands with Ben Lomond and the Luss Hills particularly prominent. From the hotel in Gartocharn a road heads south east and once you reach a small section of mixed woodland on your left a path takes you into the wood and then onto the short, sharp ascent of Duncryne. It is only at the very last moment, as you climb over the rise to the top, that this wee hill’s incredible vista is witnessed.

OS Landranger 56 Start/Finish GR NS428862 Ben A’an, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – moderate Walter Scott introduced the world to The Trossachs and Ben A’an stands at the heart of the National Park offering some of the regions finest views.

Again, for a wee hill (461 metres) the panorama is astonishing. The walk is a contrast of beautiful woodland and a sharp rocky climb but a distinct path leads all the way to the top. Beginning at a small car park west of Brig o’ Turk the path climbs north-west through the woods which is home to a vast array of flora and fauna and continues onwards to the final steep ascent. From the edge of the wood you get a good idea of what lies ahead and although it is steep, the path helps make the climb a bit easier. But once on top and you have your breath back you can sit and marvel at the views across Loch Katrine to the Arrochar Alps and beyond to the big, brutish hills of the Southern and Central Highlands.

OS Landranger 57 Start/Finish GR NN509071 Craigellachie, Aviemore – moderate Like Creag Choinnich, Craigellachie, which sits above Aviemore, is a great hill to observe the delights of the Cairngorms. The walk begins at the Youth Hostel and once away from the A9 it leads you through the magnificent birch woods of the Nature Reserve which envelope Craigellachie’s base. But once out of the woods a steep climb over some bare, rocky ground towards Creag nan Gabhar could not be anymore contrasting to the peace and quiet below. It is rugged and craggy and once on top of the ridge it is a short walk to Craigellachie itself and the 360 degree panorama provides astonishing views across the great forest of Rothiemurchus to the arctic plateau of the Cairngorms and to the distant hills of the Monadhliath.

OS Landranger 36 Start/Finish GR NH893119 Sgorr na Ciche (Pap of Glencoe), Glen Coe – difficult Although Sgorr na Ciche (better known as the Pap of Glencoe) is not a ‘wee hill’ (it stands well over 2000 feet), when compared to its considerably bigger Glencoe neighbours it is somewhat smaller. It also has the advantage of providing the best view of the area and from the top you are aware of the sheer scale and beauty of the surrounding landscape. Although the route is relatively simple, because of its height and the speed at which the weather can change a climb onto the Sgorr na Ciche should never be under-estimated. From Glencoe Village, cross the bridge over the River Coe and walk SE along the road to a gate at GR NN112587 and take the obvious path onto the slopes of Sgorr na Ciche which climbs all the way to the summit. Once there the vantage point is astonishing with wonderful views of the Mamores, the mountains of Ardgour and along the length of Loch Linnhe towards Scotland’s celebrated west coast.

OS Landranger 41 Start/Finish GR NN104589 Creag Choinnich, Braemar – easy The Cairngorms National Park plays host to some of Scotland’s biggest, wildest, and most celebrated mountains and little Creag Choinnich rising to a height of 538 metres above Braemar is a great hill to view the sheer magnitude and beauty of the Cairngorms. Again it has a short but sharp ascent but with a good path leading all the way to the top then it can be tackled by most people. From the car park in the village cross the A93 from where a signpost will direct you towards Creag Choinnich. Keep to this road until you reach a gate at the entrance of a pinewood and then follow the path which climbs its way into the forest. Once the tree-line thins a magnificent view lies ahead. Braemar is dwarfed by the surrounding landscape whilst the River Dee meanders its way towards the colossal ridgeline of the Cairngorms OS Landranger 43 Start/Finish GR NO150914 Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh – moderate There can’t be many cities in Britain with a dormant volcano at their centre but Edinburgh certainly has. It is unlikely that you will have the summit of Arthur’s Seat to yourself such is its popularity and accessibility but don’t let that put you off as the vista is quite superb. There are many routes onto Arthur’s Seat but my own favourite is to start at the eastern corner of Salisbury Crags and to climb the path onto the crags and then follow the path north-east around Holyrood Park to then climb south onto Arthur’s Seat. From its rocky, compact summit the views north across the city to Edinburgh Castle and over the Firth of Forth to Fife are fantastic whilst the view east is just as good, the lovely beaches of the East Lothian Coastline drawing the eye towards North Berwick Law and Bass Rock.

OS Landranger 66 Start/Finish GR NT272728