View over French / Swiss Border
The blackbirds singing in the front garden wakened us early this morning, so we were up and out fairly early. My training walks have been going reasonably well and I am now completing ten-mile walks with a full pack almost daily. I just need to push the mileage up to fifteen and I am well set for the coming walking season.
As a wee change to the training routine, Joanna and I decided to go off-road as a wee treat and headed for the hills at the back of the village. There are three hills overlooking Kirriemuir, Cat Law, Peat Shank and Long Goat, that you can join up into a nice wee two-to-three hour hike, dependent on how long you spend taking photographs on the top. There are really four peaks, with The Crannard sitting to the front of Cat Law but as you cannot see this from the village everybody just talks about 'the three hills'.
It is easy enough to access the route by driving up the Pearsie Road and stopping by the wee track that heads up to Corriehead. Care is required when parking your car at the entrance because tractors and trailers require access to the fields, so make sure you tuck it in away from the main gate and the field entrance.
The initial part of the walk is on a clear track that runs through the middle of the forest at Corriehead. At the top of a brae you come to a t-junction where you want to turn left and carry on to the reservoir at Clash, which you pass on your left-hand side. Passing by the wee ruined shieling, take a minute to enjoy the view. You have already made a fair bit of height by here and the views across the Great Strath towards the coast are generally very good.
Take the right hand path, which goes up and over the wee brae. The road eventually drops down and after passing a small pond on your left, the path to access Cat Law is on your left. There is a clear path up to the gun butt on the top, albeit fairly steep at times and on a day like today when it is cold and damp you might find yourself pecking a wee bit. There are a couple of flat areas as you rise up the path and it is always wothwhile stopping to admire the views back. There is something really attractive about the dark winter and early spring colourings on the hill. The dominant colours are the rich browns of the died back heather and bracken, interpsersed with huge swathes of emerald green moss.
This early part of the walk splits neatly into two climbs (Crannard & Cat Law), with a short plateau section in between (that just means its no so steep). As we approached the start of the second climb the cloud level dropped and we could no longer see what was in front of us or behind. However, looking over to our right, we could just make out a huge, white mountain hare darting away from us. Although some distance away it looked the size of a sheep! As we climbed higher the cold moisture was like small, sharp needles striking your cheeks. At times it was difficult seeing the path, particularly on the section just by the Scard Cairns where the path is much fainter and you are guided upwards by the line of the fence.
By the time we reached the top, where the cairn is located, we could barely see in front of us. We stopped here and sat in the old gun butts to have lunch and where a nice, hot cup of green tea revived us. From here the route towards Peat Shank is not so clear but if you continue to follow the fence until it turns to the right you will not go wrong. We actually skirt along the edge of Peat Shank, dropping down through the peat bogs to head back up to Long Goat. the drop down from Cat Law / Peat Shank can be very boggy and sometimes you need to skirt in to the right away from the fence to find firmer ground.
By now the fine mist was beginning to wet us and, after stopping for a while we had cooled down considerably and were happy to walk at a fairly brisk pace, albeit the footing on the tufty grass was at times unsure and there were numerous holes to fall in to. We could not see the route either in front of us or behind, but knew from previous excursions where we were going. At the top of Long Goat, where usually there would be wonderful views and plenty of winter hares to wonder at, there was nothing to be seen and we continued over the top without stopping.
From the top of Long Goat there is a rubble path, used by the estate to bring in shooters. At times it is unsure underfoot, with lots of scree that rolls underneath your feet, so some care is required. In places, it is very steep and progress can be slow and painful on the knees. However, before you know it you are back on the main path, just east of where you left it to go up Cat Law. Make your way back to that point and then complete the walk out on the path you walked in on.
Up and down, with a stop of about half an hour for lunch took us about three hours and we were back in the house in time for lunch.