This is probably the hill I’ve climbed the most, in all weathers, in all seasons and at all times of the day. Back in 1990 Cathy and I took in the New Year on its summit watching the fireworks in Pitlochry. So what’s so special about this wee hill that no-one has ever heard of? Simple: it is easy to climb and gives the best views of the one of the best areas on the planet: Atholl in the heart of Scotland. Today, Cathy joined us and we were rewarded with one of the best hillwalks we’ve ever had.
We park the car at Tomnaguie (NN896677) in an old quarry beside the road to avoid blocking any farm access. To get here you take the narrow and steep Glen Fender road up from Bridge of Tilt in Blair Atholl. We then take the track heading north that skirts the edge of a small plantation. From here the views back down Glen Fender were wonderful in beautiful autumn sunshine. The track continues across grassland and starts to merge into heather moorland. At some point we head left for the stone wall heading up Meall Dail Min. We’ve never picked the same point twice and on the one walk each takes a different route.
By this point we’ve left sheep behind us and so Jazz gets to off-lead. We are now in the middle of managed grouse moor and so that neuron in Jazz’s head marked “working dog” starts firing and she’s off quartering the hill, sniffing. Some Red Grouse head off giving their laughing call and that just irritates her. But then we hear something extraordinary: Red Deer are in the middle of the rut and the hills around Glen Tilt are now just resounding to the racket of their bellows. Jazz is totally confused as her brain tries to tap into some atavistic memory: is this something I can eat or should I be afraid?
The stone dyke heading up the hill is a great place for a chocolate stop 1. The view from here is simply stunning. The only problem was the noisy neighbours: every mountain 2 around here seems to have a bunch of Red Deer with megaphones and no obvious volume control. But with a view like this you can forgive them.
The summit of Meall Dail Min 3 has a bunch of small cairns each giving a different spectacular view: over to Schiehallion, or towards the Beinn A’ Ghlo ridge, or up Glen Tilt 4. We’d suggest you try each cairn in turn: spend an hour or two admiring the view, then move onto the next cairn. We reluctantly head back towards the car.
To avoid a nasty looking electric fence we decide to go through the small plantation. This is fun but roughly in the middle there is an almighty roar. It is a sphincter-tightening intensity: a big Red Deer is clearly just a few metres away on the edge of the wood 5 We emerge from the wood and have a look up along the edge. The stag and a few hinds are slowly moving up the hill about 50m away. They are aware of us but not concerned. It is only when an RAF Tornado jet screams over at antler-height that they bother to break into a trot. Monarchs of the Glen, indeed.
- Canines can substitute their treat of choice here – for Jazz this is best summarised as “anything”. ↩
- These are way too big to be mere “hills”. ↩
- For some bizarre reason (mostly to do with us being completely ignorant of gaelic pronunciation) we have always called this hill “Many a Mickle” ↩
- We would state without equivocation that this is Scotland’s finest glen. ↩
- It would be very ungentlemanly of me to say what Cathy thought. So here goes: she didn’t believe it was natural but instead “Some bull getting milked inside a big barn” — no wonder the poor guy was making so much noise! ↩
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