Ben Cleuch and King’s Seat

Andrew Gannel Hill

I’ve always liked the bit heading north on the M80 when Stirling comes into view and you can see the Ochils rising dramatically from the Forth valley. Today was our first time walking in these hills and it was tough.  We did have a couple of clues. The first is the “rising dramatically” bit in the first sentence: we’d have to climb dramatically.  The second was the map: our friends at the Ordnance Survey clearly couldn’t fit all the contour lines together so just used a big brown crayon to colour things in.

Mill Glen

We parked at Mill Glen in Tillicoultry and because of the high risk of rock fall 1 we were diverted to the higher path heading up the glen.  This didn’t hang about in getting us climbing as we passed the old quarry.  As we get to the top of this picturesque glen it turns a corner and reveals The Law.  At this point I say to Jazz: “Doesn’t this look an interesting challenge?” – or words to that effect. It looks vertical and all the way up are walkers looking like small ants clinging on for dear life.  There was even a moron trying to cycle down it, but he finally saw sense and was lowering his bike down the path! 2  Near the bottom there is a bit of scramble and my situation was made even worse by having to push 25kg of Springer Spaniel up the rocks ahead of me: it’s not Jazz’s best side.  The climb can be summed up in one word: brutal.

The Law

Looking SE

Looking N

We got to the top of The Law and collapsed.  Luckily the view across the Forth valley was just stunning and even Jazz was in no hurry to continue.  Having drained the legs of acid we could proceed for the much more enjoyable final stretch to the summit of Ben Cleuch and our lunch-stop. However, we had to wait our turn 3: the place was full – there must have been around 40 people at the summit.  However, everyone was friendly and happy to chat.  We split into two groups: those of us who had come up over The Law  (i.e. real walkers who enjoy pain) and the others who had taken the stroll over Ben Ever (i.e. complete amateurs). However, we all enjoyed the 360° panorama: to the north was Schiehallion, south beyond the charm of Longannet and Grangemouth stood Tinto Hill, south-west to Goat Fell and west to The Cobbler; to the east was Edinburgh but this was hidden in a nasty shower 4.

Looking S

After lunch we were backtracking a bit to head for the next hill towards the east: Andrew Gannel Hill.  The origin of the name is disputed, i.e. no-one knows, and we passed on after just a few photos. 5

Showers over Fife

The next, and last hill, of the day is another Donald: King's Seat Hill. Again, it is a pretty dull hill except that it is at the end of the group and so gives better views over to Loch Leven to the east.  We could also enjoy watching the good people of Fife getting their punishment for annoying the Rain Gods. 6  From here we follow the ridge back towards Tillicoultry for an easy return to the car.  The views of the meanders of the Forth near Alloa were silver in the sunshine – lovely.

River Forth meanders

The Ochils give a fantastic view of central Scotland. We didn’t even mind the hordes of people we met as they were uniformly pleasant, especially the group from the Carse of Gowrie who shadowed us on the way up.  This wasn’t a long walk in terms of horizontal kilometres because you spend a lot of the morning going up The Law, but you know you’ve done it at the end.  I did think it might be better to do this in the other direction and come down instead, but on consideration I think my knees would just disintegrate and I need them for a few more years. 7

Notes:

  1. Always a good sign
  2. When we passed him you could smell urine.
  3. Despite having reserved a table!
  4. Insert your own joke here
  5. Although Jazz did have to clear up some discarded sandwiches left by earlier diners – a duty she is keen to carry out, and at no charge.
  6. You have to make your own entertainment when hill-walking.
  7. And abseiling down a rope with a Spaniel is not my idea of fun.
Distance:13km
Effort:
Scenery:
Do It Again: