I was brought up in the Esk Valley with the Pentland Hills on one side and the Moorfoot Hills on the other. Probably because they are just round lumps the Moorfoots were somewhere I never walked. Time to rectify that, and even bag three Donalds into the bargain with a nice circular walk from Portmore Loch. It all started well, but then the rain set in and gave us a very soggy afternoon.
We parked in the lay-by at the end of the track to Portmore Loch. This is a lovely spot with a decent path around – recommended. At the south end we watched an Osprey survey the loch from the top of a conifer before heading off. At this point we branch away from the loch towards Boreland and then the track up onto the first summit of the day: Dundreich, which suits its name perfectly. We had lunch at this point, but the weather was suitably dreich and the views not great which was a pity as they should be good, stretching over the whole Esk Valley to the Firth of Forth.
We now headed over very rough, squelchy ground to the next hill: Bowbeat Hill. Amazingly we came across a fell-runner at this point and Jazz postponed her Grouse sniffing for long enough to say hello to this loony. A wind farm had popped up here and so again it was good to get off boggy ground onto a solid track for a while. The wind farm didn’t spoil the hill: the turbines added a bit of interest to an otherwise completely dull hill. And just when things looked bleak, the rain came on. It reminded me of that great grave-robbing scene in Young Frankenstein:
Frederick: This is a filthy business.
Igor: It could be worse.
Frederick: How could it be worse?
Igor: It could be raining.
So it was a very squelchy, unpleasant wander over the last hill of the day: Blackhope Scar. Great name, but another boring hill, and with barely a tap on the trig point we passed on through the peat-hags and bogs. We eventually reached the track beside the River South Esk: I spent enormous amounts of time as a kid playing beside this at Dalhousie, so it was good to see where it originates. The track passes the ruined Hirendean Castle and Gladhouse Reservoir and then a few miles of tarmac bashing. Normally this is tedious but this stretch goes beside some rough marshy farmland that was wader heaven: we had Curlew, Oystercatcher, Snipe and even Redshank all calling and displaying – a wonderful sight and sound.
The weather certainly spoiled things, but the walk around Portmore Loch was lovely. It was also good to great these three Donalds as it took us over the half-way point with a current tally of 60. And we’ll never be back on the summits of these hills!
|Do It Again:|