Dirleton, Yellowcraig and Gullane, East Lothian

A version of this walk description appeared in Scotland on Sunday on July 22, 2012

DIRLETON, YELLOWCRAIG AND GULLANE, EAST LOTHIAN

I took my cousin (who is French) to Yellowcraig a few years ago and she was stunned to find out such beautiful beaches existed away from the Mediterranean. If it was hot as the Med the beaches of East Lothian would be even more popular than they are now.

This walk takes in a lovely stretch of coast, including sandy bays and rocky shores, backed by dunes which are filled with flowers in the summer months.

DISTANCE: 8 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 130ft.

TIME: 3 to 4 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 66.

PARK: There is a free car park in the centre of Dirleton, off the B1345, opposite the Castle Inn pub.

IN SUMMARY: Cross the road from the car park and walk in front of the pub, following a sign for Dirleton Gallery. Go straight ahead at a junction then bear right at a fork to pass a war memorial and reach the gallery. The road turns into a track shortly after the gallery, follow this between fields.

At a signpost go straight ahead, following a sign for Yellowcraig on to a slightly rougher track. The track bears right when it reaches a band of trees and turns into a path. Follow this as it joins a metal fence which you keep to your left. At a track near a car park and playground go left.

Ignore a sign pointing right and walk through low dunes to Yellowcraig beach with Fidra and its lighthouse offshore. Go left and at the end of the beach keep following the coast. (Note that there is a rough path above the shore but this walk is best done when the tide is out to allow you to explore the rock pools and beaches. Go to this link to check tide times.)

After a rocky section of shore a wide sandy bay is reached with Marine Villa at the far end – Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have spent time at Marine Villa and used Fidra as inspiration for Treasure Island. At this point it is easier to take the path above the rocky shore but after a short while erosion means you have to go back to sea level – not advisable at high tide. After the rocks a wide sandy bay leads to dunes (a path above the shore is now resumed). Follow the coast round the dunes and along a small bay. Another dune path leads to a view of the next section of coast, comprising of a series of sandy bays. Follow these to the end of a fairly large bay with pine trees set back above it. Climb up to some low stone ruins and follow the shoreline to the very wide Gullane Bay. Follow the beach for almost two-thirds of a mile where a gap in the dunes (next to an emergency line) leads to a path up to a car park.

Go left to follow the road out of the car park and at the top leave Marine Terrace and go right, along a road with stone walls on either side. Go left on reaching Gullane’s Main Street. You can catch a bus back to Dirleton but to follow the John Muir Way continue along Main Street, out of the town and past fields.

At a cottage look for a John Muir Way sign pointing down a path. The path leads through trees and down to a road which you cross and turn left. At another John Muir Way sign go right, on to a track – not a well-built path starting to the left of it.

The track turns into a lane and takes you back to Dirleton. At the end of the lane go right to walk past the pub to the car park.

 

Cademuir Hill, Peebles

A version of this walk description appeared in Scotland on Sunday on May 07, 2017

CADEMUIR HILL, PEEBLES

The Forestry Commission has been doing quite a bit of work at Cademuir, just to the south of Peebles. What was once a nice stroll now includes the top of the hill and although the cleared forestry is not the prettiest, more trees are promised and the lack of branches mean excellent views are to be had of the Tweed Valley and Southern Uplands.

All of this made me head off to try the new route – named the Pilot’s Trail like its predecessor, after two German pilots who hid in the woods here in after their plane came down nearby. They were caught when smoke from their campfire was spotted.

But, as good as the trail was, it was something completely different which I most enjoyed, and it happened right next to the car park – a group of four young roe deer were feeding on the edge of the woods. Maybe it was their juvenile age but they seemed rather less afraid than deer would usually be. I enjoyed a joyous five minutes watching them before they decided that the fellow with a rucksack was becoming annoying and sauntered deep into the forest.

DISTANCE: 3½ miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 730ft.

TIME: 1½ to 2 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 73.

PARK: Head over the Tweed on the B7062 from Peebles’ High Street then take the second right, up Springhill Road. After about 400 yards turn right into Springwood Road and just before the High School go left, down Bonnington Road. There is a Forestry Commission car park about a mile and half down the road, on the right.

IN SUMMARY: Take a path on the right at the top of the car park to walk up through woodland. (You are following marker posts with red flashes on them throughout the walk.)

This is a steep-ish start but it means you reach views more quickly. The path turns sharp right and continues to a picnic bench at a junction, where you go left.

A path leads downhill slightly before becoming a track and crossing an area of felled forestry. When the track has turned right go right, up a stony path which takes you round to the right and up to the top of Cademuir Hill, with another picnic bench.

Enjoy the views then follow the path over the top of the hill and drop down before bearing right, away from a wall with a field beyond. The path continues all the way down to the picnic bench passed earlier (at a junction). Go left here and drop down further through the trees to a junction almost on the edge of Peebles. Turn right and follow a wider path which becomes a track, back to the start.

 

Doune Castle (Castle Leoch) and the River Teith

DOUNE CASTLE (CASTLE LEOCH) AND THE RIVER TEITH

I’m a bit late to the party but Outlander excitement has finally reached my living room.

The great story is complimented by the Scottish scenery which means much use of the pause button as locations are spotted and identified – I will never see Falkland in the same light again.

In real life, the 13th century Doune Castle, between Stirling and Callander, has long been popular with visitors and filmamkers alike. Before Outlander used it as Castle Leoch, the fictional seat of Clan MacKenzie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was partly filmed here.

It sits high above the River Teith and is a good place to start a walk before exploring the ruins.

DISTANCE: 2 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: Negligible – some short banks.

TIME: 1 to 1½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 57.

PARK: Brown signs direct you to Doune Castle from the centre of the town.

WALK: Walk towards the castle from the car park but instead of making for the main entrance follow a brick path going to the left of the fortress.
After passing the side of the castle, a wide track bears left and leads down to some metal gates at a water treatment plant. Go left just before these and follow a path by the Ardoch Burn.
Keep left on reaching a little field and follow the burn to the point where it merges with the River Teith.
Go right here and follow a grass path along the side of the river, past the other side of the water works. Ignore paths going off to the right and follow the river upstream as a narrower path takes you back past the castle.
Go through a kissing gate and pass some small fields before entering woodland, still following the river. The path then rises up above the river before going right, between two garden fences, to reach the main A84 road.
Go right and follow the pavement until you reach Muir Hall, on the right. Go right here, past the Woodside Hotel on your left and St Modoc’s Church on your right, to follow a road over a small burn and up to Doune’s Mercat Cross. Go right here, down Main Street.
Opposite the large Church of Scotland parish church go right at an information centre, down Castle Hill. After about 150 yards go left at a crossroads. Another 100 yards further on go right and a short way further (at the end of the road) go through a wooden gate.
On the other side of the gate keep left to follow a field edge down to another gate – on the left. Go through it and turn right.
A path leads up through woodland – go left at a stone wall to pass through a metal kissing gate. Turn right after this and follow a narrow road down to the car park.

Stac Pollaidh, Wester Ross

STAC POLLAIDH, WESTER ROSS

It is only 2,008 feet high but Stac Pollaidh is an iconic summit which makes many daunted when looking up from below. Although steep, the way up is actually easy thanks to very good path work by Scottish Natural Heritage which helps walkers and the ecology of the area alike.

From the top, the view of the lochan-studded Inverpolly National Nature Reserve, with surrounding mountains and sea, provide a fantastic vista which you will want to spend quite a while enjoying – save this for a clear day, it is one of the best walks in Scotland.

DISTANCE: 2 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,760ft.

TIME: 3 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 15.

PARK: Ten miles north of Ullapool and turn right, off the A835 and onto the Achiltibuie road. The car park is on the left towards the end of Loch Lurgainn.

WALK: Go back across the road from the car park and head up a path through some bushes. Bear right where the path forks and go through a gate in the fence.

The path is quite steep here as it bears right, under the face of the mountain, but with the views opening up behind you it is worth taking plenty of breaks. The route becomes less steep as it starts to go round the east side of Stac Pollaidh and gives even more views, this time over Assynt.

Once on the north-east side of the mountain, look for a path going up steeply to the left. This takes you to the ridge and pillars of rock.

(Don’t worry about the steepness, take your time on the good path and you will get there a lot sooner than you might think when at the bottom.) The actual summit is on top of the pillars of rock and it is not a good idea to attempt to get there unless you are properly equipped.

The views on all sides are impressive, including the mountains of Assynt with the ‘sugarloaf’ of Suilven to the north and the Summer Isles to the south-west.

From the top go left and follow a gravel track around the base of some pinnacles. This takes you down and round the west side of Stac Pollaidh. Eventually you come back to the south side and drop down to the fence and a gate leading to the path down to the car park.

The Birks of Aberfeldy

THE BIRKS OF ABERFELDY

Burns Night is approaching and thoughts turn to all things verse, not least in Perthshire.

At the Birks of Aberfeldy he was impressed enough to write: “The braes ascend like lofty wa’s,
The foaming stream deep-roarin’ fa’s
O’erhung wi’ fragrant spreading shaws
The birks of Aberfeldy”.

Now a statue stands at the bottom of the walk up the dramatic gorge carrying the Moness Burn. With waterfalls at the top and great views over Strath Tay, this is a great walk at any time of year, especially in the run up to January 25.

DISTANCE: 4 miles.

HEIGHT CLIMBED: 600ft.

TIME: 2 to 2½ hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 52.

PARK: From the centre of Aberfeldy, take the A826 Crieff road. After a few hundred yards you reach a stone bridge where you should turn right to enter a car park for the Birks of Aberfeldy.

WALK: Follow the path at the top of the car park into the trees for about 50 yards and turn left to cross a wooden bridge. The undulating path follows the east bank of the Moness Burn, passing a sculpture of Burns sat on a bench. Beyond this the path climbs through a mixture of trees, with enough sky above to stop you feeling hemmed in. Once past a plaque indicating the spot where Burns is said to have been inspired to write his poem, walkways lead above the side of the gorge and at times the burn itself can only just be glimpsed through the canopy of tree branches.

Steps take you up the steepest parts of the gorge until it levels out near the top and you reach a good view of the Falls of Moness.

Continue following the path round to the right and across a bridge above the falls – from the bridge you get a bird’s eye view of the water as it cascades over rocks before plunging straight down.

On the other side you can make a quicker return by going right at a fork to follow a path, through birch and beech trees, down the west side of the gorge and back to the car park.

To enjoy a longer walk and good views of Perthshire go left at the fork, following a sign for “Aberfeldy via Urlar Road”. Go right at a road then go left on reaching a gate to follow a track across a grassy hillside with many birch trees.

The path drops down as views open up over Strath Tay with hills and mountains beyond. Go through a metal pedestrian gate next to a field gate and continue to another, similar, metal gate. After this go straight ahead at a junction, following a sign for Aberfeldy down a track. At another track near some stone cottages go right and follow it over a cattle grid all the way to a road junction.

Enter trees on the other side of the junction and drop down a winding set of wooden steps. At the bottom go left to follow a path above the Moness Burn, back to the car park.

Turnhouse Hill, Carnethy Hill and Scald Law, Pentlands