Driesh (947m / 3107 ft) and Mayar (928m / 3045 ft), Glen Doll, Angus, Scotland
My wife Maggie and I were staying up in Glen Clova for.a Saturday night in August. It was a rare treat to be away for the weekend, and we hoped to walk on both days. We had booked in to the Glen Clova Hotel, perfectly situated for the walks in Glen Clova and Glen Doll. On the Saturday we headed first for Glen Doll, and reached the forestry car park just before midday. It’s at the head of the glen, so you can’t miss it, situated next to the river with a grassy bank and space for kids to play, and picnic benches. We were fortunate – it was a warm and sunny afternoon, with clear views of the hilltops above us.
A farm and forest road ran further ahead up the glen, along a line of mature trees, with sheep grazing on the flat pastureland beyond, overlooked by the dramatic crags of Dreish. This is also the start of Jock’s Road, an old drovers' road crossing over to Deeside.
Maggie and I had been here over 20 years ago with another couple, and walked away up the glen along Jock’s Road, circling back around the hillside. I had returned for some hillrunning training, crossing over to Lochnagar and back, a few years ago. However, although we had lived in Dundee for the past 9 years, and had walked in Glen Clova, neither of us had climbed the two closest munros of Dreish and Mayar.
The roadway passed farm buildings on the left at Acharn, but we avoided the first forest road and bridge on the left which we would return along. We continued a mile further on Jock's Road, then took a left turn off it, crossing a bridge over the burn. The forest road bent through an area of cleared woodland and started climbing gradually. In all, we walked about 2 km, or just over a mile, through the forest from where we left Jock's Road. At the end of the forest road a path led through tall conifers, then emerged through a gate onto open ground. Suddenly in front of us was a very striking and unexpected view. The ground fell away into the basin of a perfectly shaped corrie, known as the Corrie Fee. Unlike Loch Brandy and Loch Whirral, in Glen Clova, there was no corrie loch here, but the armchair shape of the glaciated corrie seemed very neat and self-contained. This was about 45 minutes walk from the start.
There were a few other walkers here, and on a large boulder down at the back of the basin sat a man and boy surveying the scene. Behind them, a waterfall tumbled down the steepest part of the corrie wall.
We walked down along the track, across the basin through some low morraine hills, and past the boulder. There were steep slopes on three sides rising to rocky cliffs. We started climbing up the steep slope at the head of the corrie, a mix of grass and stones. This took us up the left side first of all, then there was a slightly scrambly section as the path turned across the face of the corrie wall towards the burn (stream) cascading down the hillside. Although there wasn’t a strong flow of water, the little waterfalls were very eyecatching in the sunlight (later I enlarged one of the photos into an impressive poster for my office wall alongside others from more exotic locations).
[ Since walking this route in 2003, as part of the conservation of the area a new path has been built through Corrie Fee and up the slope to the waterfalls - it makes the climbing easier, and no doubt reduces erosion, but it takes away a little of the natural quality of this special corrie].
The grassy slope became easier, and we found a good vantage point to stop for lunch. From here we could survey the impressive scene below us, of the valley which we had walked through, and away across the hills beyond. The forest plantation, however, presented an unnatural geometric shape on the landscape. Unlike many hillwalks, we were able to relax and enjoy our lunch in the warm sunshine, without getting chilled to the bone! It was about an hour and a half's walk from the start.
After that, it was a steady climb up a gradual slope of grass and small stones leading south to the top of Mayar, about 40 minutes further (just over a kilometre) from where we stopped for lunch. We passed another walker on his way down.
The summit of Mayar wasn’t at all imposing, just the higest point in a broad area of high ground, and the amount of land around us meant the view was only of distant mountain tops. The beauty of these hills in Glen Clova and Glen Doll is more around the flanks, where they have been deeply sculpted by the glaciers. Nevertheless, with the distant hills all a similar height, there is a sense of being on the roof of the world.
We headed across and down in the direction of Driesh, just 3 km (2 miles) in an easterly direction. Half an hour from Mayar the path skirted the head of a valley descending north into Glen Doll – this was where we would return to later.
Then it was a short but fairly energetic climb back up a slope of grass and rocks, with a good view from the rocky edge on the left, across the valley to the north. We had a trouble-free climb up to the next part of the plateau, then easy hiking across a wide open hilltop to the walled cairn on the summit of Driesh. There was another walker up here as well, with whom we exchanged greetings, but otherwise the tops seemed to be deserted. On such a day, in warm sunshine in mid-August, it was great to find such space and tranquility.
Then we headed back, at an easy pace, across the open mountain top with the lines of blue hills to the west receding in the distance. It was an easy walk back down to the col, and the head of the valley. We could clearly see the path to take, marked diagonally across the far side of the valley in a straight line as though someone had sliced off the top of the hill and put it back again. This is the poetically named Shank of Drumfollow – on the south-west side the equivalent slope running down to Glen Prosen is called the Shank of Drumwhallo, and the Kilbo Path is an old routeway which links the two glens.
The well-worn track was a little rough in places, requiring some care not to hurry it and trip over a rock. On the slopes above and below, the heather was in full bloom, and with the sun sparkling off dry yellow grasses against the grey rocks and blue sky it made a colourful picture.
Once down at the foot of the track, half an hour from where we started on it, we followed the edge of a fence then crossed it to join a track on the right. It was a dark path through the spruce forest, but broad and well-maintained, and an easy surface for walking. It crossed one forest road, and then joined another, at the end of the Klbo Path. Turning left, the roadway bent round to the right, and after another 10 minutes this crossed a bridge and connected up with the main roadway near the farm at Acharn. Then it was just a short walk back to the car park, with the sheep in the field below the crags of Dreish just as they were a few hours earlier when we set off. It was 5 hours after we had set out.
We still had time to enjoy a cup of tea at a picnic bench on the sunlit grassy bank overlooking the White Water river, before driving the 7 km / 4 miles back to the Clova Hotel for an overnight stay.
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