Take Me Back to the Ochils

One of my favourite films is Calamity Jane it has many wonderful songs including “Black Hills of Dakota”.  Just before they burst into song Calamity (Doris Day) comes out with the line “Don’t it thrill just to look at them hills” following which Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel) sings the line “Take me back to the Black Hills…” to which Calamity replies “I lost my heart in the Black Hills….”. After our walk in the Ochils a few days ago we have been waiting for a clear day to get back into these wonderful hills.

The starting point for our walk once again is Upper Mill Street in Tillicoultry and we follow the route we walked to Kings Seat Hill a few days ago. Up the road taking a track on the right and then within twenty or so yards turning left to climb steps to a metal gate. Second time around this is still a steep climb.


Through the gate we follow the path as it climbs between the gorse, and continue along the main path above Mill Glen for a while until I realise that the steep drops to my left are not to my liking so we head for the path that we took to Kings Seat Hill. We soon pass the large boulder besides the path and continue on until the path divides near an old gate and gatepost. Here we fork left to follow the clear path above Gannel Burn.


The views into Whum Burn are absolutely stunning. This really is a wonderful place to walk.


At the head of Gannel Burn, shortly before a fence, we turn left and after a short boggy section pick up a clear path to Andrew Gannel Hill, this is a steady climb. Nothing to challenging but every time we think we are near the top we realise that there is still more “up” to cover. It is worth the effort to get to the top, this hill is a mere 2,195 feet up.


The views from here are wonderful, it is hazy in the distance but clear enough for us to appreciate this cracking bit of countryside.


We leave the summit by following the path north towards a fence, as we approach it a family of four walkers head towards us from the opposite direction. Three clamber over the fence but the fourth takes a running jump and fails to get over and ends up on a heap on our side. Thankfully she is fine, if I had filmed her effort I would have got plenty of hits on social media.

We don’t cross the fence but turn left to follow it’s line as it descends and then climbs again to another fence, which we do cross and then turn left to walk to the summit of The Law, this hill stands at 2,093 feet.


From the summit we retrace our steps with the fence on our right the path swings to the left and we follow it. As we start to climb a group of three pass us and we share pleasantries. It is another steady climb, but again the reward is a stunning view. We are now at the top of Ben Cleuch, at 2,365 feet the highest point in the Ochils.


I realise that in Scotland these hills are small. The pastime for serious walkers here is “bagging” a Munro, these are peaks over 3,000 feet and there are 282 of them! For a boy from the chalk downs of Wiltshire anything over 2,000 feet is a serious bit of up!


From the top of Ben Cleuch we continue along the path that heads north westerly inside the fence line, as the fence goes to the left we continue to follow it downhill. Lynnie is not impressed with this because we still have one more summit to make today. Reaching a fence we cross it and turn left to follow the path back up hill to the summit of Ben Ever. This hill stands at 2,040 feet again we get cracking views.


Our route is now downhill, at a fork in the path we keep right heading towards the foot of The Nebit. Close to sheep pens we join a track and follow this descending towards Alva. We leave the path at a footpath sign to Alva and walk behind Rhodders Farm and into the woods of Alva Glen. This is an old industrial area, back in the 1830’s there were wool mills here.


In total there were nine mills in Alva all powered by the water which was directed through pipes and open channels known as lades. Some of the pipework lades and ruins of mills are still clearly visible.

On reaching the road we turn left and head back towards Tillicoultry, this passes a fine old mill now converted into apartments.


We pass a graveyard with some interesting looking memorials but access is not allowed for health and safety reasons. We have encountered this a few times and whilst I can see that if people are being foolish or reckless there might be a risk of harm, surely the same applies to people walking in the steep sided glens.


At a footpath sign to Tillicoultry we leave the road and follow the path, soon leading through a number of fields were sheep are grazing and then onto Tillicoultry Golf Club before rejoining a lane that takes us back to Upper Mill Street.

Our walk has covered almost ten miles and has been spectacular, during the afternoons walk we have seen less than ten people which is amazing given the beauty of this place.  It has been special jam about and as Calamity said “Don’t it thrill just to look at them hills”.

2016.05.28 Map

28th May 2016

[To follow this walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 366 – Stirling & Ochil Hills West]

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2016)









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