17 July 2013
Author and walk expert James Carron shares his tips for making the most of the Angus Glens on foot ...
It is often said that the five main glens of Angus – Isla, Clova, Prosen, Lethnot and Esk – radiate from Strathmore deep into the southern ranges of the Cairngorms National Park like the fingers and thumb of a giant hand. Each has its own distinct character and together they offer walkers exceptional variety.
Glen Clova is the most popular and, as it is home to the Glen Doll Ranger Base, where a wealth of expert advice and information is freely available. It is an excellent place to start exploring. From the car park at the end of the public road, Glen Doll and the valley of the River South Esk offer access to a clutch of Munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000ft high). The peaks of Driesh and Mayar are a fine introduction for those looking to bag their first Munros.
While many walkers make a beeline for the high contours, there are lots of less well-trod trails, ancient stalkers’ paths and drove routes, like Jock’s Road, the Capel Mounth and Kilbo Path, providing quiet ways through and over the hills.
The glens are a product of the Ice Age, glaciers the architects of the landscape. In their wake, these snaking rivers of ice left behind well-sculpted peaks, deep u-shaped valleys and cavernous corries. The neighbouring corries where Loch Brandy and Loch Wharral nestle are particularly striking examples and there are well-trod paths to both. The rocky amphitheatre of Corrie Fee, above Glen Doll, is one of the best examples of a moraine landscape in Scotland and is home to rare alpine plants.
Glen Prosen and Glen Isla
To the south of Clova, Glen Prosen is a sparsely populated valley where lower hills and empty moorland offer an escape from the crowds. The line of low hills separating Clova and Prosen is one of the best ridge walks in the county. Glen Isla is the most westerly of the glens and it is a land of contrasts. Following the River Isla upstream from the turbulent waterfalls at Reekie Linn, the terrain is initially benign; gentle slopes of woodland and pasture hide fishing lochs and reservoirs.
At its northern end, however, the glen has a much wilder atmosphere. Here hill tracks and stalkers’ paths rise to the summits of Glas Maol and Creag Leacach (both Munros) while remote Canness Glen and Caenlochan Glen are the domain of wild animals like red deer and mountain hare.
‘Wild and lonely’ landscapes
Heading northeast, back over Prosen and Clova, Glen Lethnot is wild and lonely, the valley offers a tempting array of tracks and paths on to less-well frequented lower hills.
Completing the set, Glen Esk lies on the periphery of the Grampian Mountains. It is a long, snaking valley, fifteen-miles of twisting tarmac ending just short of Invermark Lodge, a classic mid-Victorian shooting lodge overlooking Loch Lee.
Sloping up from the road, the Mounth Hills form a frontier between Angus and Aberdeenshire. All worthy of ascent, they steadily gain in height until Mount Keen, the most easterly of the Munros, is reached. Below the tops, old byways – once busy trading routes – are now the preserve of walkers and backpackers.
The Angus Glens combine to offer the walker a rich blend of landscape, geology and natural habitat. The scenery is exceptionally varied and the views nothing short of awe-inspiring. There is also a profusion of plants, birds and wildlife, including rare species such as the wildcat, red squirrel and pine marten.
While they may feel rugged and remote, all five glens are remarkably easy to access and, thanks to the A90, are within easy reach of the cities of Dundee and Aberdeen.
James Carron is the author of Walking in the Angus Glens, published by Cicerone.