In winter 2020-21, under heavy travel restrictions, I was one of the lucky few in central Scotland who could legitimately venture out, as I live within a few minutes' drive of the beautiful and undersung Ochil Hills (pron. oh-kul) which lie mostly in Clackmannanshire – the smallest county in Scotland – but also extend into Perthshire and Stirlingshire in the north and west respectively.
This day was one of clear skies after heavy snowfall, and I did a route which started and ended at the small village of Menstrie, taking in a circuit of Big Hunt Hill , the large bleak expanse of Menstrie Moss and the sub-2000 peak of Colsnaur Hill. Parking at the scout hut near the village green NS8A (NS4940 9706)
, I headed E along the road and turned N up the track through the kissing gate at NS8B (NS5061 9706)
The good wide track track heads up in a series of sharp bends, quickly gaining height...a common feature with the Ochils range, jutting dramatically as they do from the flat plains of the river Forth to the south.
After about an hour , I followed the track NW at the split NS8C (NS4350 9935)
and carried on as the track headed N and then NE , eventually passing a joining track heading back SE (ignore this) and then crossing the Third Inchna Burn.
Shortly after this, the final push finds another split in the track. I headed N here, and after a few hundred metres, the track meets a fence and stile next to a gate. From here, I struck out broadly NE across the normally mossy and often wet expanse of Menstrie Moss to top Big Hunt Hill (520m), the highest of a cluster of three hills with terrific views N and NW towards the start of the Highlands, with the Crianlarich mountains, the Lawers range and to to the west, Ben Lomond. A grand spot for lunch at NN8D (NN4765 0132)
From here, I headed back a few hundred metres S to meet the track and then headed broadly SE across Menstrie Moss , until eventually reaching a fenceline, which I followed S and SW towards the second summit of Colsnaur Hill (553m). Again, the views north to the Perthshire highlands and east to the central Ochils were worth a brief stop and some pictures.
To complete the circuit, I descended on the track SW , crossing over a broad forestry track at
NS8E (NS5538 9888)
to go through a swing gate in a deer fence ; then carried on SSW through the fledgling forest to meet the winding, broad track which I started out on , returning on down to Menstrie.
A satisfying circuit in wonderful conditions. Time : approx 4-5 hours with a couple of short breaks. Distance : approx 18k. Linkback: mountainviews.ie/summit/B7130/comment/22564/