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Ben Cleuch

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The rounded, grassy slopes of the high Ochil Hills make a comforting contrast to their steep southern defences. The volcanic hills rise abruptly above the lazy curves of the River Forth. Several villages, the Hillfoots, are spaced below the hills. The highest hill is Ben Cleuch, at 721m.

Though it is possible to make a high-level traverse of the Ochils, they really lend themselves better to several independent sorties as many fine ridges lead south from the backbone of the group. This walk takes in four summits, including Ben Cleuch, and may be looked on as a deep-end introduction to this fine group. There are several steep sections but no scrambling is necessary.

Start from the public car park in the Ochil Hills Woodland Park (NS 899 975), gained from the A91 at the east end of Alva. Cross the road to enter the wood and climb west up the track to just before Silver Burn (named after the truly impressive amount of silver which was mined here in the 18th century). Turn hard right up the vegetation-smothered slopes, following a path. It leads to several large trees which thin out on the shoulder of Wood Hill. The path continues up, crossing a fence to gain more open slopes, on the left of a straggling collection of pine trees. Follow the path which soon tacks on to an ancient, grass-covered dyke.

The ancient dyke leads to the small rocky bowl below Wood Hill summit (525m), with fine views south towards the Pentland Hills, Edinburgh, east over the Kingdom of Fife, and west along the front face of the Ochils to the Touch and Gargunnock Hills beyond Stirling. Photo is from Wood Hill, looking north, with Ben Ever and Ben Cleuch summits clear.

Now head NNW, with a short diversion necessary to skirt a peculiar dry valley. This is almost certainly a relic from glaciation, with a basalt sill blocking the south exit and an opening forced instead at its NW corner. Drop into its north end then up to gain the ridge of Millar Hill. This fine ridge leads easily to the summit of Ben Ever (622m), jinking past the rocks of Calf Craig en route.

From Ben Ever continue down the path to the col, then over a stile and up the slope to Ben Cleuch, the highest point of the day and the Ochils, at 721m. This section is fairly heavily used and should be treated gently in wet conditions. At last the summit rocks will slowly heave into view, along with the trig point, cairn, and indicator viewpoint, now sadly past its best.

Head east now, down gentle slopes and over a col to climb up slightly to Andrew Gannell Hill (670m). Despite its name, it was not named after some long-dead person but is seemingly a corruption. Continue east to gain the head of the Gannell Burn, and turn down the path which leads down its east flank to enter Mill Glen above Tillicoultry.

Either continue down the east of Mill Glen to enter Tillicoultry, continuing back to the start by public road to pick up a path heading west above the golf course, or, across from the quarry, double back above Mill Glen to cross the burn via a bridge. The path then goes across the hill above the quarry and continues on above the golf course to eventually enter Woodland Park.


Maps: OS Sheet 58 'Perth to Alloa, Auchterarder' (Also Explorer 366 at a more convenient scale)
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 780 m
Time: 5 hours
Food & Drink: Choice of hotels and cafes in both Tillicoultry and Alva.


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