Dunsinnan Hill is somewhere I’ve wanted to go up for a long time, but for various reasons never got there.
Today I set off from Dundee in blazing sunshine knowing that this was the day I was finally going to do it. Rather than going up the Coupar Angus road as usual, I cycled down to the station and got the early train through to Perth from where I took the new cycle track up the side of the A9, switching to farm tracks on the way into Luncarty, and then onto the B9099 to Stanley to see my parents.
After lunch, I set off on my bike once again, up to Kinclaven and across both rivers – the Tay and the Isla – on my way round to Cargill. Just after crossing the bridge over the Isla, I noticed again a phenomenon which has struck me here before. The road appears to go downhill initially before climbing, but try free-wheeling and you slow down as quickly as if you were going uphill – something of a reverse Electric Brae.
At Cargill I turned up the steep road that heads between Gallowhill and Newbigging, and followed it down to Collace. Having passed through the village, I stopped at the field where the path up Dunsinnan begins, and lifted my bike over the gate. No sign of the bull this time, one of the things that had thwarted a previous attempt.
Pushing my bike up the hill, the sun disappeared to be replaced by light rain, and looking back I saw a family that had been following me up turn and walk back down to their car, obviously not happy to be walking in the rain in their t-shirts and trainers.
I pressed on, and soon I had to shoulder my bike as the farm track turned to a narrow path through bushy heather. I passed what I took to be Macbeth’s Well, now apparently just a puddle straddling the path.
From here the path starts to climb, as you pass the first line of fortifications. The fort originally consisted of an outer wall around the flat plateau upon which the main fort sits, a middle wall, and then a massive rubble-filled stone wall on the edge of the final flat summit. The path picks it’s way through the lower defences which have been extensively robbed, and then up onto the top of the central citadel.
As I reached the summit, the rain stopped, and while the views over Strathmore were much reduced by the low clouds of moisture, the view east past Black Hill to Dundee was stunning, with Balgay Hill, the Law and the railway bridge over the Tay all clearly visible.
I spent a long time up here just standing taking in the view, then began to wander around, looking at the various lumps and bumps left from countless excavations by antiquarians searching for items related to Macbeth.
Leaving my bike within the fort itself, I walked down bewteen the lower ramparts in search of the cup-marked rocks. Unfortunately I hadn’t marked them on my map, and I’d only looked briefly at the information board down at the start of the path, so although I was looking in the right area, my search was fruitless. I now have them marked on my map, and will come back another time.
Climbing back up to the summit to get my bike, I took one last lingering look over towards Dundee, then began my descent. Back down on the road, I cycled round past the quarry, opting not to visit the nearby Bandirran stone circles again this time and followed the road in the shadows of Dunsinnan Hill, Black Hill and the King’s Seat, and past the Long Man’s Grave.
I took the road by North Pitkindie, South Latch and Newton Gray, hitting 50mph as I sped down the steep hill past Newton Bank before slamming on the brakes and heading for Knapp. Beyond the village I cycled past the Falcon Stone, and before dropping down to Longforgan, I turned off into Huntly Wood to have a look at the cairn known as the Market Knowe, which I’d spotted on the map.
The wood itself is quite atmospheric – fairly close to the busy A90, but at the same time very still and calm. A series of paths criss-cross the wood, and it wasn’t difficult to find the cairn, which is of an impressive size.
The large central mound has been robbed and now has a flat top with a slight dip in it, and around its base there’s a clear ditch and bank. The cairn is cleared of vegetation by the Woodland Trust but it’s surrounded by overgrown brambles, ferns and nettles, and despite the atmospheric setting, it struck me as quite a sad site.
Heading back out of the wood, I cycled down to and through Longforgan, then joined the path along the edge of the A90 back to Dundee in time for tea.