Day of the dead sheep

Isn’t it strange how you can go your entire life without hearing of a place, only for it to randomly crop up again in conversation almost immediately after you have.

Take Glen Doll, an area just outside Kirriemuir that lies within the Cairngorms National Park. Days after it was ventured by my parents as a possible destination for a quiet Sunday stroll, I was hearing — unprompted — of how a co-worker’s relatives had in the past used it for the exterior shots of their various Star Trek fan-films.

Glen Doll 1When we eventually arrived in early May, however, it was not being used as a handy double for Qo’noS or Romulus, but by hikers and barbecuers keen to take advantage of the long-overdue warm weather. Reinvigorated by the beating sun and breathtaking scenery, we headed into the visitor centre to select a route and stock up on leaflets.

Due to forecasted showers in the late afternoon, we opted for the relatively short Viewpoint Trail in order to make the most of our small window of warmth. With the promise of crossbills, siskins and, if we were really lucky, pine marten droppings too, we found the first purple marker and set off for Cairn Derg. We had been instructed to allow one and a half hours for the three mile hike.

Glen Doll 2Billed by the brochure as a ‘strenuous muscle builder’, we were expecting something of an uphill slog to the summit. Thankfully, the road was anything but: a gentle ascent that meandered up the side of the glen high above the car park. As with those accompanying the road in, the views from the trail were simply stunning, each turn revealing a more impressive panorama as we climbed higher and higher.

While we didn’t see any deer or pine marten (though there were a few indistinguishable droppings), the day wasn’t completely devoid of wildlife; sheep and their lambs could be glimpsed far down in the glen below, and pheasants and rabbits could be seen crossing the road on your way in and out of the park. As for deadlife, we passed the intact skeleton of a ram approximately half way up the hill — the first I remember seeing since an ill-fated GCSE Geography field trip almost ten years before. (It had polluted the river we were supposed to be surveying.)

Glen Doll 4

The rain started about an hour into our climb, just as we passed a small viewpoint overlooking a waterfall, the car park and the distant Corrie Fee. Unsure whether this was the end of the trail, we carried on until the track gave way to near-impenetrable woodland. We turned back — but not before spying a small, incongruous patch of snow in a clearing on the other side of some trees — and began our descent as the drizzle turned into rain.

Having passed it on the way in, we stopped at Glen Clova Hotel to wait out the worst of the weather. As a settling fog obscured the views we lunched on lentil soup, balls of haggis and black pudding in whiskey sauce and lattes all around. It was a great end to a great day, and more than made up for our delayed arrival to Kirriemuir an hour or so later which ruled out a visit to the birthplace of J. M. Barrie.

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