A really excellent little run through forest trails up the highest peak in the Kilsyth Hills, rewarding you with some fantastic views all around and as far as the Forth Road Bridge from the top. The terrain is almost exclusively mud path/standard trail throughout but was layered in snow and ice on this attempt. The first half is the tougher half, with it being almost entirely uphill (2 miles, 304 meters), but this allows for a really speedy descent (probably even more so without ice). Be cautious of hill walkers and in particular those with dogs as this is a very popular hill.
“I can’t believe I did the whole run without falling” – me, as I stopped my watch at the end, only to slip on black ice as I fiddled with it.
The run started in the Todholes Carpark some 50 minutes drive from Glasgow on a beautiful, crisp and snowy winters day and after fighting myself to not abandon the run in favour of sledging, I started my watch at the gate and headed on the trail. After a little while you’ll come to a fork in the road, head left and continue to edge the Carron Valley Reservior until you come to a bridge crossing the River Carron. This first mile was a great warm up in preparation for the climb, which begins now.
The climb itself is a nice one, being two miles of gentle upward slope followed by a punishing final ascent made totally worthwhile by the views surrounding it. The forest trail guides you through an alleyway of trees, occasionally clearing to give you a glimpse of the surrounding area. You may even get to see some felling in places, as this is part of a forest managed by the Forestry Commission. Some longer straights can be a little disheartening as you’re heading uphill and can see how much you have to go. About 3/4 of the way into the climb, you’ll drift slightly to the left and be presented with what looks like a huge hill directly ahead and to be fair, it is a huge hill. A Marilyn in fact. You’ll be saddened to learn that’s the destination but thankfully you aren’t heading that way – you’re going to follow the path as it curves to the right and follow the track to the base of the hill on the west. This doesn’t make it look much less intimidating, but is better than what you might have thought. Where exactly you start to climb the hill is indicated by a signpost on your left, so keep your eyes peeled and as soon as you see it, start going up!
This part of the climb is testing to say the least. I actually had to walk, partly because hills are not my jam, but also because the snow was very deep in places and I lost the track more than once, though I imagine in the summer months when the ground is solid under foot and visible, this could be quite a good climb.
The climbing aside, one highlight here is that you’ll also see some wreckage as you get closer to the top: the wreckage is that of a Fairey Firefly PP566 reported missing in January 1950 and is scattered all over the hill. I suppose this really shouldn’t be regarded as a “highlight” due to the circumstances, but it does make for a more interesting time.
Hitting the top, you get your reward; views of Ben Lomond, Ben Ledi and Ben More to name a few, not to mention the Forth Rail Bridge far off to the East if you have Elf eyes. I was being beaten by the wind at this point which, being winter, was freezing, but if you catch it on a beautiful day it could be a good spot for a longer break. Either way, once you’ve taken your pictures and soaked up enough of the views, about turn and head back down the way you came. The return journey is a much quicker one than before as now you have gravity being your buddy doing half the work for you. Watch your balance on the scree and keep track of your route to make sure you’re heading back the right way (I took one or two wrong turns simply because I was going faster and not paying attention) and eventually you’ll make it back to the carpark.