A glorious autumnal walk: Glen Tilt and Beinn Mheadhonach
Hilariously, it took my friend Ben and I three attempts to get going on the route through Glen Tilt to the Corbett, Beinn Mheadhonach, in Perthshire.
The first time, we set off along the road when, in fact, the path was the other side of the wall yet parallel. We laughed, a little embarrassed, at the error so early in the walk and retraced our steps some 50m. (We made a note to ourselves to chat less at the start of the walk and focus more on the map.)
The second time, once we had correctly found the right path, we ended up retracing our steps back to the car park after only five minutes of walking. We had bumped into a mountain biker who had a broken chain and I was sure I had a bike tool in my van that would be helpful to him. As it turned out, the bike tool was not there but he was grateful that I had offered my assistance anyway.
So, Ben and I set out again, but five minutes later I realised I had left my gloves in the van. I ran back to the car park once again and started on the route for the third time.
None of this mattered all that much, however, because the weather was fine and we had a full day ahead of us.
Gorgeous Glen Tilt in autumn
The views along the wooded glen were the sort that should be relished, not rushed. The autumnal weather had turned the foliage a magnificent riot of fiery reds, oranges and yellows and as we strolled and chatted we also oohed and ahead at the amazing brightly coloured scenery.
Autumn is my favourite season in Scotland – and Perthshire is my number one choice at this time of the year – because of the spectacular vistas.
Following the yellow markers from the car park (once we had remembered about these in the Walk Highlands’ description we laughed a little more embarrassed at our earlier road route error), the path heads through pretty woodland and beside a rumbling river with many stunning waterfalls.
The ancient stone bridges dotted along this route are also worth a mention. Several are so old it appears they have been absorbed by the landscape around them. The old structures look sunken into the surrounding terrain and then enveloped by grass and moss.
There is a great history to this glen, too. It was here, in Victorian times, that the first battles for the rights to public access over land and estates began. The track through Glen Tilt was once the only direct route from Blair to Braemar and Deeside and for some of our walk we followed this old driver’s road.
An easy going start to the walk
The path through the first part of the glen is fairly flat and we made good progress, despite frequent stops to take photos. After another stone crossing, wider this time, called Gilberts Bridge (no apostrophe!), we reached a curious looking gate in a deer fence.
It appears as if a small square gate has been turned on its side to form a diamond shape therefore giving walkers access through it without so much need to bend over.
I do wonder why a taller and more conventionally shaped gate could not have been used but maybe this was the only one available and at the time. We enjoyed the novelty of the Hobbit-esque concept.
The path widened and undulated as we walked towards the many high, rounded mountains in the distance. For such an easily accessible glen, it feels amazingly wild.
We could not yet see our summit goal but we enjoyed the breath-taking views of the ever-widening glen.
By now, we were aware of the sounds of roaring stags. Autumn is when the annual stag rutting takes place and the eerie sound of their roars accompanied Ben and I for almost the entire walk.
Still following the yellow markers, we crossed another “land absorbed” bridge and spotted a series of stone ruins (the site of one of several former settlements in the glen). We followed a signpost for a “viewpoint” that cut through brown and orange ferns and then on to a grassy path.
The ferns seemed so much more gorgeous in their autumnal hues than the usual greens.
I doubt we had climb more than 150m by this point and yet we knew the summit of Beinn Mheadhonach was at 901 m.
Looking up and along the glen, our mountain – the shape of a humped whale – loomed high above us. I was surprised that the top looked so close and I was sure we would reach it before too long.
Except that was not the true top that I had spotted, rather it was the start of a long ridge that would eventually take us to the highest point.
The climb that goes on and on
Another stone bridge (the best grassy bridge I have ever seen) led us on to the path at the foot of the hill climb and the first section of steeper climbing of the route thus far.
As we climbed, the wind grew stronger. We ended up ascending to the east side of the mountain and although this was not the most trodden path on Beinn Mheadhonach it turned out to be a good way to shelter from the westerly winds.
Eventually, however, we needed to ascend to the top of the wide ridge and from then on we were buffeted by the coldest, strongest wind I have encountered for more than six months.
We stopped to add layers, hats and gloves – and also helped Wispa the Wonder whippet into her winter jumper – and pushed onwards.
The ridge seemed to go on forever, however. It was one of those flatter mountain ridges that just keeps on going and even when you think you can see the top cairn ahead it turns out to be a “pointer” cairn en route to the actual top.
And we walked and walked.
When we thought we must have walked as far as we could and surely this should be the top I stopped to check the OS map app. It appeared that we had walked right past the summit cairn, although the map does show the summit cairn to be at 900m and the summit proper to be further along at 901m.
Feeling sure that we had reached both of the highest points, we turned around to discover we would be walking with the wind in our faces. The bright start to the day had become a little more overcast and clouds swirled around the summit ridge, pushed this way and that by the ever strengthening wind.
I was thankful that I had thought to pack extra layers, winter mittens and hat, as well as my standard buff, in my rucksack. By this point I was wearing most of my spare items.
Finally, as we descended and veered back over the east side of the hill, the wind dropped a bit and we could again walk and talk. It’s difficult to chat when the wind whips away every word.
More fabulous autumnal views
The views as we made the return hike were even more magnificent. The trees that lined the lower slopes of the glen were a kaleidoscope of the brightest colours set against the darker hillside and heathers, a rich tapestry of deep green, mahogany, taupe, sienna and russet.
Sometimes an out-and-back route can be rewarding because you see the out route and the return route in such a different context.
After climbing back through the diamond gate and crossing Gilberts Bridge there is an alternative route back to the car park. It climbs higher up the east side of the glen and through several sections of woodland and along the side of lovely green meadows. The grass had been neatly mown by munching sheep.
I popped Wispa on her lead for most of his part of the walk although by now she seemed too tired to be interested in the sheep.
The views down to the winding river and wooded gorge were glorious.
The route eventually joins a singletrack road and heads though a tiny settlement of Old Bridge of Tilt.
Funnily enough, we ended up on the road that we had walked earlier in the day before retracing our first steps back to the car park. It turned out that if we had carried on we would have simply walked our day’s route in reverse. Oh well…