First of all, happy new year. I know we are more than two weeks in to 2018 but this is my first post of the year. The reason for this is, I have been a bit busy giving my little blog a different home in the world wide web. So, here you are on the new Full Stop, Next Chapter website. I hope you like it? To make sure I didn’t suffer with too much cabin fever the Dude suggested we should go out to find some snow! Luckily we didn’t have to venture far and decided that Birnam Hill would be perfect.
Starting from just opposite the Birnam Hotel, wrapped up and armed with walking poles, we start off going under the A9 and passed the railway station. We follow the signs for Birnam Hill and I soon become very grateful for my poles and giving me that extra bit of stability and leverage in the ice and snow. With an ascent of less than 400m, normally this would be quite easy but the snow adds a slight challenge to the walk. My concentration was deafening!
Watching my feet was becoming a bit of a bore so at each break through the trees I would take the opportunity to look up and out. A bonus of walking in the winter is that the trees are bare and allow for views to be exposed.
As we neared the top we started to hear the excited squeals and laughter of children as they played in the snow. Oh to be that age again and get away with “playing” in the snow.
We crossed paths with people on their way down and they told us “the view from the top is well worth the climb.” I assume they were telling me this as my face was bright red I must have looked like I was struggling. The only thing I was struggling with was the heat! Yes, that’s right, I was boiling. I had started off with a hat, gloves, merino wool base layer, a shirt and a down jacket and a Buff around my neck. I should know better really because I always get toasty when I am out in the hills.
Anyhow, we stop above the trees and clamber up some rocks and get a cracking view across Perthshire. The noise of the A9 is now just a low rumble although we can’t see it, we can hear it. Great spot for photos too.
The next part of the walk was flatter than the first part but with no views. At least now we were out in the sun and could admire how the soft winter light made the snow sparkle. We pass more people descending from the summit of Birnam Hill, all commenting on the snow and how spectacular the view is from the top.
I imagine when there is no snow on this last push up to the hill top cairn, that there is an easier route to take rather than the one that had been blindly forged by those who walked before me. A rather undignified clamber to the top almost on my hands and knees! But it was worth it.
The view was crystal clear and I doubt there are many days in the summer months where the vista would be so perfect.
We got the top all to ourselves for about ten minutes and then from two directions were different families and dogs out making the most of a brilliant snow day. Feeling a bit overcrowded, we moved off to make our way back down and continue our walk.
After negotiating some quite steep steps the maintained trail made for an easy walk all the way back down to Birnam quarry carpark. The views were open and wide, stretching out across Perthshire and it was nice to feel the sunshine on our faces.
Nearing the end of the walk in Birnam woods the Dude spotted some hair ice. Neither of us had seen this with our own eyes before and it’s fascinating to look at. It is mostly found in broadleaf woodland on wet dead wood and is specific to one particular fungus. After seeing the first piece we didn’t think we would see any more but we must have seen another six or seven pieces in varying sizes. Worth keeping your eyes peeled.
The route brought us back around to whence we started, back under the A9 and in to the village. All in all it’s a 6k circular route. Most of it is either going straight up or winding along the hillside coming back down.
There can be a lot of pressure on people to bag a munro when they visit Scotland. I am one of those aforementioned bods who felt compelled to summit Ben Nevis on my first ever trip to here but having lived here now for over two years I see that some of the smaller hills and routes should get more kudos. They should be explored and celebrated. Picnics should be shared at the top. It’s a great way for families to get out, for those of lesser fitness or mountaineering skill and ability to explore too. Our collection of 40 Walks in….. books come in handy whenever we are travelling.
We are looking forward to re-tracing our steps to see Birnam Hill walk again sometime but it sure is pretty in the snow.
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To get this route in detail check out the Walk Highlands website.