The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday 20 October 2019

Carleatheran and Meikle Bin

Sunday 20 October

In 2008, on our way from Land's End to John o'Groats, we passed through a gap (named the Spout of Ballochleam) in a stunning escarpment to the S of the town of Kippen. On one side of that gap sits a hill called Stronend, to the other side sits Carleatheran, both Marilyns. As nice as it would have been to have walked both as a single outing with Mick*, hugging the top of the escarpment, the logistically easier option was to park at the N end of Carron Valley Reservoir and visit both Carleatheran and, across the glen, Meikle Bin (of whose summit we passed within 2km in 2008), leaving Stronend for another time.

Carleatheran (NS687918; 485m)
Distance: 10 miles biked, 0.5 mile walked
Ascent: Around 400 or so metres
Weather: Sunny! A bit of frost on the ground first thing.

Red track = bike; purple track = walk

Since I used my bike to access some hills in April this year my cycling has extended to a few trips to supermarkets and laundrettes, mainly using my Brompton on German cycle paths. It's therefore no surprise that by the time I had huffed and puffed my way up to the top of the windfarm road, on a track with some noticeable undulations (so not all down hill on the way back!), I was putting this ride into the category of 'quite hard'. The uphill headwind didn't help either, but I'm sure it was still a whole lot easier than the first few rides I did to access hills, when I bought my bike in 2017.

Morning light looking up the Carron Valley

The prominent point is Meikle Bin, my second hill of the day.

At this point in 2008 we left the track (which wasn't marked on the map we were using at the time) and headed across to the ruin visible in this snap, from where we made our way up through the Spout of Ballochleam.

Before I reached the end of the track, as marked on my map, I could see that it had been extended and although I couldn't be certain of its destination, I felt sufficiently confident that it was going in a helpful direction that I didn't abandon my bike and take to my feet. Instead I teetered on a cattle grid and man-handled my steed over the railing (there was a taller-than-average locked gate on the other side and the cattle grid's side railing offered the point of least resistance).

At the highest point on the windfarm track, I turned off onto a rough track and a short distance later abandoned the bike at the point where the track degraded to unsurfaced and boggy.

Five minutes later I was at the summit.

Summit selfie

Summit view. Whilst I was being blinded by the sun to the SE, the views to all northerly aspects were mighty fine.

Another five minutes had me back at my bike** and half an hour later I'd toiled back up the ups and whizzed down the downs and was back at Bertie, an hour ahead of schedule and two hours ahead of the 'panic if I'm not back by' time (we had no mobile phone reception where Bertie was parked, which always puts pressure on me to be as quick as possible to minimise Mick's worrying time.)

Meikle Bin (NS667821; 570m)
Distance: 6.2 miles bike, 1.2 miles walk
Ascent: 220m bike, 160m walk
Weather: Still a lovely day but a bit cloudier and a bit warmer.

Red = bike, purple = walk

I'd not intended to head out for this hill until after lunch, but having enjoyed a croissant and coffee for elevenses, and once my feet had thawed out (I'd carelessly wandered into a bog during the first outing), I thought I may as well get on with it. 

As the stats suggest, this ride in was far easier than the first one had been, even on legs that were starting to feel the efforts of the day. The walk turned out to be surprisingly easy too. My expectation had been the need to bash out of the forest then climb pathlessly up to the summit. When I started seening "Meikle Bin' signposts at every junction, I began to expect that there would be a path, but it was only when I reached it that I came to appreciate that this is a popular hill.

The well-trodden line to the summit, dotted with people

Summit selfie

My final ascent would have been more moderate if I hadn't got myself into a race with a woman (she had been gaining on me and my perception was that she was trying to get to the top before me, so obviously I then *had* to go faster. Yep, completely ridiculous). I fair trotted back down having enjoyed another excellent set of views from the top. Being a pointier hill, and with no windfarm on its flanks, they were good in all directions.

Looking down over the reservoir

Thanks to gravity and only a few minor undulations in the forest track, the return biking leg was quick and easy.

An enjoyable couple of hills, although in hindsight I would have preferred to have visited Meikle Bin on a weekday morning, when it would have been a little less busy, particularly with dogs, some of whom were desperate to put their muddy paws on my jacket.

(*In the event, Mick didn't join me today as he was resting a thigh strain he incurred yesterday.
**Even though on most of my hills it's highly unlikely that anyone will happen along and take my bike, I do always lock it up. Except today I opened my hip-belt pocket, looked at the key hanging there and wondered how I could possibly have with me the key to the wrong lock, as the one that fits my 'beefy' lock always lives in that pocket. I didn't even try it, as it so clearly fitted the 'puny' lock. It was only when I went into Bertie's drawer in between my hills and saw the two key types side by side that I realised I'd had the correct one with me all along. Doh!)


  1. Looking at the map for the first one the drop off to the north looks very steep and dramatic stretching a long way in either direction. I used my mountain bike to do many of the Munros. I never took enthusiastically to cycling for its own sake - I found that no matter how fit I was for walking cycling uphill was always a painful lung-bursting experience.

    Going back to your earlier post re nil view summits I agree about Lochnagar. I had no view and to make it worse one of the most boring nerdy blokes I have ever met insisted on walking with me from the summit to the neighbouring Munro and back down to the finish. What should have been one of the best Munro days ruined twice over.

    1. My view on cycling is not dissimilar to your own: I consider it a useful means of getting to places (particularly off-road places in Scotland) efficiently, but I'm not yet (and may never be) at the point of enjoying cycling for its own sake.

      I'm sorry to say I did giggle a little at your experience on Lochnagar.

  2. Loving these names - The Three Bins! Big Bin, Little Bin and... Baby Bin!

    1. That led me to do a little Googling about Scottish hill names - of which my knowledge is woeful. My ability to pronounce those names is even worse - something else I really ought to work on.