Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Time travel to the Falls of Unich, an "otherworldly" cow...and the issue of "faffing" around.

The ruined fortress of Invermark Castle, 
a 16th century outpost against cattle rustlers.
The Angus Glens, just an hour from "base camp" in Arbroath, offer wonderful hiking opportunities...and, frequently, a journey through time. The plan was to get an early start and set off from the Invermark car park, on the edge of Cairngorms National Park. We would hike the 15.75 km circuit along Loch Lee to the Falls of Unich and the Falls of Damff, traverse the high and lonely moorland above Craig Maskeldie (for a view of Mt. Keen, the easternmost "Munro"), and then descend the Shank of Inchgrundle, back to the track along the loch.

We only made it to the Falls of Unich. There was a fierce headwind. The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) had described the probable experience to be: "Considerable buffeting developing on higher areas and by afternoon, where exposed, any mobility difficult. Severe wind chill."

There was a lot of wind but, perhaps, the most likely cause of our failure to complete the circuit was our faffing around. "Faffing" is a great Cumbrian term for "dithering". It's when you've got important things to do (like get on with a well-planned hill walk) and you get distracted by everything else under the sun. Truthfully, there are often very good reasons here.

In our case, en route to the trailhead, we came upon a very strange animal in a field. Of course we had to stop. It looked like a cow - but it was not the usual colour. I had a suspicion it was "otherworldly". Perhaps from the rumoured "green" moon, that revolves around an earth-like planet just several light years away?

It stood remarkably still,
likely hoping we would not notice it.
 Joan thought my idea was quite ridiculous. Moments later, however, we rounded a corner in the glens and spotted what most certainly had to be a "spacecraft". It was sitting on the high point of the Hill of Rowan. I pointed out to my disbelieving spouse that there was even evidence of "scorched" heather - incontrovertible proof of previous landings and launchings.

Did the very peculiar "cow" we had seen come from this craft?

Yes, I think so.

The "craft" and scorched heather on the Hill of Rowan
 - proof of frequent visitations by extra-terrestrial cows!
 Even the local blackbirds were completely transfixed by the sight! They also knew that what they were looking at was astonishing and unprecedented - we are not, it would seem, alone in the universe!

The birds knew too!
So yes, there was a lot of faffing around on the way. And, as you can see, with very good reason.

We did eventually arrive at the Invermark trail head, with half the day now behind us. Clearly it was going to be difficult to complete the planned circuit before the sun set behind the mountains.

The hike began very much as a journey through time. Invermark Castle, in the topmost image, was probably built around 1526 to guard the pass between Glen Esk and Deeside. It has long been in ruins, with some of the material being used to build the Loch Lee Parish Church and manse.

Not far along the track from the castle, are the ruins of a late 16th century church. It is believed that a church was first founded here by St. Drostan, one of the twelve companions who sailed with St. Columba from Ireland to Scotland around 563 AD.

Built in the 1500s, but a place of worship for 1400 years.
Standing in a place, where people have worshipped for some 1400 years, is a humbling experience.

Joan stands where the chancel would have been positioned.
Loch Lee is very beautiful. Queen Victoria described it as "a wild but not large lake, closed in by mountains, with a farm-house and a few cottages at its edge". Everything is probably just the way it was, in her time.

Loch Lee: "A wild, but not large lake." - Queen Victoria.
Leaving the loch and it's wind-swept waters, the track leads westward. The steep and dramatic Bruntwood Craig and prominent buttress of Craig Maskeldie come into view. It's really quite breathtaking.

Craig Maskeldie (l) and Bruntwood Craig.
A closer look at Bruntwood Craig.
And with all this hillwalking...
simply "shadows" of former selves! :)
As the sun fell lower in the skies, it was clear that it would not be possible to complete the circuit on this day.

There would, however, be time to go as far as the Falls of Unich - just a small bridge, and a narrow trail though the heather.

Bridge over the Water of Lee.
The falls crashed down the rocks, the mist covering the camera lens. The rocks along the path seemed to sparkle in the sunlight - and they did, they were mica schist.

The Falls of Unich.
One more short, steep climb to the top of the falls to find...

...the perfect place for a late lunch and to simply absorb each moment of time. As always, it was difficult to leave this spot. There was that familiar and delicious sense of solitude. The only sound was the planet itself - the blowing wind and rushing water.

On the return, the cold wind was still blowing, but from behind. We would travel almost all of the anticipated kilometres, but on a much easier route. We would also, thankfully, get back to the car before dark...despite the initial faffing around.

What had been a fierce headwind,
was now a tailwind - and very chilly.
Nearing the car park and looking to the west, one last time, the silhouette of Invermark Castle was a reminder of another time and another age. A lot has changed since then. But perhaps like the hills and mountains and the cascading waterfalls, there's a lot that hasn't.

There is, indeed, a lot of history...and the Angus Glens.

The sun setting behind Invermark Castle.

Total km: 14.6
Total ascent : 349 m
Lunch menu by the falls: pita and hummus, apples, and granola bar
Scones with butter and jam: none (again)
Calories burned by Duncan: 772 (Which means we could have had scones with butter and jam!)
Ruins seen: 2 (1 castle and 1 church)
Extraterrestrial "cows" positively identified: 1


  1. Yes, the Angus Glens are very mysterious, and now you've discovered one more secret of this special place. :-) I love the pics. Fiona.

  2. Thank you for your kind comment, Fiona. We feel very thankful for the opportunity we have to explore this special place - and the "mysteries" just add to it all. :) Again thanks, and best wishes to you. Duncan.

  3. Ah, this is great stuff Duncan - what a varied and interesting post! Invermark has been on the "to visit" list for ages and has just crept up towards the top.....

    And faffing - you can't beat a good faff! I think some of my best days have been spent just faffing about :o)

    Kind regards

  4. Haha! How true, Ian! We have an expression in Canada: "time well wasted". I think faffing can be understood as that, a small gift to oneself of "extravagance". We take an intentional break from the imposed demands of the "work ethic". As you well know, such times are are necessary...and very good for our health! As always, many thanks. Duncan.