East of Glen Shee is the rippling expanse of the Mounth, a huge upland plateau with a subtle spacious feel all its own. With 13 Munros all told, and never dipping below 800m between them, this is a place to really get into your stride. But its high points are in some respects the least interesting feature of the range. The Mounth is all about glens and corries, glacial gouges biting deep into the plateau: Glen Clova; Glen Callater; the monumental corrie of Lochnagar; Glen Muick's mighty Creag an Dubh Loch. That looks like the makings of a classic wild weekender. But if you're pushed for time then this shorter route nibbling at its southwestern edge gives a fair flavour of the Mounth. With the Glen Shee road right at their feet the grassy dome of Glas Maol and the neighbouring scree heap of Creag Leacach are among the more accessible of the area's Munros. Thanks to this, no doubt, the most popular approach takes you through Glen Shee's uninspiring ski centre. But at the risk of coming over all superior this really is a wasted opportunity. Better by far is this eastern route from pretty Glen Isla. It's a longer day with a wilder feel, and as a bonus you get a good look over the huge hole of the Caenlochan Glen too, another key Mounth landmark.
metres / Distance
NO1913769593 At the road junction go straight on through the gate past a house, and follow the private road north along the bank of the River Isla. After nearly 3km cross a bridge and pass Tulchan Lodge (hidden away in the trees). Continue between forestry and the river to reach open ground in the upper glen, with an increasingly good view of the craggy slopes that enclose the head of the glen. Pass a signpost for the Monega path, and instead of turning off here stay with the main track a while longer. Cross the Glas Burn, and a short distance further on, turn left onto a side track.
NO1854273597 This climbs steadily away from the river, following the Glas Burn uphill then curving right onto the grassy southern spur of Monega Hill. A long steady slog brings you up to the broad summit ridge. Here there’s a precipitous view out over the glacier-gouged depths of the Caenlochan Glen.
NO1866175656 Head west(ish) along the cliff edge for the quick stroll onto Little Glas Maol (a vehicle track just south of the skyline has less good views). Beyond a little dip is the gentle summit dome of Glas Maol itself, featureless and hard to navigate in the mist but easy underfoot. From the wind break and trig point on top there’s a huge view, with the distant high Cairngorms looming massively over the intervening lesser ranges. The breadth of the summit plateau makes it feel a little detached from its immediate surroundings, the chief benefit of this being that you can’t see any of the nearby Glen Shee ski resort.
NO1668576572 Bear southwest over featureless ground to descend from the Glas Maol dome onto the ridge connecting to Creag Leacach. An obvious well-trodden path follows the course of an old drystone wall along the ridge, which becomes steadily narrower and better defined – in many ways the hillwalking highlight of the day. It’s rough rocky going for the final climb onto the quartzite summit cone of Creag Leacach, a fine viewpoint overlooking Glen Shee (some might say it’s best seen from a distance).
NO1545874544 Stay with the wall along the ridge – still stony underfoot – to reach the southwest top. The bulk of the hillwalking traffic seems to make a beeline for Glen Shee from here, so continuing southwest to stick with the high ground instead is likely to give you less chance of company. A short steep descent followed by an easy stride along the wall brings you to the outlying top of Carn Ait. Turn hard left here, following a fence downhill over increasingly boggy ground. The fence leads over the curiously named bump of Mallrenheskein, then onwards through a peat-riddled dip before relatively dry turf is regained on the wide top of Black Hill. It’s all fairly undistinguished terrain, but attractive for its spacious emptiness. Deer, grouse and hares easily outnumber people up here.
NO1608571758 If you can be bothered (I couldn’t) then the dull-looking dome of Monamenach would be easily visited from here; it’s a Corbett, if you find that sort of thing an incentive. It is quicker however to call it a wrap on Black Hill. Head east-northeast on a track beside the remains of a fence line, descending a broad heathery spur into Glen Brighty. Down in the glen cross the burn (may need care in spate conditions) to pick up a more heavily used track on its north bank. This soon leads down into the woods surrounding Tulchan Lodge. Ignore the ‘private’ sign on the woodland gate – it’s your right to walk here. A short walk downhill through the woods (you needn’t even go within sight of the Lodge) reunites you with the main track in Glen Isla. It’s only half an hour back to the car now.
Start/Finish: End of the public road at Auchaven - limited amount of verge parking, NO191696
Nearest town: Blairgowrie or Kirriemuir
Terrain: For the most part easy going, with estate tracks low down, and nice springy turf up on the hills. Two exceptions: Creag Leacach is surprisingly rocky and rough; while the leg out to the well-named Black Hill is beset with peat bogs.
Seasonal variations: Being high, rolling and so far east, Glas Maol is a top spot for ski tourers. In fact this whole round would be great on skis. Whether you're walking or touring however, the featureless summit plateau needs care in a winter whiteout.
Mate and I did almost exactly this circuit a while back on a very windy autumn day. Truly marvellous route. No comparison with the quick dash up these hills from ski slopes. We said then that we'd have to go back and head north and east round the head of Caenlochan. One for the better weather in the spring/summer.
While your (rather churlish sounding) amendment to your route card claims that avoiding the drudgery of an extra hill is a timesaver your route is about 1.5km longer, compared to the direct route being 190m more ascent. Not much in it really. I think bemoaning rounded uninspiring heathery lumpen hills while describing routes in the Mounth is a bit ironic tbh.....kind of seems to miss the essence of what the area has to offer. ;)