Site last updated 23/05/2012  

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The last of the Angus glens and the most easterly/northerly it has a character all of its own.   In olden times it was known as the "Glen of the rowans" because of the number of those trees from the bottom of the glen to the top.   The rowan tree was very important to the glen people, not only in this glen but elsewhere in Scotland.   The rowan has the ability to ward off evil spirits and, even to-day, you will find rowan trees in many a Scottish garden.   I've had a rowan tree in my garden for most of my life and have had no problem at all from evil spirits!   But, although we may joke about it nowadays the old Scots glen folk took it very seriously indeed.   If a baby was about to be born in the glen then the bed where the mother was to give birth was strewn with leaves or twigs from the rowan tree so that the newborn baby would have immediate protection.   In some glens the baby's first nappy was burned on a fire of rowan wood.   If any of the glen folk's animals were sick, or were barren, they would make a garland of rowan twigs and hang it around the animal's neck.   Nowadays Glen Esk should be called the "Glen of the Silver Birches" because that is the tree that you will see from the bottom to the top of the glen.   Again I will take the walks in this glen from south to north.  

If you drive up the glen, past "The Retreat" where you can not only have a cup of tea and some home cooking but also visit their local museum, to the head of the glen, you will find a public car park (but no public toilets).   Turn left after leaving the car park and walk back down the tarred road for about half a mile then turn right and you will find a bridge across the river North Esk.   Alternatively walk on for another half mile and turn right.   Either way you will arrive at Gleneffock farm.   Go through the farm and take the obvious track up the hill to the right (Cairn Caidloch), continue along the Land Rover track, over Burnt Hill with its trig point and down the path to Inchgrundle.   Return by the north side of Loch Lee and, at the east end of the loch you will find the ruins of Lochlee Church and its graveyard.   This graveyard is well worth a visit.    On the right as you go in the gate is a stone in memory of Jean Cattanach with an inscription that reads, “This stone was erected by Mr Alex Ross, schoolmaster at Lochlee, in memory of Jean Cattanach, his spouse, here interred, who died May, 1779, aged 77 years and, directly facing it, is another stone in memory of her husband Alexander Ross, born in 1699, who, in the 18th century, was headmaster at Lochlee School - just across the road from the church.   He was also an author and a poet and was known throughout Scotland.   He always wrote in the Scots dialect and there is a poem on his gravestone which no-one, other than a Scot, would understand.   It reads “How finely nature aye he paintit, of sense in rhyme he ne'er was stintit, an to the heart he always sent it, wi micht and main.   An no ae line he ere inventit, need ane offen.".  His best known work was the story of Lindy and Nory which is sub-titled “The fortunate shepherdess” and I will quickly tell you the story.   I may get slightly confused in the telling because, although you would think otherwise, Lindy is the boy in the story and Nory is the girl! ……………   Another interesting gravestone is in memory of David Christison who, according to the inscription, was “A man of integrity and veracity and charitably disposed to the indigent.”   This graveyard contains many other interesting graves and must have one of the most beautiful views in Scotland, looking along the length of Loch Lee to the hills beyond.  

About half a mile past the graveyard, still heading for the car park, is Invermark Castle (ruin) which was built in 1526 by the Lindsays of Edzell Castle.   An interesting feature of the castle door which is about 20 feet above ground level.   The car park is reached a few hundred yards past the castle.

The next walk of interest, going anti-clockwise round the head of the glen, is to head west from the car park, past the castle and the graveyard, up the side of Loch Lee and, where the track goes off to the left to the shepherd's house at Inchgrundle, you carry straight on.   After a mile and a half you will see a bridge on your left crossing the Water of Lee.   Cross this bridge and head off along the path to the Falls of Unich.   Head on up an increasingly steep path and you will pass an outcrop of mica schist.   This is a very interesting and attractive stone and there is plenty of it so why not take a small piece as a souvenir!   Carry on up this track and, as the ground starts to level off, you will find the double waterfalls of the Falls of Damff.   You can go right down to the falls but be extremely careful as this is a dangerous spot and I would certainly never take children down to it.   A few hundred yards farther on from the falls is a new bridge crossing the river.   If your navigational skills are poor then follow the riverbank south-westwards for about a mile and you can pick up a Land Rover track on your left.   Follow this track eastwards to Cairn Lick and, on the high point, there is a spectacular view down the length of Loch Lee.   Descend on this track to-wards Inchgrundle. pausing halfway down to look down to the left into the inky black waters of Carlochy.   From Inchgrundle it is an easy walk back to the car park.

For the next walk head west from the car park for a couple of hundred yards and take the track on the right just past the church.   Go through the five bar gate and head on on level ground.   As you approach the next, larger gate, look at the sides of the track and you will find quite a large area of bog myrtle.   This plant was used for centuries to ward off flies, midges, etc. and, if you rub some of the leaves and have a sniff, you will understand why!   Continue on this track for a mile and a half and, on the right of the track there is a very small hillock with a stone on the top.   I heard a story, many years ago, and I cannot vouch for its truthfulness, that this stone marks the spot where, in the 19th century a travelling woman (tinker) was murdered by her husband.   The story goes that they had walked over the mounth road from Deeside and all the way across she had been "Nipping his heid".   Just at the spot where the stone is he could stand it no longer and put his hands around her neck and strangled her.   The story goes that he left her body and gave himself up to the authorities in nearby Brechin (getting a bit unbelievable now!) and was subsequently hanged for his crime.   The local glen folk buried the victim where she lay and erected a small stone.   It is possible that this is just a boundary marker but I prefer the "Crime of passion" explanation!   Half a mile farther on you will see the Queen's Well on your right.   This crown-shaped edifice was built to commemorate the occasion when, on 29 September 1861,  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert came across the hills from Balmoral Castle and met with Lord Dalhousie at this spot where they had a picnic before travelling on down the glen.   The well is an artesian well and there is an inscription around the well itself at ground level which reads, "Rest here weary traveller on this lonely green, and drink and pray for Scotland's Queen".   There is also a plaque on one of the columns which reads, ''Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, and his Royal Highness the Prince Consort, visited this well and drank of its refreshing waters, on the 20th September, 1861, the year of Her Majesty's great sorrow''.    I have known many people who have had a drink from this well and survived but I certainly would not drink from it!   There is a popular custom these days to drop a small coin in the well which is another good reason not to drink from it.   I have also often seen sheep in the vicinity!   Just past the well is the Glenmark house which nowadays is let out as a holiday home.   There is no electricity, no telephone and the water comes from the Easter Burn behind the house.   You could not find a quieter or more remote spot for a holiday.   There is a choice now of whether to stay low level and walk up the north side of the water and visit Balnamoon's cave or keep on the Land Rover the new track and head for Mount Keen (Munro).   If you go for Balnamoons's cave then follow the Water of Mark and  about two miles on from Glenmark house you will have to cross the river just past a waterfall.   This can be quite tricky and potentially dangerous if the water is high.   Nearby is Balnamoon's cave.    It was occupied for about a year after the battle of Culloden by the Laird of Balnamoon (James Carnegie) who was on the run from the English.   Just as the English could not find it in the 18th century so it is still extremely difficult to find to-day.   It has a very narrow entrance but a surprisingly roomy interior.   You can make your way back to the car park on the bank of the river that you have crossed over to but, when you reach the bridge you must cross it and turn right onto the track that you started off on.   The road to the right before crossing the bridge is private.   If you opt to do the Mount Keen walk (the most easterly Munro in Scotland) then keep on the Land Rover track for about two and a half miles and then take the track to the right.   There are several false summits on the way to the very stony top with its trig point.   For all but the very fit and experienced it is best to return by the same track.

As you drive back down the glen you will see Rowan Hill on your left.   On its top is a cone-shaped tower which was built in memory of Lauderdale Maule who died in the Crimean War.   It was ordered to be built by his brother Fox Maule, Earl of Dalhousie, and is said to be built on the spot where they said their goodbyes as Lauderdale went off to the war (In those days the main glen road went over Rowan Hill).   I have heard that near to the monument is the ruin of a "Whisky Bothy" where illicit (and duty free) whisky was produced but I have never been able to find it.  Also by the side of the "old" glen road, near Auchintool Farm, is a very interesting structure.   This is called the Modloch Tower and was built in 1825, by the members of the local Masonic lodge, as a shelter to accommodate 3 or 4 persons in the event that they were caught in a winter storm.  Unfortunately it did not help the Reverend Jolly and his female companion as, 2 years after it was built, they were making their way home from a party.   They were caught in a blizzard and, being unable to find the shelter, they perished in the snow.

John Angus, who lived in Glen Esk and died about the mid 1980s,  wrote a poem about this glen ....


They say, when god the father made the earth,

He rolled between His palms its rocks and clays

Then breathed upon it to give life a birth.

And it was done, and set into its place.

But ere he sent it spinning into space

 he gave it one last little pat in love.

And there the mark remains, upon the face

of Angus - the thumb the Tay, and then above,

Glens Isla, Prosen, Clova, Esk, these four

God's fingers fashioned, and his palm, Strathmore.

Four fair green glens reach far into the west,

And of them all, the loveliest and best

In Esk - Glen Esk by loving gesture given,

God's little finger left the mark of heaven.

A fitting tribute to a beautiful glen.







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