Breathtaking Glen Tilt – [# 117]

Carn a’ Chlamain (963m);

  • Pronunciation:              Karn uh Chlaveen
  • Translation:                   Hill of the Kite
  • Total distance:              33.9km
  • Total time:                     5hrs 36mins
  • Total ascent:                 1129m
  • Weather:                        Frosty start to the day but turned lovely and sunny. A strong wind developed around noon. Really cold wind-chill on the summit.
  • Start / end location:    Small forestry car-park just to the north of the Bridge of Tilt, which in turn is just above Blair Atholl. [OS Map Sheet 43 – Grid Ref: NN 874 663]
  • Map:                               A map of route can be found here – it may take a few moments to load into a separate window. The map displays on most browsers, but not unfortunately Internet Explorer.

Wooden bridge over the River Tilt

The beautiful River Tilt

Stone sculptures beside the River Tilt

We had to first scrape the frost from the car’s windscreen before we could then make our way to the same car-park that we’d parked at yesterday. Today, however, on our exit from the car-park we headed northward on the estate track that followed the course of the River Tilt running through Glen Tilt. Our objective was another isolated mountain on the Atholl Estate called Carn a’ Chlamain, which lay 11.5km further up Glen Tilt. At one time the estate track was open for public vehicular use, which meant that climbing this Munro could comfortably be achieved in a morning or afternoon. Nowadays, however, the road is closed to “non-authorised” vehicle access – although walkers and cyclists are welcome.

As we began our cycle up Glen Tilt we had to put on all our spare clothing as the early morning temperature was so cold.  After only a few kilometres of cycling we had sufficiently warmed up to begin to focus better on our surroundings as the track hugged the River Tilt, sometimes alongside it and sometimes high above looking down.

Bedrock at 45 degrees making up the River Tilt stream-bed

The river consisted of sections of deep gorge carved into the glen through glacial action combined with more recent river water erosion. Interestingly, in many places, sheets of striated rock plates extruded at 45° to the horizontal plane of the riverbed and seemed to form the channel for the water flow. These sheets were seen to extend along vast sections of the river, especially where the riverbed had formed into a deep gorge. Another feature was that the water was crystal clear and even in the deepest pools the bottom pebbles and rock strata could still be clearly seen from our vantage point above the surface. On our cycle up the glen we stopped often to simply admire the views both of the surrounding hillsides, but possibly even more of the river itself.

Approaching the upper section of Carn a' Chlamain

Cameron on the summit of Carn a' Chlamain

As we progressed further up the glen we passed one or two lovely estate cottages nestled alongside the river, along with the modestly apportioned Marble Lodge. Yet further on we passed the larger Forest Lodge, which signalled the end of our cycle and so we locked our bikes and took to the open hill. Our route was generally NW up the steep grassy sides of the overlooking Faire Clach-ghlais hillside, which was tackled via a zig-zagging path. Once over the top of the steep-sided hill the going became much more gentle as the path arced slowly round to meet up with a rather insensitively bull-dozed track that led just passed the Munro summit. Thankfully, we were only on this track for a couple of hundred metres before we left it to climb the last few tens of metres to Carn a’ Chlamain summit cairn at 963m or 3,159ft. We retraced our steps for the descent back to our bikes where they stood locked to a sturdy fencepost. All that was then left was to enjoy an almost effortless ride back down the magnificent Glen Tilt.

Glen Tilt has to have been one of the most stunningly beautiful glens that either of us has had the fortune to travel through, and although we were using it to access a Munro beyond, it could be walked or cycled and very much enjoyed in its own right: but be prepared to stop often to admire the majesty of your surroundings!

The River Tilt from the wooden bridge

Elaine on the wooden bridge over the River Tilt

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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