Colourful Caterhuns

I took up running last year so that I have the energy and speed to keep up with my growing minxes! I reluctantly need to incorporate some hills in my training, so wanted to recce some short-ish hills with a bit of a track on them that weren’t paved super-highways. A quick check of the OS map brought up a place I’ve wanted to explore with the girls for a while, now: the Caterthuns.

Colourful Caterhuns

The first challenge, as always, was to make the trip sound enticing. It was an overcast day, no wind, lingering showers, and cold. Pulling out an idea that worked to get the kids the whole way up Clachnaben, we suggested they take their plastic Minion toys and photograph them. Well, I’ve never seen 3 kids change their attitudes so fast and hustle to get out the door!

We drove along winding Angus country roads and up a steep, winding single track hill to the layby between the hills. To the left was White Caterthun, to the right Brown Caterthun. We knew that they were thought to be old hill forts. When I say ‘old’, we’re talking Neolithic or older (Brown) and 2,000 years old (White). But experts aren’t entirely sure as there have been so few ancient artefacts found. That fact alone tempted Maxi on the walk – she was sure she might find some ancient treasure.

We decided to tackle Brown Caterthun first. I’d warned the kids that it might be boggy, but none of us were really expecting just how wet it was. I regretted wearing walking boots within seconds, as the muddy, peaty, freezing cold water oozed between my toes. The minxes smugly sploshed through in their wellies and on up the hill. But if you fancy doing this walk yourself, I need to warn you that every hump in the hill brought more boggy bits, almost the whole way up…

Midi and Mini happily posed their minion toys in the heather, which will turn the hills purple and look (and sound and smell) incredible in the summer, and before long we were at the top. The track up is really only a few hundred metres, but the scenery over towards the Cairngorms is beautiful and you get to see more and more as you plod up, until the final Grand Reveal. I think this could be a fantastic day-explore if you walked from Edzell or Brechin, perhaps. Anyway, as it was so short the girls suggested we all skip down and go straight up White Caterthun (as I’d planned all along – dastardly mum chuckle).

On the way, we paused to look at the very isolated showers and I showed the girls how, if you were unlucky to be stuck under a shower, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a horrible, wet day all day long. (“And that’s why we go out when it’s raining!” I nagged them). The showers made beautiful rainbow chunks over the scenery. Most of the Angus and south Aberdeenshire countryside was now bathed in that golden, winter sunlight that makes you not care that it’s not anywhere near spring yet.

White Caterthun’s track to its summit is much more solid and far, far drier. You can still see the very pale grey rocks used to build the fort ramparts and they form an obvious big oval at the top. Maxi spotted some bright red lichen and her sisters counted rainbows and bonfires far below.

The sun soon headed for the horizon and it got very chilly very quickly. Recce accomplished (yes, both Caterthuns would be just perfect for beginner hill interval training) we headed back to the car, making a mental note to come back in the summer.

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About the Author

Jay Greengrass

Jay Greengrass

About Me & Mine

Hello! I’m Jay, married to Jon, living in North East Scotland with our 3 daughters: Maxi (10), Midi (8) and Mini Minx (6).

Favourite place in the world:

It’s hard to choose between the stretch of Moray Firth coast between Findhorn and Cullen, and Westray (a northerly Orkney island). Both have an amazing diversity of beautiful coastlines in a small space (empty, clean, sandy beaches; crystal-clear rockpools; crags, cliffs and stacks), fascinating wildlife, friendly people and endlessly interesting weather. Bar visits to friends and relatives, we’ve taken all our holidays in Scotland, north of where we live, for many years. We’ve still barely scratched the surface of this beautiful country.

Favourite things to do outdoors:

Rock-pooling and scrambling on local beaches; camping; walking in the gentler local hills; foraging for fruit and jam-making ingredients; and growing our own fruit and vegetables against the combined deterring efforts of our cat and the weather.

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