On Ben Chonzie, real hillwalkers don't picnic

Munros come in all shapes - some have limited ascent, requiring short, straightforward days, which makes them ideal for winter walking.

Ben Chonzie stands in a fairly featureless area that starts to the east of Glen Ogle, and stretches eastwards between Loch Tay to the north and Loch Earn to the south. In modern transport terms it is only bisected much further east by the minor road that runs from Amulree to Kenmore at the east end of Loch Tay. Apart from Ben Chonzie, there are three Corbetts in this area and all share the similar features of rounded grassy tops. Three major glens intrude, Lednock, Turret and Almond, to break some of the monotony. There are only a few craggy parts - for example at the top end of Glen Turret. You may find the terrain to be dull and characterless, depending on your tastes.

The Gaelic name is Beinn na Coinnich, probably an anglicised corruption. It means mossy mountain, an apt description of the terrain and quite a contrast to the more fertile low land to the south around Crieff and Comrie. Another suggestion is a corruption of Beinn a' Chaoineidh, hill of weeping. If Glen Turret, from Glen Torradh, could mean glen of burial, then who knows - it might all refer back to Roman times. Evidence of their presence abounds locally, including the site of a fort south-east of Crieff, and the Roman road running eastwards over the Gask Ridge.

While Ordnance Survey map 51 shows Ben Chonzie, map 52, Pitlochry to Crieff, is required for the Glen Turret approach from Crieff, suggested for this week's walk.

It is permissible to drive all the way on tarmac road to a car park by the Loch Turret Dam. Disregard any signs saying it's a private road - you have every right to drive to the dam and start from there. Admittedly on a less rugged scale, Loch Turret (and the surrounding hills) remind me at times of a smaller version of Loch Muick.

A track goes along the eastern shore of the reservoir with the slopes of Auchnafree Hill just to the north. The track continues, at least in tyre-track form, almost to Lochan Uaine. Crossing the Turret Burn at the top end of the reservoir is seldom a problem, and a westerly approach to the flattish area to the south of Ben Chonzie should present no difficulties, but I would recommend carrying on to Lochan Uaine, nestling below the eastern crags of Ben Chonzie.

The crags are well interspersed and even in mist present little problem, so a more direct western route can be used following the line of a stream that flows into the lochan. Even better is to go a bit further north from the lochan, weaving in and out through broken terrain, then up a grassy ramp for the top.

Instead of retracing your steps, a more circular walk can be arranged by returning along the high grassy area, dropping to the 786m top of Carn Chois with its trig point, following the line of fence posts mentioned under the popular route, before descending to the dam. The walk back to the car can be in the gathering gloom.

I have many memories of Ben Chonzie, including an association with hill food one summer. When Margaret first decided to share the delights of hillwalking, it had been a while since she had climbed anything higher than a horse, so an easy hill was required. Enter Ben Chonzie.

A small family outing was arranged. I soon realised, however, that the term "hill food" was being misunderstood as Margaret started to organise for everyone instead of each walker being responsible for themselves. The subsequent events turned out to be most embarrassing, as a picnic cloth was spread out on the hillside. As the others sat in the heather gleefully unpacking crab, drumsticks, salad and mini wine bottles, I stood apart guarding my hill-cred, hoping that none of my friends would chance by.


Map Ordnance Survey map 52, Pitlochry to Crieff

Distance 8 miles

Height 600m

Terrain Track and grassy hillside

Start point Loch Turret reservoir dam, near Crieff

Time 5 to 6 hours, car to car

Nearest town Comrie and Crieff

Nearest refreshment spot A good choice in both towns

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