Walk of the week: Ben Chonzie

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A four-mile drive from Comrie up Glen Lednock leads to the public road end by Coishavachan, map ref 743273. Two Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society signposts indicate public footpaths to Ardtalnaig and Ardeonaig, hamlets on the southern shores of Loch Tay.

It is the former “footpath” that is followed at first, in fact a mapped track to begin with.

The track initially follows the Invergeldie Burn, starting to the east, and then switching to the other side. After a further ½ mile, it crosses back and heads ENE by a subsidiary burn to end at a height of nearly 800m. Just before the end of the track a well-worn Munro path heads north-east then north-west on the broad summit approach. Around map ref 772298 the line of fence posts comes in diagonally on the right. The final gently undulating traverse is oft muddy but on our day it was a firm white pavement that made for faster going.

There are good views to the line of the Ben Lawers range above Loch Tay, and north to Schiehallion, but not on our day. Neither were there any sightings of the mountain hares that frequent the top, admittedly fewer than there used to be pre-Munro-boom days; hares that can cause problems for hillwalkers searching in the mist for their recalcitrant dogs.

On a misty day it is all too easy to blithely follow the fence posts and forget to change direction to regain the track. There were three other pairs of walkers out that day. In traversing the soft snow covering the track, the leading pair had made it easier for the rest of us. When we discovered that they had to walk back down Glen Lednock, the least we could do was to give them a lift to Comrie – just back in time for coffee before the café closed. Yes, the day is that short.

It is all too easy to dismiss 931m/3,054ft Ben Chonzie, more commonly known and pronounced as Ben-y Hone, as a boring hill. Along with three Corbetts, all sharing similar features of rounded grassy tops, it lies in a fairly featureless area, only bisected in modern transport terms much further east by the minor road that runs from Amulree to Kenmore at the east end of Loch Tay.

The name is probably a corruption of Beinn na Coinnich, mossy mountain, an apt description of the terrain which contrasts with the more fertile low land to the south around Crieff and Comrie. Three major glens intrude – Lednock, Turret and Almond – to break some of the monotony.

Yet Ben-y Hone is truly on the edge of the Highlands. The boundary fault line, running diagonally south-west from Stonehaven through Loch Lomond to Helensburgh and beyond, passes just to the south of Comrie along the line of Glen Artney. There are still regular tremors in Comrie for it is highland, whereas Crieff is lowland. Comrie boasted the first seismograph in the country.

During the summer months most hillwalkers prefer to seek out the more interesting hills in the far north-west. During winter, however, Ben-y Hone comes into its own – a short outing; a starting height of 210m, then a well-graded track for much of the route to meet a line of fence posts followed all the way to the summit cairn. Not that the hill should be underestimated in bad weather. The summit approach is long and exposed, and the crags facing Glen Turret should be avoided in poor visibility.

Maps - Ordnance Survey map 51, Loch Tay & Glen Dochart, or 52, Pitlochry & Crieff

Distance - 8 miles

Height - 750m

Terrain - Track to 750m then grassy plateau

Start point - Glen Lednock road-end car park by Coishavachan, map ref 743273

Time - 4 to 5 hours

Nearest town - Comrie

Recommended refreshment spot - Café Comrie, Drummond Street, Comrie

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