THE diversity of Scotland's landscape never ceases to amaze me, and the same can be said of the country's weather.
The other day I drove towards Angus with brilliant sunshine illuminating the rolling farmland, and felt the rising anticipation of a day in the hills.On reaching Kirriemuir, though, I saw the glens ahead were shrouded in the thickest cloud nature can create. And on my arrival at the Glen Clova Hotel, a whiteout meant the prospect of any walking without miserable discomfort was impossible.
Time for plan B. At the other end of the glen stands the Airlie Monument – commemorating the ninth Earl of Airlie, who was killed in the Boer War. It is one of those places often passed on the way to somewhere else but never visited. When circumstances prevail (in this case the severe weather) you can often be pleasantly surprised.
Monuments are not uncommon in Scotland and they are often placed at good vantage-points. From the Airlie Monument, for example, the views down Glen Prosen and Glen Clova are spectacular.
This particular structure also offers the chance for a good moorland tramp and one of the most comprehensive history lessons you can get without going back to school.
Even before you reach the car park, there is a memorial to Robert Falcon Scott and Edward Adrian Wilson, who died during their fateful 1912 South Pole expedition – much of the planning for the trip was done in this area.
The parents of Dame Nellie Melba, the famed Australian soprano, once lived in a now-derelict cottage below this memorial. Some even claim the opera star – yes, she did have a peach dessert named after her – was born there just before her parents emigrated.
Once in the car park, a fascinating information board tells you all about the ninth earl, David William Stanley Ogilvy, who was buried where he fell at Diamond Hill, near Pretoria.
A track maintained by the Airlie estates leads up through pines, fairly steeply at first and then at an easier gradient – manageable by anyone of a reasonable level of fitness. Look out for woodpeckers before emerging out of the trees with the 65ft-tall monument directly in front of you.
Here, 1,230ft above sea level, the views are well worth lingering over – it's a good place to stop for a picnic.
A fine moorland tramp now begins with views down two glens ahead of you. Reasonable navigation skills are needed here as a number of estate tracks criss-cross the hillsides.
After a couple of miles along the broad, heather-clad ridge, you drop down into Cotgibbon Plantation, where you should be aware of forestry work. If tree-felling is being carried out you can walk down the side of the plantation to a road and turn left. This does mean more tarmac, but as you are on a narrow road in Glen Prosen it is not really a bad way to end a walk.
The route can be very muddy in places and it does cross open moorland, so warm, waterproof clothes and a good pair of boots are needed.
Distance 6 miles.
Height climbed 800ft.
Time 21/2 to 31/2 hours.
Map OS Landranger 44.
Take the B955 north from Kirriemuir for about five miles. Turn left at the end of Dykehead village, down the Glen Prosen road. After about a mile there is a sharp right-hand bend and just after it a car park on the right, up a rough track.
From the car park, go left up the track you drove in on and follow waymarkers until you reach a junction, where you turn left.
On reaching the monument, just beyond the tree line, follow a path directly behind it. Go over a deer fence via a stile, through a gate on the edge of a forestry plantation and then over another stile next to another gate.
A track leads up, next to an old fence line on the right, to an area marked as 'The Goal' on Ordnance Survey Landranger 44 maps. After the track has levelled off and veered left, go left at a junction of four fences. After a few yards, cross a small wooden stile on the right and follow a track on the other side. Almost immediately, go left, down a less distinct track.
At a crossroads of tracks, go left and drop down to a deer fence. Follow this down to a stile, cross it and follow a track into a forestry plantation. On reaching a road turn left and walk the last mile to the car park.
There is nothing at the start of the walk – try the Royal Jubilee Arms in Dykehead or drive up Glen Clova to the Glen Clova Hotel, with its wonderful backdrop of high mountains.
While you are in the area
In Kirriemuir you can visit the birthplace of Sir J M Barrie. Looked after by the National Trust for Scotland (0844 493 2142, www.nts.org.uk), it has lots of interesting memorabilia. Glamis Castle (01307 840393, www.glamis-castle.co.uk), the childhood home of the Queen Mother, is on the A928 south of Kirriemuir.