Start location: 500m NE of Glen Tanar House (NO 479 958)
End location: Tarfside, Glen Esk (NO 492 797)
Geographical area: Grampian, Cairngorms National Park, Angus and Tayside
Path Type: Medieval Road, Drove Road
Path distance: 18km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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From Dinnet the route is across the River Dee and southeast by Burnside and Belrorie to the old bridge over the Water of Tanar at Braeloine. This point can also be reached from Aboyne by Bridge o’ Ess.
From Braeloine Bridge, go upstream to Knockie Bridge, then up past Knockie Viewpoint. In about 2km cross the Burn of Skinna and climb the ridge between it and the Water of Allachy to Craigmahandle (574m). After a slight drop the path rises again to St Colm’s Well, and goes just west of the summit of Gannoch (731m) and south over Tampie (723m). 1.5km further south the path is joined by the Fungle Road and descends by Shinfur and the Water of Tarf to Tarfside village in Glen Esk.
OS Landranger 44 (Ballater & Glen Clova)
This old road is generally known as an old drove road and was certainly used a great deal for taking cattle, probably for the nearest big cattle market in Laurencekirk but also to the big Tryst at Crieff and then later at Falkirk.
It is worth noting that the road has been in existence for a lot longer than the droving trade though. Curiously there is a carved stone on the route near Belrorie noting that Edward I and the Marquis of Montrose crossed via the Firmounth in 1296 and 1303 and in 1645 respectively. This stone was commissioned by Sir William Cunliffe Brooks who bought the Glen Tanar estate in the mid 19th century. Most historians regard this statement to be inaccurate in that Edward I never travelled along the Firmounth and Montrose was very unlikely to have done so either.
This road was used in the 19th century by itinerant agricultural workers who came from the North East to work the harvest in the Lothians and Strathmore. Women were the preferred labour source for some time and large groups of women, numbering 30-50, would descend from the Highland and live communally in bothies while they worked.
This road was also rumoured to have been occasionally used by whisky smugglers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Sir James Balfour of Denmilne (1600-1651) prepared a list of Mounth passes which is printed in the Spalding Club Collections on the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, printed in 1843. He calls this route Mounth Gammel. Interestingly, a section of Dere Street crossing the Cheviots is known as Gamel’s Path.
The Heritage Paths project is pleased to announce that Neil Ramsay (our former Project Officer) and Nate Pedersen (one of our earliest volunteers) have teamed up to write an ebook - The Mounth Passes - with photography by long-standing ScotWays member Graham Marr. If you too are interested in the heritage of these old ways through the Grampian Mountains, we highly recommend it.