Sub 2000 Marilyn = Any hill in the British Isles which has a prominence of at least 150 metres and a summit lower than 609 metres (2000 feet).
Colossal lorries whizzed past at an alarming proximity and velocity as we marched down one of the A96’s soggy verges. We had began our first Marilyn bagging adventure in a layby about halfway between Inverurie and Huntly in rural Aberdeenshire. Following directions extracted from a Walk Highlands forum, our first step was to reach the nearby village of Colpy.
Grateful to leave the A96 behind when we reached Colpy, it took us about 45 minutes to ascend the Hill of Foudland’s 467 metres. On a better day we would have been treated to a vista of Aberdeenshire’s best countryside, but the summit was shrouded in low cloud. Happily though, we had ticked our first Sub 2000 Marilyn off the list. I celebrated by fervently dropping mango everywhere while Rory went for a celebratory pee in the heather.
Next we had to figure out how to reach our second Marilyn, preferably without another encounter with one of Scotland’s busiest roads. By fluke, we summited the Hill of Skares while making a beeline for the Hill of Tillymorgan.
Between us and this next summit was a steep descent down to the valley floor. Examining the loose scree and sharp slate rock below, we agreed this section didn’t look promising. Having exhausted any other possibilities and eaten lunch however, we set off down the slope, arms flailing as we tried to avoid breaking a leg or an unexpected cartwheel.
At the bottom we crossed the A96 before finding ourselves circumnavigating the border of a farmer’s newly seeded field. I spent this section of our adventure straining over my shoulder, concerned the farmer would spot us from the nearby farmhouse.
Traversing an unreasonably high barbed wire fence, we soon met another tougher obstacle. Recent rainfall had transformed the small River Urie into a raging brown torrent and we needed to find a way across it. In what could barely be described as a bridge, some local mountain bikers had placed a large branch across the river just downstream.
“God I’m a natural at this”, I thought to myself immediately before nearly toppling like a tower of jenga into the fast flowing water. Having righted myself sucessfully, I celebrated wildly as we tried to find our bearings on the opposite bank.
There would be no more obstacles akin to those already faced, but next section would prove to be the steepest, with direct route through the quiet forest along downhill bike trails. Eventually we reached the gigantic wind turbines which are so visible from the main road. We spent a few minutes watching the nearest one while getting our breath back. “Whoosh”… I found the movement of its blades…”Whoosh”….and the sound of its rotors …”Whoosh”… both intimidating and mesmeric.
From there on it was a short hike around deep disused quarries of slate and through a herd of perplexed looking sheep. With sodden feet and a sense of accomplishment, we enjoyed a more fulfilling view from the Hill of Tillymorgan. We had considered hunting down Fourman Hill as well, but decided to head for home citing our wet feet were and my holy trainers as our excuse. Bear Grylls can eat his heart out!
The descent was navigated with relative ease. The only slight downer on a great day out being another short trek along the A96 road. This was soon forgotten however, as we celebrated our first bout of Marilyn bagging with a packet of hula hoops. Two down, 571 to go.