Colsnaur, Bengengie and Craig Leith Circuit
A fine high level circuit of the Balquharn Glen between Menstrie and Alva. The Bengengie Craig Leith shoulder is one of the lesser frequented parts of the southern Ochils. Once you leave the Pony Track above Menstrie you may not encounter any other walkers until you return to the road at Menstrie.
Although most of this walk is on rough paths there is some off path walking and the paths that do exist are easily lost. Therefore navigation skills will be required in misty conditions.
- Distance: 12 km / 7.6 miles
- Ascent: 750 m / 2500 feet
- Terrain: Hill paths (rough at times), short section of peat hag, steep pathless descent on grassy/bracken clad slopes
- Start / finish: Menstrie, Ochil Row, FK11 7BP.
The walk starts from Ochil Row in Menstrie where there is room for considerate on street parking. At the east end of Ochil Row a small lane runs between some white cottages and newer houses to provide access via a metal gate to the old Pony Track. This track climbs steeply into the hills via hairpin bends. A number of the zig zags can be short cut-ed on grassy paths.
The most useful of these “short cuts” is at the left hand bend following the Forestry Operations signage at the end of the Menstrie Glen track. If you follow the grassy path on your right at this point it contours around the south face of a hillock to reach a more open area close to a fence. From this point the path turns left to go up the hill through a newly planted woodland area. Before reaching the tree plantings there is a diversion to your right to the entrance of old mining workings and later a diversion to your left to the site of a dun. The short cut path rejoins the main track where you continue up the hill to reach a deer fence and gate.
Pass through the deer gate and cross the First Inchna Burn. Approximately 200m after the gate is the start of a grass path heading uphill to your right through newly planted woodland. The path climbs up through the trees to reach another gate and a landrover track. Cross over the landrover track and pick up the continuation of the grassy path on the other side. The path now winds its way up the hill. Keep right when the path splits following the path that is obviously going upwards until you reach the summit with its small cairn.
Leave the summit of Coalsnuar heading north-ish alongside a fence and wall. This section of the walk is fine high level walking on grassy turf. Ignore the first two stiles over the fence which take you into “no mans land” between the fence and wall! Look across the glen to your right to the hummock of Bengengie your next destination.
As you approach Menstrie Moss the ground gets wetter and rougher. The wall disappears leaving just a fence and another stile is reached which you need to cross to reach the peat hags of Menstrie Moss.
Turn south east and cross the peat hags towards Bengengie. There is not really an easy route across! If in doubt, aim towards a grassy hummock at grid ref NN 886 005 . From here it is then possible to pick up a rough path heading south towards Bengengie.
As you approach Bengengie, the path splits, with the right hand option going around the hill to the west. Keep to the left if you want to include the summit and ascend the grassy lump in front of you.
From the summit the direct descent is steep and rocky so go slightly right (west) to descend on the easier ground and rejoin the path that went round the west side of the hill. Look back at the hill to see a surprisingly rocky summit! Continue on along the high level path for 1.5km to reach Mid Cairn at the 542m point high above Alva Glen.
After the cairn the path turns south east towards Big Torry and Wee Torry. Leave the obvious path so that you are aiming south over grassland towards another obvious cairn on the skyline. It should be possible to pick up rough “sheep paths” leading over to this cairn on Craig Elsie.
From the cairn turn west with the summits of Dumyat and Myretoun in front of you. From here the direct descent into Balquharn Glen takes you over crags, so bear right to reach a shallow gully where a burn is starting to form. Follow the left hand side of the burn down the hill on steep but grassy ground.
As you approach the glen with the small reservoir in front of you a rough path starts to form to take you across the hillside down to the dam. Climb the new wooden fence that has been erected across what used to be the path (hopefully a stile will be incorporated in due course) and then cross over the dam.
An obvious path on the west side of the burn follows a fence line down hill above the wooded glen. This path is rather steep and can be slippery. During the Summer it also has a tendency to be overgrown with bracken. Care is needed and decent footwear should be worn, walking poles would also be helpful. Cross the fence when you reach an old stile (a bit awkward due to the gorse bushes) but once on the other side the terrain is easier going. If you reach a burn you have missed the stile! Once across the stile, head downhill crossing the burn after which the path joins an easy grass track that leads down to Balquharn Farm.
Before reaching the farm however, bear right on an obvious and easy to follow path that traverses around the south face of the hill. As you approach the house at The Myretoun the path becomes a bit feinter. Keep the house to your left and look for the path heading into the gorse bushes.
There are now two options available for your return, the first one being somewhat overgrown and potentially difficult in the summer months. The second takes you out to the road to avoid these difficulties.
- Follow the path through wooded scrub land crossing a small burn to reach an old wooden gate. Climb the gate and continue westwards on a now feint and very overgrown path. Gorse bushes and brambles can make it difficult in the Summer months. When you see a deer fence and metal gate to your right aim towards them. From this point an easily walked path now takes you behind Broomhall Castle grounds to rejoin the Pony Track from where you started the walk. Once on the Pony Track it is only a short distance down to Menstrie.
- For the easier alternative, cross the burn in the gorse bushes after The Myretoun, and then go downhill through more gorse bushes (the route may be a bit hard to find but it is there) until you reach a fence. Cross the fence next to an oak tree at a point where the barb wire has been removed. A short easy walk down hill through woodland brings you to a small wooden gate which leads to further woodland. A path now takes you from the gate to a quiet public road where you turn right for a 600 m walk back to your starting point.