Overlooking Loch Earn, 672m/2205ft Creag Each, hill of the horse, lies north-west of St Fillans from where it is well-seen. It is a Graham, one of over 200 hills in Scotland with a height of between 2000 and 2499ft and with a drop of at least 150m on all sides. With 4½ miles to walk and only 600m to climb, it offers a short but most pleasant outing.
I met Rhona at St Fillans and there was time to enjoy coffee and scones before setting off for the hill …and indeed again on return. On the way to the village, the temperature was -6c so I welcomed that mid-morning refreshment. Nevertheless, it was a well-chosen day; blue skies, sunshine and no wind chill (what a contrast with the previous Sunday on the A9 hills) and all the better for knowing the dire weather forecast for the following day.
Use the car park on the loch side of the A85, two miles west of St Fillans, map ref 668246. Carefully cross the road to reach the start of a track with the welcoming sign….public footpath. The beautiful estate track slants through the trees to the track bed of the old Caledonian Railway line from Perth. The section from St Fillans and finally to Balquhidder was only completed in 1904, then closed in 1951.
The track, by now in rougher form, crosses the railway line, passes two old cottages and beneath electricity transmission lines, then climbs north into Glen Tarken. Ignore an unmapped track on the left and continue past the next junction on the right, where a grassy track leads to a distant cottage.
A little later, circa map ref 666253, leave the track and follow a fencepost line slanting westwards, cross a wall and so to the open grassy slopes below the crags of Meall Reamhar. Gradually turn north-west to reach flatter ground at 550m, on our day with just a dusting of fresh snow, and a good spot to look back to Loch Earn and St Fillans. A slight ATV track eases the way through the higher heather-clad slopes and so to the craggy summit area, possibly confusing on a poor day.
Immediately beneath the rocky summit we suddenly came across a very strange sight; one well-wrapped up man sitting in the snow by a radio mast and extended wires. Explaining his apparently bizarre presence, Andy MM0FMF, an amateur radio operator, told us about Summits on the Air (SOTA), an amateur radio award programme launched in 2002. SOTA is an ideal way to combine exercise with radio, getting people to go out into the wonderful countryside rather than being inside all the time. The idea is you take your radio to the top of the hill, set up and have some contacts with people. On our day Andy had contacts with fellow amateurs from nine European countries. Participants are encouraged by an award scheme with prizes based on points garnered on the hillsides. There are 57,329 mountains worldwide in the scheme, now including most of Europe and indeed Creag Each, last on the air 6 years ago.
After chatting to Andy and taking time to appreciate the superb views from this detached hill, it was time on the by now chilly day to head down. In bad weather it is best to retrace steps, however Rhona and I sped downhill, navigating south-west over tussocky terrain for the long time hidden gap in the trees above Derry Farm. We then followed the railway track bed east…..safer and more pleasant than returning by road.
Map: Ordnance Survey map 51, Loch Tay & Glen Dochart
Distance: 4½ miles
Height : 600m
Terrain: Track then grassy slopes to craggy summit
Start point : Car park by A85, 2 miles west of St Fillans, map ref 668246
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Nearest Village: St Fillans
Refreshment Spot: The Four Seasons Hotel, St Fillans