Howffs in the Sidlaw Hills

A simple stone howff supported in part by a tree, this tiny refuge on Scotston Hill (NO 351405) probably dates from the days when the Sidlaw Hills offered an escape from the heavy industry of the nearby city of Dundee.
It is well constructed from flat, angular igneous stone commonly found in this area. Indeed, there is a disused quarry to the west. The howff is currently roofed with branches, some heather and polythene sheets, although this has seen better days. Inside there is space enough for a couple of people. A stone windbreak protects the doorway, the floor is earth and stone and there is a small fireplace built into one of the walls, venting through a hole in the roof. Charming as it is, this howff would benefit from some renovation work and it is hoped that some day this will be taken in hand.

Inside the Scotston Hill Howff

Access on foot is either from the Balkello Community Woodland Car Park (NO 365385), on the minor road between Kirkton of Auchterhouse to Tealing, or from Kirkton of Auchterhouse (NO 346389). Join the track (signed Denoon) climbing north over the western side of Auchterhouse Hill. Follow it over its high point, where there is a gate and stile, and descend to a waymarked junction. Continue down to cross a stream then go left, crossing a stile, and follow the burn upstream to a spot used by campers on the fringes of the woodland.

Shelter above the Scotston Hill Howff

On the slope above the stone howff there is another rudimentary shelter (NO 351407), this one constructed primarily from timber and sods of earth and heather. Sitting in a wee compound constructed from fallen timber, the shelter has space enough for two, crouched down, and there is a small stone fireplace. While the façade is open, the inner is reasonably weathertight.
This shelter has at some point in the past been properly constructed but its condition has declined with the passage of time.

To reach it, ascend north from the howff, following a slim trail through the heather then a grassy trough. Pass a rope swing slung over the bough of a tree and the shelter is just a few metres further on. The entrance faces north and, approaching from the south, the structure is not immediately obvious. If you reach a fence running from east to west across the hill you have gone too far.

Denoon Glen Howff

The Sidlaw Hills has a history of illicit whisky distilling, perhaps because of the close proximity of the range to Dundee where, in days gone by, there was a ready market for cheap alcohol.
Clandestine stills are said to have popped up in wee bothies secreted amongst the heathery hills and wooded valleys in the mid-17th century when taxes were first imposed upon the drink.
One cannot help but wonder if this tiny howff (NO 356409) in Denoon Glen is a survivor from these times. Sitting between the old road through the valley and the Haining Burn, this well-constructed stone shelter is really too small to have served any other useful purpose.

Flanked by an outer wall, now largely lost below grass and bracken, the tiny bothy consists of a small square chamber barely big enough for one person to crouch in accessed by a slim passageway. The stone walls are topped with corrugated iron sheeting and stone while the passageway has the remnants of a curved corrugated iron roof. Outside there is a small metal grate.

For a detailed guide to MBA and non-MBA bothies and howffs in Angus, including locations and descriptions of each, pick up a copy of Bothies, Huts & Howffs in the Hills – Perthshire & Angus, available as a paperback or ebook from Amazon. Also available Bothies, Huts & Howffs in the Hills – Cairngorms National Park.

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