Angus Glens

It's Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK and my son Ewan and his friend Ben have decided to run around a couple of Munros a short drive from Kirriemuir. A Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft (914.4 m) named after Sir Hugh Munro (1856–1919) who produced the first list of such hills in 1891. He was also a native of Kirriemuir and probably climbed up there hills when he was a laddie. 

When I was a lad I took to the Angus Glens from a very early age. There are pictures of me around 3 or 4 years old with a Shepherd's Crook and Tam O' Shanter hat holding a 'wee lambie'. It was taken at the back of Auntie Mat's cottage between Glen Clova and Glen Doll.  Mat and Dave were a significant and memorable part of my childhood. He was the shepherd in Glen Doll, scrambling around the steep, shale-covered hillsides tending his flock with his Collies, little black & white rakes that were kept in a kennel and never petted. 

My childhood was punctuated with frequent weekend visits to the Glens. All I can remember of their 'wee cotter hoose' was the old range in the main room with its blackened kettle perpetually steaming and Uncle Dave's socks, still on feet also steaming in front of the range. And they reeked! But it wasn't all that unpleasant. It was a healthy sort of reek. Maybe that's why we spent most of the time outside. There were chickens and dogs you dare not pet - they'd nip you and so would Uncle Dave for 'makin them saft'. There were four laddies, older cousins; we'd guddle trout in the river or just take to the hills to burn up energy.

While waiting on my present day hill-runners and with the excuse of having a book review to write, I had lunch at the Glen Clova Hotel. Again this place was a fixture of my young life. And not so young. I remember coming off the hills after a day's hiking up Corrie Fie absolutely starving. We'd descend upon the Clova Hotel's 'Climbers' bar and order a round of sandwiches and beer. These were instantly dispatched and a full meal ordered. Hiking in the hills built up a healthy appetite. 

When Graham Davie still had the place (he was a school pal of my cousins) we'd be invited to play music in the hall at the back of the hotel for a birthday party or the like. We'd play all night till 8am - there were several bands usually on - and step out into the glaring Scottish morning sunlight, people trying to sleep in their cars and giving up, the birdsong and fresh morning air overpowering the need to sleep. 

The Clova Hotel's is gentrified now or at least modernised. Gone are the tractor seats that used to surround the ancient black stove and logs that you were free to throw in as required. There's no noisy, increasingly drunk hill-walkers or wind-swept cyclists. There's a young, romantic couple opposite me and next door in the main restaurant are bus parties. I sit here writing and quaffing a pint, MTV providing the atmosphere. Uncle Dave would not be at all pleased. The whole place has been sanitised and tuned towards a more lucrative market - not day-climbers but day-trippers coming up the Glen by bus and getting the benefit of a quick intake of fresh air between bus and buffet but that's about it.

Time moves on.