Why Clova is still worth a visit

Four years ago Tayside Police Search and Rescue Unit welcomed a move by Angus Council to allow them to use the new ranger base which is located in the Glen Doll Car Park at Glen Doll during live rescue operations and “to be able to brief rescuers in a good environment is far better than out in the car park.”

Call outs often occur in bad weather conditions or in the hours of darkness, and rescues are difficult and physically demanding for team members who come to the aid of the very small minority of visitors who get into difficulties.

Glen Doll is the main southern gateway to the Cairngorms National Park as well as giving access to Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve. There are around 70,000 visitors to the area each year, including many who enjoy hill walking, skiing and climbing.

In days o’ auld lang syne, Clova “wis the kintra o’ the Ogilvys” and the view from The Ogilvy Arms Hotel, (now the ‘Clova Hotel’) is extensive and beautiful. Behind and before, the grand old mountains are glittering in the sun, while the long, meandering streamlets are flashing far away in avalanches of stone and rock in a lengthened maze of loveliest, living light. Such a picture — so extensive and so beautiful — would of itself abundantly reward the journey of a long summer day, was how it was described early last century. The description is still accurate today.

Glen Clova was honoured by the late Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort with a visit in 1861, only a short time before the death of his Royal Highness.

Clova was long an independent parochial district, but was united to the parish of Cortachy in 1608, on condition that the minister should receive the teinds of both, and preach on two Sundays at Cortachy, and on the third at Clova. From that period the parochial matters of both districts have been managed conjointly; and the records, which begin in the year 1659, show some glimpses of the curious local customs of the age, for example, as when parties went to church on the first Sunday after marriage, they were accompanied by the inspiring strains of the Highland bagpipes; and in 1662, it was widely believed there was no sermon at Cortachy because of the minister being in Clova, at “the executions of Margaret Adamson, who was burnt there for ane witch!”.

But if we read Flora Davidson’s book, Glen Clova: A Short History published last year, there was no sermon at Cortachy on a certain Sabbath in 1662 because Mr James Adam the minister was at Clova attending the burning of a witch. She is even given a name: Margaret Adamson.

As so often happens with sensational reports, this ‘quotation from the parish records’, though copied to the Third Statistical Account of 1977 and many other publications, the quote has not been traced and certainly is not in the parish records of 1662. In reality these tell that Mr Adam was often hindered from going to Clova in winter by the ‘extraordinary tempestuousness of the weather’ and in summer by the ‘extraordinary swelling of the water’.

Loch Brandy — a loch of surpassingly wild grandeur, from which issues a stream rejoicing in the same exhilarating name — is reached after a somewhat stiff climb to the top of the hill immediately above the hotel.

What’s the best you can add to your whisky at the Clova Hotel? – some Brandy! was the local hotelier’s advice!

But a climb up to the loch and the sight will well repay the effort. A wild amphitheatre, it is girt with the wildest and most picturesque beauty. Mountain after mountain rises on either shore, and down their sides streamlets dance from linn to linn, until they subside into sleep in the bosom of the lake.

Also nearby is Corrie Sharroch in Corrie Fee, which in the past has attracted many botanists.

Its scenery is varied, and it is described as a botanical paradise, and is much visited by scientific men. It was here in 1815 that George Don discovered the purple (or alpine) coltsfoot, still the only known site for this species in Britain.

Clova is still worth a visit, but I trust you will not need the services of the police team nor the volunteers of ‘Tayside Mountain Rescue’ who provide a mountain rescue service in the area, but walkers should not become complacent to the dangers.

Yours aye,