The Ochils are the hills extending from Stirling in the west to the M90 south of Perth in the east. They are seen most strikingly from Stirling and from the M9 as you approach it: a ridge of hills above a south-facing escarpment, reaching a maximum height of 721m or 2,364ft at the summit of Ben Cleuch.
Ben Cleuch can be climbed from either Alva or Tillicoultry. The route described here begins in the car park of the Ochil Hills Woodland Park, which is reached from the A91 immediately to the east of Alva.
Directly opposite the entrance to the car park is the start of a path. This you follow as it makes a rising traverse west through very attractive woodland. Where it doubles back on itself you head straight on and cross the Silver Burn via a footbridge.
On the other side of the burn you emerge from the woodland and follow a track that zig-zags up the hillside and into the upper reaches of Silver Glen. The track straightens as it climbs, and leads you easily to a junction of tracks on the other side. Here you ignore the more obvious tracks left and right, heading instead directly up the grassy slopes of Ben Ever ahead of you.
After a steady pull you emerge on the ridge to the south of Ben Ever. And for the first time you see your eventual target, Ben Cleuch: though only as the highest point on the skyline now wrapping itself around the valley ahead of you. Its best friend would be hard pressed to claim Ben Cleuch was spectacular or especially memorable in itself. What marks it out is its altitude relative to anything else for a long way in any direction.
First, though, Ben Ever. You can by-pass this to the east saving maybe 100ft of ascent, but that would be a shame. If that's what you want to do, why not save 700m of ascent by staying in your car? At the top of Ben Ever lie two slightly separated small cairns, each looking higher from the other. Visiting both assures the summit.
A shallow descent then a pull up the other side brings you to the top of Ben Cleuch itself, an oddly rocky place quite out of keeping with the surrounding hills. On the top you find a collection of not especially well designed summit furniture, including a stone wind-shield built around the trig point, and a viewpoint indicator.
Having achieved your main target of the day, it's time to work out your options. We describe below a continuation of this walk around the skyline to The Law then down into Mill Glen and Tillicoultry. But those looking for a more relaxing day avoiding the steep descent below The Law will probably prefer to retrace their steps, perhaps bypassing the top of Ben Ever on the return trip.
The alternative is to press on down the south east ridge of Ben Cleuch and then south to The Law. From the low point on this path a further variant offers itself, with an easy kilometer's jaunt (each way) to the top of Andrew Gannel Hill. Otherwise you can press on up the easy rise to enjoy the excellent views south from the top of The Law. This offers some excellent views along the face of the escarpment of the Ochils, and in particular east towards King's Seat Hill.
To descend from The Law you simply follow the path south to the head of Mill Glen, just north of Tillicoultry. This path excels in being very direct, and much it is very pleasant underfoot, but it does become increasingly steep as you descend, and the final drop into Mill Glen itself requires some mild scrambling.
Pick your own path through the Glen and into Tillicoultry. We took the path that keeps left, high on the steep east side. This leads without drama into Tillicoultry via a grassy zig-zag descent, but it does have the drawback of treating you to excellent views of the quarry that eats into the west side of the Glen overlooking Tillicoultry itself.
The final stretch of this circular route takes you past Tillicoultry Golf Club and along a lovely path that takes you back to the Ochil Hills Woodland Park: when we were there complete with the wonderfully mingled scents of gorse, hawthorn and wild garlic.
Visitor InformationView Location on Map
Ben Cleuch is 721m or 2,364ft;
Andrew Gannel Hill is 670m or 2,180ft;
The Law is 638m or 2,093ft;
Ben Ever is 622m or 2,043ft.
The route described here is about 11km or 7 miles in length, and involves some 700m of ascent.