The small village of Tarfside is the largest settlement in Glen Esk and can be found three quarters of the way along the glen. Glen Esk is the most easterly of the Angus Glens and runs for some fifteen miles north west from Kirriemuir deep into the south eastern flank of the Cairngorms.
Glen Esk is a little more settled and a little less clearly defined than Glen Clova to its west, and it feels less starkly mountainous at its upper end.
Nonetheless, the car park at the end of the public road a few miles west of Tarfside is often busy with walkers heading form Mount Keen, Scotland's most easterly Munro (a Munro is a separate mountain over 3,000ft).
At the southern end of Glen Esk is the Glenesk Caravan Park, set amidst pleasant woodland. As you drive further into the glen you pass a series of attractive widely dispersed cottages. A highlight is the Retreat, which serves as the Glenesk Folk Museum and as a craft shop and tea room.
Tarfside lies next to the Water of Tarf close to where it flows into the River North Esk. It brings together a number of houses and cottages and a school. As you approach Tarfside you come upon a bit of a surprise in the form of the Maule Memorial Church. This seems extraordinarily large for the size of the population in Glen Esk. It was built in 1852 as a Free Church following a split in the Church of Scotland.
In many ways its churches (yes, churches) are the most surprising feature of Glen Esk. Tarfside itself has two, the Maule Memorial Church as you drive in from the east, and St Drostan's Episcopal Church as you drive west beyond the village. And there is still another, the Lochlee Parish Church near the car park at the head of the glen.
The glen's Christian origins date back nearly 1,500 years to the arrival here of St Drostan in the early 600s. He set up a church beyond the head of the glen near Loch Lee which was followed by a series of further churches over the following centuries.
The end of the road for practical purposes is the car park near where Glen Mark and Glen Lee come together to form Glen Esk. This is where you swap your car for your boots and start to enjoy what the surrounding countryside has in store.
For the adventurous with little concern about how they return to their car, there's a public footpath following the ancient route north to Ballater. This was a route travelled by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861, just a few weeks before his death. You need to walk two and a half miles north to find the Queen's Well, the 20ft high granite memorial to the visit.
More closely at hand is the Glenlee Parish Church, while a short distance along the path towards Loch Lee is the magnificent tower house of Invermark Castle. Its interior is as inaccessible today as it was to unwanted visitors descending from the mountain passes when it was built, but it remains a remarkably impressive example of a tower house.
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