Our iconic mountain, Schiehallion, in Gaelic is Sidh Chailleann, the ‘Fairy Hill of the Caledonians’. From whatever angle it is viewed, it is one of the most picturesque mountains of the Highlands, with many myths associated with it. At 1083m its peak gives extensive views in all directions, and its great crags and screes are home to an interesting Arctic-Alpine flora. A very popular walk to the summit begins at the car park at Braes of Foss.
On its western shoulder (OS NN713568) a vein of limestone pavement runs across the massif, both giving fertile grazing and offering a range of calcareous loving plants not found elsewhere locally. This limestone is a remnant from a past era, laid down when Scotland was on the edge of a shallow sea as part of the super-continent of Laurentia then in the southern oceans between 600 and 800 million years ago! Look around as you walk. There are traces of a more recent past with hut circles and several ruins of deserted settlements:
By the wee birchen corries lie patches of green
Where gardens and bare-headed bairnies have been,
But the huts now are rickles of stone, nettle-grown,
And the once human homes, e’en their names are unknown.
Schiehallion is a mixture of fascinating habitats, offering much of interest for the naturalist and walker alike, from the heights with golden eagle and ptarmigan to the vast sweeps of heather with amazing emperor moths.
When using your Ordnance Survey map, muse on the fact that the use of contours for marking height features on maps was developed from work carried out on Schiehallion. A fuller description of this work, together with reference to how the Earth’s weight was also determined here, is given on the plaque near the car park entrance (OS NN754556).
'There is a famous cave at the foot of Schiehallion where, tradition has it, fairies loved to dwell. There, it is said mortals from time to time dwelt among them, and interesting stories are told of the strange ways in which they were rescued from their power. Behind Schiehallion, again, on Creag Chionneachan, is one of the spots where the old Fingalian warriors were supposed to lie on their elbows awaiting the third blast of the horn that is to raise them to life again.
From ' from A Higland Parish or the History of Fortingall' by Alexander Stewart 1928.
East Schiehallion is owned by the John Muir Trust and their website gives lots of interesting information about the hill.
Remember that the weather can turn suddenly from sun to blizzard in the Scottish hills, even in summer. Always be prepared by taking extra clothing and wearing suitable footwear, not trainers. Know your route before you set out and tell someone where you are going.