Schiehallion

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Schiehallion
Perthshire
Schiehallion NW ridge.jpg
The north-west ridge of Schiehallion in April
Range: Glen Lyon Hills
Summit: 3,553 feet NN713547
56°39’59"N, 4°6’6"W

Schiehallion is a mountain in Perthshire, and one of the more famous peaks of the county for its beauty and its distinctive conical shape.

The mountain's summit stands at an impressive 3,553 feet above sea level, which makes it a Munro.

Schiehallion has a rich botanical life, interesting archaeology, and a unique place in scientific history for an 18th-century experiment in 'weighing the world'. The mountain's popularity amongst walkers led to erosion on its footpath and extensive repairs were undertaken in 2001.

Name

The name 'Schiehallion' is an anglicised form of the Gaelic name Sìdh Chailleann, which translates as 'Fairy Hill of the Caledonians'. It is also known to some as 'The Maiden's Pap', or 'Constant Storm'.[1]

Lie of the land

Schiehallion across Loch Rannoch

Schiehallion stands amongst the mountains between Loch Tay and Loch Tummel, 10 miles north of Aberfeldy in Perthshire. The mountain is distinctive in its position and grandeur; 3547 feet and is isolated from other peaks. It has an almost perfect conical shape from the west, which has led to the affectionate local nickname, "the Matterhorn of Scotland".

The view of the broad eastern flank is famed for its beauty and attracts many visitors to the shores of Loch Tummel. Queen Victoria came here for the view as have many since her days.

Schiehallion is sometimes described as the centre of Scotland. The justification is that the line of latitude midway between the most northerly and southerly points on the Scottish mainland, and the line of longitude midway between the most easterly and westerly points, intersect very near the summit of Schiehallion.

Botany

The slopes of Schiehallion are rich in botanical life, with heathers, mosses and blaeberry. Blanket bog and heather moorland change colour with the seasons. The limestone pavement provides nutrients, supporting plants including dog's mercury, lily of the valley and wood anemone.

Historical interest

The slopes of Schiehallion have been inhabited and cultivated since the first millennium BC until approximately two hundred years ago.[2] Schiehallion has been used for grazing sheep and stalking red deer.

Since 1999, the eastern side of the mountain has been owned by the John Muir Trust.[3]

The Schiehallion experiment

Schiehallion viewed across the River Tummel

Schiehallion's isolated position and regular shape led it to be selected by Charles Mason for a ground-breaking experiment to estimate the mass of the Earth in 1774.[4] The deflection of a pendulum by the mass of the mountain provided an estimate of the mean density of the Earth, from which its mass and a value for Newton's Gravitational constant G could be deduced.

Mason turned down a commission to carry out the work and it was instead coordinated by Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne. He was assisted in the task by mathematician Charles Hutton, who devised the graphical system to represent large volumes of surveyed heights, later known as contour lines.[5]

The experiment was repeated in 2005 as an educational initiative led by scientific consultants Counting Thoughts.[6]

Footpath

A Munro, Schiehallion is popular with walkers due to its accessibility, ease of ascent and spectacular views. An estimated 17,500 to 20,000 walkers made the ascent in 2000.[3] Most walkers start from the Forestry Commission car park at Brae of Foss, which lies just outside the boundary of the John Muir Trust estate. The route, which initially heads south-west before turning west to follow the main ridgeline of the hill, is about 4.5 km in length.

By 1999, when the John Muir Trust bought the estate, the main path had become exceedingly eroded by the passage of many thousands of walkers. The scar was visible from quite a distance. The organisation therefore decided to construct a new path, following a different line, better able to handle the pressure of visitors.

In culture

The Queen's View, Loch Tummel

The name of the mountain has a poetic quality and distinctiveness that has led to its being borrowed in many odd contexts, for example:

  • The Schiehallion Oilfield 180 miles west of Shetland is named after the mountain; it is one of the major oilfields on the United Kingdom's continental shelf.
  • Schiehallion was the setting for the final showdown in Grant Morrison's comic series Zenith.
  • The Harviestoun Brewery produce a cask-conditioned lager called Schiehallion.
  • A Scottish Country Dance ("Schiehallion") and figure, the Schiehallion Reel are both named after the mountain.
  • Pipe Major Donald Shaw Ramsay composed a 3/4 march entitled 'Schiehallion'. The 'Schiehallion Pipes and Drums' are named for the mountains too, though based in Croydon in Surrey; the band has adopted the Schiehallion march as their signature tune, and the lead-in tune on their album Hail! Schiehallion.

Pictures

Footnotes

  1. "Maskelyne on Schiehallion". RMS Archives. http://www.sillittopages.co.uk/schie/schie57.html. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  2. Clare Thomas. "The Story of Schiehallion". archive-articles.co.uk. http://www.archive-articles.co.uk/wildlife/TheStoryofSchiehallion.htm. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "East Schiehallion Estate". John Muir Trust. http://www.jmt.org/east-schiehallion-estate.asp. Retrieved 30 January 2008. 
  4. Danson, Edwin (2006). Weighing the World. Oxford University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-19-518169-2. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=UNH_Y7ERFeoC&pg=PA115. 
  5. Danson, Edwin (2006). Weighing the World. Oxford University Press. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-19-518169-2. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=UNH_Y7ERFeoC&pg=PA153. 
  6. "Weigh the World". Counting Thoughts. http://www.countingthoughts.com/ct/index.php?page=wtw. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  • Computer generated summit panoramas: North