Emerging from the predominantly flat lands of the Clyde Valley Tinto Hill has long been a popular hillwalking destination – the wide track leading from its base to the summit bears testament to its reputation. There are very few days that will not see footfall on Tinto’s slopes with thousands climbing to her spacious summit every year to enjoy an astonishing 360-degree panorama. A much quieter descent (and scenically just as alluring) follows a good track down over Scaut Hill in the company of skylark, lapwing, kestrel and hen harrier.
Tinto Hill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its geological significance, particularly the examples of periglacial stone stripes that have developed over many millions of years on Tinto’s exposed rocky slopes due to intense freeze/thaw cycles. Furthermore much of Tinto Hill’s upper slopes are formed from a red-coloured igneous rock known as Felsite, which may explain Tinto’s derivation, from the Gaelic teinnteach, of Fiery Hill. However, a far more plausible explanation is that Tinto Hill has been an important location since earliest times as it lies on the main communication route between the Southern Uplands and the Central Belt and was used as a beacon hill, in particular a Roman signal station, hence its translation – the summit has also been used as a Druidic fire site. The local name for Tinto Hill is Tintock Tap.
Tinto Hill is not only popular with walkers but also fell runners, handgliders and paragliders. The inaugural Tinto Hill Race took place in 1984 and the intervening years has seen it become a well-established favourite in the hill running calendar. Typically around 200 hardy souls, in whatever elements the Scottish weather can muster, try and run the 4.5-mile route in the quickest time they can. John Brooks, of Lochaber Running Club, currently holds the record for the fastest time, an incredible 29 mins 58 secs, which he set in 1995.