My wife Anne and I, by some way the least fit of our small party out on the hills to learn basic orienteering skills, were glad of the pause, having just climbed some 800ft from the town.
Clarke pointed us towards our next destination, just below the summit of Saddle Hill, which would open up our approach to Whitewisp, the first of the Donalds we would tackle that day, Donalds being the term for Lowland hills of more than 2000ft.
The walled remains of the old settlement were marked on our maps so we knew exactly where we were, making it easy to take a compass bearing on our next point. Well, it should have been easy but my newly purchased compass was playing up. I appeared to have bought a dud, so Clarke lent me his spare one. It, too, went haywire.
Jokes were made about my magnetic personality but it appeared likely there was a more tangible explanation. My left wrist, damaged in a youthful sporting injury, recently underwent a fusion operation which involved a metal plate being inserted down the back of my wrist and hand. My wife took over the compass duties and we were, literally, back on track. She used to be a Queen's Guide so some very old memories were kicking in.
Our day on the hills was part of this year's Ochils Festival. The introduction to hillwalking and navigation was laid on by the Ochils Landscape Partnership and Alva Ecolodge, a social enterprise which provides training and workshops in arts, crafts and outdoor activities. The partnership runs 22 projects to improve access, promote wildlife, conserve buildings and promote local history and culture.
Accommodation in the Wee County was hard to come by so we were provided with dinner, bed and breakfast at Airth Castle, a short hop over the Clackmannanshire Bridge. Part of the Aurora Hotel Collection, it was buzzing with Saturday night weddings and Sunday morning christenings when we stayed in the old castle itself, all turrets and four-poster beds.
We had a swim, sauna and steam then a gentle walk around the grounds before dinner in the Grill Room, where the kitchen has a special indoor barbecue.
The next morning we met our fellow climbers in the lower car park at Castle Campbell. Gemma and husband James live in Dollar itself and he was to prove quite an authority on local history. Carri was an extremely fit young woman who could have done the trek in half the time if we hadn't been holding the group back, while Andrew was closer to our age but spent a lot of time on the hills. He tended to stick to paths but wanted to learn navigation skills so he could go off the beaten path.
Clarke, qualified as a mountain leader for summer climbing, is a surveyor by profession, but his twin loves are hillwalking and playing in a ceilidh band, which complement each other nicely. We set off up Dollar Glen past Castle Gloom, as it is also known. Soon, we turned off the path and continued the steady climb to the ruins of the old village.
My compass problem resolved, Clarke taught us about allowing for the variation between true north and magnetic north, which is not as vital as it used to be as we are going through a period of convergence, how to read the contours and how to complement what we are reading on the map to other helpful features such as patches of vegetation and stones to keep our bearings.
The next 650 feet were tough going, scrabbling on all fours and clutching at clumps of grass to keep climbing as we neared the top. Anne's problem was that in her concern at holding others back she was trying too hard and had to stop regularly. Clarke taught her to take much smaller, slower steps to keep going for longer. From just below the peak of Saddle Hill we took fresh compass bearings and set off for the steady 500ft climb which would take us to the top of Whitewisp.
We were following a path but Clarke asked us to imagine how we would cope if the mist came down and we had to rely on compass bearings. With 200 metres to go to the summit cairn he taught us to measure our own individual length of stride. We shook hands at the summit then set off on the less arduous crossing to Tarmangie, stopped to eat, then descended a steep 600ft to ford the Burn of Sorrows before another tough ascent to King's Seat.
Coming down off the summit of our third Donald of the day, Gavin said: "I believe these skills should be on the National Curriculum. It would encourage people on to the hills and make everyone safer."
I couldn't agree more.