A Cairngorm Circular – September 2015.

“Braemar and back again.”

The Cairngorms

Day 1 – Glenmore to Loch Etchachan.
Day 2 – Beinn Mheadhoin, Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm
Day 3 – Loch Etchachan to Mar Lodge
Day 4 – Braemar
Day 5 – Mar Lodge to Fords of Avon
Day 6 – Fords of Avon to Glenmore
Day 7 – Post-circular extras


Day 3 – Loch Etchachan to Mar Lodge. 16 miles, 1835ft ascent.

Thankfully there was no snoring during the night, not that I heard anyways and that’s all that matters. Today looked a lot cooler than yesterday and held no mountains in store, in fact it was going to be downhill through Glen Derry all the way – easy! Right…?

Just down the glen from the last two nights’ camp was the Hutchinson shelter which was worth a look in. And very nice it looked too – a lot nicer than how the chap up on Derry Cairngorm was describing it!

The path was good and dry heading down. Looking back up at Stob Coire Etchachan above from where I’d been looking down to here yesterday.

A bridge over the Derry Burn and the inscription I meant to read.

The bottom of the glen and its Scots pines.

It was getting quite warm once out of the wind.

Crossing the Derry again at the bottom of glen.

Don’t know what this marker was. Treasure?

Derry Lodge, shamefully boarded up. I wonder why they don’t do something with it? Some good reason I suppose. I stopped for a sandwich and sit down by the front door, but the midges were instantly all over me so much so that I couldn’t get my pack back on quick enough and had to eat my sandwich on the go, and try to have a rest on foot.

On the other side of Lui Water there was a group of people traversing the lower slopes on Sgor Dubh spaced apart, as if searching for something. They continued for a some time – I wonder what they were looking for? A lost fellow walker? Someone’s car-keys? The treasure I’d seen marked earlier!?

Down in to Doire Bhraghad now and thankfully only a couple of miles to my intended camp site, down near Mar Lodge somewhere.

There was quite a bit of traffic driving into Mar Lodge when I got there – looked like there was a wedding or some such do on – so I decided to camp away from the lodge and nearer the Dee. There was a nice looking flattish field right by the water but the gates to it were locked, so I set up just by the fence in a wooded area not far from the Victoria Bridge. Much to the interest of the horses in the field. The trouble with camping under trees is the amazing number of pine cones that manage to hide under the ground sheet and slowly reveal themselves one-by-one as the night goes on! Also when it rains, it carries on raining after it’s stopped raining.

Later when getting some water I discovered that the gates into the nice field weren’t locked at all! Oh well. I was set up now, so let’s head off the Punch Bowl and the Linn of Quoich a couple of miles away.

All very interesting! Although I’m suspect if the clansmen of old had literally used it as a punch bowl they might have wanted a lining. It does make you think how long water has been sloshing over the granite for.

A few other punch bowls had been started by the river and then abandoned – maybe nature will come back to finish them one day?

The waterfall at the Linn of Quoich under Scotrail’s bridge is impressive enough to warrant not falling in – although I wouldn’t be first.

I wonder how many bridges Scotrail have built that have nothing to do with the railway?

Over the bridge was an interesting but abandoned little cottage. The midges’ great interest in me caused me to abandon the Quoich and head back to camp for tea.

For all the problems with a woodland campsite at least they do provide all mod cons!

Returning from the river having done my dishes (just upstream from Her Majesty too. Sorry Ma’am!) I was taking a short-cut over a low fence by a track and the fence-post I was clinging on to snapped sending me tumbling over. Well, most of me. One leg hadn’t yet made it over the barbed-wire yet and a full half-inch of horrible dirty barb sank into my thigh. I was hooked like a fish and the destination side of the fence being much lower than the track-side my legs were now proclaiming 6 o’clock precisely. I managed to disgorge the metal from my flesh with minimal trouser damage, and applied much Savlon and a plaster to the neat hole in my skin hoping the clean air round here would have kept the barb clear of germs. Thankfully it was ok and this was the only plaster I was going to need all trip. Stupid fence post.

I can’t quite work out how the day’s ascent came to over 1800ft. But the GPS doesn’t lie.

Today’s walk. Top

Day 4 – Braemar. 13 miles, 2329ft ascent.

Nice easy day today. No mountains, no glens. Not even any very long walks. Just a castle and some household grocery shopping to do.

Tried & tested morning midge protection and more luxurious camp facilities.

Today was the day of Braemar Castle. And more importantly to stock up on some meths – I was running very low and if I didn’t manage to get some more I wouldn’t have had enough for the trip back, and the thought of cold beans for the next few days wasn’t exciting.

The walk into Braemar was along the B-road in the wide flat valley of the Dee and was about 4 miles or so. I’d planned it so I’d get there for about “brunch time”, but just as I arrived in town it started raining. And also just at the same time two coach loads of elderly American tourists turned up who proceeded to fill up every tea shop and cafe (all three of them) in Braemar. So while they all just sat there a nursing a coffee and a short-bread I was at the back of queue blimming starving. Typical. Bloody tourists. Thank heavens for the fantastic Hungry Highlander!

There was a Co-op-cum-Post Office where the chap told me I could get some meths, I also asked what time he was going to close so I get some sandwiches and a stamps. Five pm he said. I headed off to the garage where the owners could see how I pleased I was to see the large bottles of meths. Splendid.

The castle was just along the road a bit from the garage. And it was closed. Oh well. We’ve seen it now, that was the plan. Let’s head back.

After a brief sit down in the summer-house, it really started pouring down, so I took shelter in the only pub left in Braemar – The Invercauld Arms, where the Earl of Mar started causing trouble. The Cairngorm Brewery beer was lovely, and free pint of keg left over from the man who came to fix a pump was welcomed too as the rain continued to come down. But here we had a spot of camera bother. I’d forgotten my lead to charge it, but barman said he had one in the office so took my camera off there. I thought it would be prudent to take the memory card out, just in case – you can’t be too careful! Anyways, he came back as the lead didn’t fit after all so that was that, and he gave me my camera back. But I forgot to put the card back so no more of my day in Braemar was recorded! This included Kindrochit Castle, the Fife Memorial Park and the Wellington Bomber Memorial.

I went back to Co-op before it closed, and asked the Polish (I think) girl for some stamps. She had no idea what I was talking about no matter how much I explained. Now it’s all very well English not being your first language, and in fact her English was very good, but to work in a shop that also contained a Post Office you’d think someone at some point would’ve asked her for stamps before. Anyways, it turned out the Post Office counter closed at 3pm. Would’ve been nice if the fellow before had told me!

By now peckish again I decided to pop into the very highland-looking Braemar Lodge, but was kept waiting in reception like a lemon for so long I just walked out and went back to the good old Hungry Highlander again. This should be everyone’s first port of call for food in Braemar.

Full of fish & chips, the daylight was fading as I headed back over the Victoria Bridge back to the tent for a good night’s sleep. The mountains are back tomorrow!

Today’s walk (of sorts). Top

Day 5 – Mar Lodge to Fords of Avon. 16 miles, 3968ft ascent.

Heading off nice and early in the morning I thought I take advantage of the Mar Lodge wheelie bins to take care of my rubbish, but just as I got near a chap in a Land Rover drove past (the warden I think) with a friendly nod. I kept walking past the lodge swinging my Sainsbury’s bag full of crap, and quickly nipped back when he’d gone. But then he turned up again as I emerged from round the back of lodge and pulled over pointing at his passenger door. Thinking he’d noticed the bright orange carrier bag was now missing I reckoned he might be inviting me in for a ticking off for cheeky use of his bins, but turned out he just wanted a chat about the weather and where I was off too and did I need directions. The window was broken which was why he beckoned me to open the door! Phew. Off we carried on, past an impressive double garage at Claybokie.

Heading back away from civilisation now – I always like to see signs like this.

Through Doire Bhraghad and Bob Scot’s Bothy, which I’d missed on the way in.

Other signs warned of flood damage which were soon seen…

As we plodded up on the other side of the Derry Burn than we’d come down I was carefully looking out for a path leading off to the right which wasn’t on the map but which I think I found. It looked a bit like a path and went in the right direction from about the right point on the track. So took it, I suppose if enough people carry on taking it will become a path!

This ‘path’ soon disappeared though, and I was just following a NE / N bearing as it was too steep and tedious and overgrown to look up to see where I should be going. I was so glad to leave the trees behind. Even if then it got very boggy but I’m not sure if the bogginess was actually a path of sorts – it’s often hard to tell.

After a while the wind had picked up and the terrain leveled off. Head down I tramped on, guided by compass needle. I just happened to look up and noticed that I’d almost walked straight past Beinn Bhreac, its be-staked cairn just a few hundred yards away to my right. I gleefully scampered over.

It was very very windy – as my scarfie-selfie hopefully shows.

The views were grand.

The next peak was Beinn a’ Chaorainn postponed from a couple of days ago. It was just about 3 miles away across pretty flat looking ground, and only a couple of hundred of feet ascent. Peak to peak it looked like one of the easiest Munro-Munro passages going! But oh boy, was I wrong. In my excitement I’d forgotten that flat grassy land high up generally means one thing – bog. And it was very very boggy. Not just boggy but very uneven with huge areas totally waterlogged. I had to consider every footstep and often had to double back and walk around an expanse of dark foreboding looking gloopy water.

On top of that the rain / mizzle was coming down very heavily. Although when I say coming down I mean it was coming across. One side of me was dripping went, the other quite dry. This three mile section took an unbelievable three hours. You work out the average speed!

Finally at the top of Beinn a’ Chaorainn and straight back down. Too wet & windy and too fed up for a rest. Mountains and backpacks do not mix!

Looking back over Lairig an Laoigh from the opposite side from a couple of days ago, now I could see that there probably was a way down. But with hindsight I think that I’d done it all the right way, even if I’d only been about a third of a mile away as the crow files.

Down in the steep-sided glen of the Allt an t-Seallaidh the weather and the ground both got wetter and wetter. But slowly the Fords of Avon shelter came into view, and given the conditions I was sure I wouldn’t be the first there but would there be any room at all? Or would it be rammed out like the Hutchinson shelter a couple of nights ago? Also, the funny thing about the Fords of Avon shelter is that the nearer you get to it, the smaller it becomes!

And anyways, before we should be worrying about the availability of shelter inside the shelter we really had to worry about the Fords of Avon itself – I already decided that I really did not want to take my boots off. After much thought and a little dithering I managed to scamper across it with no more wetness.

And added to the relief of the successful crossing I found I had the shelter to myself. Camping wouldn’t have been that much of a problem but I was dripping wet and it’s a great convenience to be able to hang up wet things over night. No-one else came to disturb my little dry shed of tranquility and a smashing night’s kip was had. The joy of bothies!

Today’s walk. Top




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