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 6 – Fords of Avon to Glenmore. 14 miles, 2865ft ascent.
A lovely morning started off with the sunrise shining straight into the door of the shelter.

I was so pleased with the Fords of Avon shelter last night, I was a little sorry to say goodbye!

The wind hadn’t abated much from yesterday though, the silly selfie above is supposed to demonstrate that it was three-hat weather. Not my own narcissism. But never mind that, we had to make for the last Munro of the trip – Bynack More.

I decided to go up and along the side of Leachid a’ Bhainnie and this was pretty awkward, ankles not being designed to walk along hillsides. The couple of landslides didn’t help either. The Allt Dearg provided a slight obstacle too.

After just a couple of hours of slog we were up high, the shelter and summit already visible in the distances.

Past the Barns of Bynack.

Very windy but Bynack More wasn’t too much trouble in the end. My 17th Munro!

Whilst posing for this selfie I was alarmed to be suddenly joined by some others, who were almost in time to join me in the photo. A very nice lady came to join in sheltering for a sandwich in the lee of one of the Barns. She was here for the shelter I hasten to add, not my company! The group of four was being led by a bit of a know it all who was trying to tell me where I’d been. He soon gathered everyone together and said they were off to tick off another Munro nearby. Now this confused me a bit and I consulted my map again, but I was sure there aren’t any nearby so I wasn’t sure where they were headed. Had I missed one out??

The views were great from the top especially as the clouds were blown away as quickly as they came back in. I could also see some signs of humanity again – some small Speyside settlements way off the distance.

Looking west from Bynack More.

Mission accomplished now and with the weather looking lovely I wasn’t really paying attention as I headed off the wrong way towards Bynack Beg, but I had plenty of time and wasn’t far away from the path I wanted so was in no rush. As I sat on the rocks I saw the group of four from More hastily heading my way. Apparently they’d done the other Munro and now were heading down. I tried explaining that this didn’t look the best way down they headed off none-the-less.  I can only imagine that the Munro he thought they’d down was A’ Choinneach, which as we all know isn’t a Munro. Anyways – care not I!

I headed slightly back across myself to skirt round a valley to get on the main path back down.

Past a mountain hare – I hope he didn’t mind me gate-crashing his mountain. A mysterious tripod cairn indicated that I was now back on the path and it was all plain-sailing from here.

The strange formations underneath the Sron a’ Cha-no (I think) on the other side of the Strath Nethy looked like some remnants of a long-lost civilisation. But they probably aren’t.

Dropping down the weather got warmer and views tamer, although still very pleasant.

Looking back up the glen of the Nethy and that bridge that everyone seems to take a photo of. I bumped into the group of four again here and while resting at the bridge had a bit more a chat. I can’t remember their names now, but they’d come down this tricky way as they’d headed up the way I had come down, which is fair enough. They were from Hampshire and thought that a lady who was bringing up the rear might know my brother (who’s a local councillor near there), but she wasn’t in the mood to talk when she came by. They set off again as I was still packing jumpers and woolly hats away so didn’t see them again. But I left with some sage words from the know-it-all. “That’s the Barns of Bynack of over there… ” he said, pointing at the Ryvoan Bothy. Thanks Mister!

Feeling a bit peckish I decided to lighten the load by consuming my emergency tin of sausage & beans by An Lochan Uaine. It wasn’t very nice. (The sausage & beans that is).

An Lochan Uaine is green because of the fairies washing their clothes in there. I didn’t see any today, but that came straight from the mouth of the Glenmore park ranger, so there.

After a wander around the woods by the shores of Loch Morlich I found a nice little spot to camp.

I settled down in the warmth of the setting sun and entertained a visitor. My Cairngorm Circular was at an end – but my trip wasn’t. I’d allowed a couple of extra days in case of emergencies, navigational errors (Who Sir? Me Sir?!) or changes of plan, and in fact I’d got back a day early so now had three or four extra days to kill. A nice problem to have as I consulted the maps for inspiration and listened to the gentle lapping of the waves and the distant-but-raucous party from the boat club on the other side of the loch.

Today’s walk.  Top

Day 7 – Post-circular extras 1. 10 miles, 3377ft ascent.

The serious business of the trip over, what fun little odds & ends could I distract myself with now? For today the peaks of Meall a’ Bhuachaille, Creagan Gorm and Craiggowrie looked like a nice ridge walk, just to the north of the Loch Morlich. I packed up and left my gear at the Glenmore visitor centre, taking a few essentials with me in a day-pack, including my jelly babies. “Sorry!” I said to the staff at the centre, as they showed me where I could stash my bag, “…these are coming with me!”. We chuckled.

The view from Meall a’ Bhuachaille, Loch Morlich far below.

The walk up to Meall a’ Bhuachaille was straight-forward but steep, and once out of the woods got very blustery indeed. The thick stone walls surrounding the cairn at the top were a welcome shelter. Time for some jelly babies… only they weren’t in my bag!! They’d gone. I must have dropped them. Oh the shame of such wanton littering in such an unspoilt landscape! I wasn’t chuckling now. Oh well, maybe I’d see them on the way back down I suppose.

The photos above are the misleading but windy non-summit cairn between Creagan Gorm and Craiggowrie and on the right the cairn on Creagan Gorm.

The rest of ridge walk was great and at Craiggowrie I could carry on and descend and loop back or turn around and go back the way I came. I chose the latter option.

In the woods on the way down I spotted a bunch of children wearing the brightest colours I’d ever seen. No chance of losing these lot! Which I suspect is the idea.

Back at the visitor centre guess what was waiting for me on the reception desk? Yup, my jelly babies! We all chuckled even more and we munched many of them and I watched the red squirrels from a few feet away behind a window.

With an hour to kill before the bus back to Aviemore I stopped off at the Pine Marten bar for my first pint since Braemar (actually just two days!). Predictably I was there slightly longer than an hour, but not to worry as very nice a couple I got talking to very kindly gave me a lift back. I can’t remember their names, but thanks!

Where I’ve been this week.

I got dropped off by the High Range hotel, camp-site and pizza restaurant and headed off into town to the Cairngorm Hotel for some quality entertainment from Tweed.

I must admit that I didn’t really like the High Range very much, but after a week in the wilds couldn’t be bothered finding anywhere just yet. First off when I asked for a camping pitch (for £15!!!) the lady said all she had left was just round the back of the main building and was a bit hard so I might to hire some extra hard pegs and a large hammer! And she wasn’t joking, the pitch was like rough concrete! Even with the huge ship’s-nails-like pegs it wasn’t looking good, so I went back and asked for a room – for £25, bit of a no-brainer really. I checked that it wasn’t by the main road, no it’s not she said.

Above left is the view of the main road from my room. And above right is some of the various other camping pitches that I noticed the next day. The High Range is only place on the trip I won’t be rushing back to. The rest of stay in Aviemore I stayed at Macenzie’s Highland Inn, worth it just for The Falconer by Louis Shabner hanging above reception. And it came with some fantastic entertainment from Sarah & Alan too.

The next day’s distraction was a walk down to Loch an Eileen and it’s water-locked castle. All very interesting.

And on the way back I got chatting to and enjoyed a wee dram with Duncan and John in the Old Bridge Inn. Charming chaps indeed! I hope they’re still propping up the bar next time I’m there.

Day 8 – Post-circular extras 2. 15 miles, 3855ft ascent.

After a Saturday-night sojourn to Inverness (Aviemore was full because it was ‘Glasgow weekend’ or something) on my last day I checked out the old stone circle and the Strathsprey Railway.

And then another walk in the hills. This time quickly taking in Geal Charn Mor. It ended up being a 15mile circular.

After some navigational problems – forest tracks abruptly ending and gun shots coming from ahead – I ended up having to wade along this fence line through the heather and gorse for quite some while, before finding a track again on the exposed moor-tops. My scarf had to be donned bonnet-style to keep the whipping wind from blowing in one ear and out of the other.

Carn Dearg Mor top – I think, and a memorial stone for Alistair Polson the estate gamekeeper back in the day.

Geal Charn Mor top. All downhill from here.

Start of the long journey home now, but it still looks lovely.

My last view of the Highlands as I drop down in to Aviemore, and although my first view of London from the window of the Sleeper the following morning was kinda nice too, it’s no match for any view of the former. See you again soon Highlands!



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