Category Archives: nice walks

With the Bollington Real Ale Ramblers

Some nice walks with the Bollington Real Ale Ramblers.

Bollington Boundary, March 2017
Dragon’s Back Camping Challenge, April 2017
Thief’s Neck, June 2017


Walking up a thirst! – 4th March 2017

Just a short-ish (8 miles) day walk but still a very nice walk. It follows the boundary of the Cheshire town of Bollington and covers both the flatlands of the Cheshire Plain and hilly edges of the Peak District.

Starting and finishing at the same point (SJ 922775), the weather was fine but very muddy under foot, and by a strange coincidence we got back just as a beer festival was starting!

A cracking day out with old friends and new.

Line-up at the start – photo: Stuart Young

Watching progress over a particularly wet bit near Rusheywalls – photo: George Foye

Team photo with Nancy – photo: Phil Parry

Fine view over Cheshire from White Nancy – photo: Phil Parry

 

The Dragon’s Back Challenge – 23rd April 2017

A two-day walk through the Peak District, starting at Hulme End, over the Dragon’s Back to Buxton for an overnight stop and back to Bolly via the Goyt Valley.


After me not nearly nearly making the bus for reasons best not mentioned, we set off – and the Dragon’s Back is soon in view.


Luckily we had no drones with us, but Chrome Hill was still a real steep slog.


Heading towards Buxton at Harpur Hill a strange white river was seen… turns out it’s the result of lime burning, which ended a long time ago. All explained here.


The last big climb of the day was up to Solomon’s Temple then pitched up the tents for a fun Saturday night out in Buxton.


Morning papar-Ant-zi, breakfast and then off homewards – on St. George’s Day.


After a few steep ups & downs either side of the River Goyt, White Nancy was soon in view again and we knew the Cotton Tree wasn’t far away for some much needed refreshments! Cheers BRARs, another great ramble.

 

The Thief’s Neck – 11th June 2017

A pub for breakfast, a pub for dinner, a pub in the afternoon and a pub for tea!


Nice walking weather as we set off, but there was still some boggy bits to negotiate on this walk into the Cheshire flatlands. The Legh Arms all-you-can eat breakfast was spot on!


Lots of greenery along the way, but no photography allowed at the old Woodford aerodrome.


The Davenport Arms – aka the Thief’s Neck, and halfway. Couple of pints as we watched England win the world cup :-) But it was still good to cross back in to Cheshire.


As we tramped back through the meadows the weather turned and the waterproofs came on.

But that didn’t bother me and Ant!

We made it back to Bolly via the the Bollin Way & the Admiral Rodney in Prestbury, getting back to the Cock & Pheasant in good time but my phone battery had ran out, so I’ve got more pics, and no plot of the walk – but I think it was about 14 miles and something like this…

Western Cairngorms, September 2016

The Western Cairngorms (and some Monadhliaths).

Once Upon a Time in the Western Cairngorms.

Day 1 – Kingussie to Lochan nan Cnapnan
Day 2 – The Braeriach Traverse
Day 3 – Beinn Bhrotain to Sgòr Gaoith
Day 4 – Lochan nan Cnapnan to Newtonmore
Day 5 – The Monadhliaths

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Day 1 – Kingussie to Lochan nan Cnapnan, 18 miles, 4741ft ascent.

The usual panic to finish what passes for breakfast on the Cally Sleeper these days, and get packed-up as you approach your destination meant the first thing I had to do in Kingussie was find a toilet. At 7.20am. Luckily such a thing was not far away, and I was able to start walking with a weight off my mind.


The first stretch of the walk was along a pavementless road, with a not to entertain except staying out of the way of the traffic and the Ruthven Barracks.
Once off the main road and past the little cluster of rather attractive houses at Drumguish the Inshriach Forest began.

It’s worth noting that on entering the woods, this was the only time all week I was to encounter any midges – a rare Highland treat indeed!

In the distance I could see the path rising, it looked a long way and it looked to be going up a long way. As it turned out it was the way down, and was still a week of as yet.


It was getting warm when I left the woods and arrived on a wide flat opening. This is when I saw the warnings in person of the washed out bridge I’d heard about. But never mind – it’ll be ok… right?! More of the old farmhouse of Baileguish on the way back.



The washed away bridge didn’t seem to pose much of a problem, the Allt Fhearnasdail being conveniently low and I managed to scamper across with no bother. The path then seemed to disappear so a thrash through the long grass past Corarnstilmore was required to get back on track. After some more woods, I hit some harsh tar-mac for a mile or so – it seemed much longer. At our turning-off point towards the Feshie there was another warning of flood-damage, this time of washed away footpaths, and not much alternative info offered. Still, it’d be ok wouldn’t it?!



It was lunch-time when I got down to the Feshie, so the boots came off as the sarnies came out and I sat down viewing the evidence of how high the water gets here when it’s in spate. No wonder bridges and footpaths can’t hack it!



A little further along and the damaged footpath was evident – as was the simple detour into the heather. The next section of missing path was a bit trickier where the Allt Garbhlach meets the Feshie. I was able to scramble down but had the allt been fuller it would’ve have been very hairy indeed.

In the woods of Coille an Torr and I saw a rare woodland haggis! Sadly this one wasn’t very well, with clear signs of bronchial pneumonia or lung-worm – a simple job for a vet, but I doubt there was one nearby. I also think it was blind, which would account why it was out in the daylight. Not much I do to help this prickly little pal, so let’s just hope it’s now big and fat and hibernating nicely as I type.

Just opposite the Carnachuin memorial the path disappeared into the river again, and there was a digger working presumably fixing the flood-damage? Again, new paths had been forged either by walkers or landowners to provide safe passage. But enough hedgehogs and missing paths – what came next was very horrible… the climb up the Coire Chaoil.

Two thousand feet up in just a little over two miles… the track was good and clear but it’s at times like when you realise how heavy your pack is! It must’ve taken well over an hour to slog up, with all the views behind you. The only time I was in the mood for taking a photo was towards the top, looking down to the north or Coire Garbhlach and I think the Fionnar Choire. Just after this I met a chap coming down with his dog and he obviously spotted by exhausted state and said something along  the lines of “Well, I’d say it gets easier… but it doesn’t!” which was a little unfair as I was only about 1/4 mile from the top!


With much internal-fanfare the path leveled off and at the turning for Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair I dumped my pack and feeling as light as a feather almost skipped past some (seemingly abandoned) university experiment and to the top.

Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair selfie. My first Munro of the week.

Now followed a long, undulating and bordering on three boring miles or so over Moine Mhor.

After a panorama taken (I think) looking north over Loch Eanaich, with future summit Sgor Gaoith on the left, it was on to Loch nan Cnapan to scope out a camping pitch. Somebody under just a fly-sheet had already grabbed the best spot at the south of the loch, but after walking pretty much all the way round it my spot to the east of didn’t seem too bad. With the wind coming from the west I pitched up accordingly, and slept very well indeed.

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Day 2 – The Braeriach Traverse, 15 miles, 3027ft ascent.


What started off as a lovely morning by the loch around 6.30am soon became a bit misty on the climb up Carn na Criche. So misty and barren was the top that I completely lost my bearings, of which I was blissfully unaware until I arrived at the top of a very steep drop and was just able to make out a fine-looking waterfall which I was thought should’ve been somewhere over Loch Eanaich but was clearly the Falls of Dee. I could’ve carried on along this top to get to the first peak, but quite fancied see the Dee a bit further upstream, and perhaps even the remains of Bristol Blenheim Z7356.


Compass out and back on track I saw the Dee a bit further up – at the source in fact, the Wells of Dee. I like seeing sources of rivers, especially when it’s a bit of contrast to where I was brushing my teeth a year earlier
Although only a couple of hours into the day, I was a bit annoyed to notice that my apparently freshly-charged batteries for my GPS were already nearly gone. I like to have my GPS on all the time for data logging and back-tracking when I dropped my hat but as most of today’s route should be pretty obvious I thought I better keep it turned off in case of emergencies – hence the straight lines on the route plot, if you were likely to wonder. Also, the Blenheim would have to wait for another day.


Despite being briefly fooled by one or two other lofty-looking cairns on the way, I was soon at the top of Braeriach, enjoying the views of the Allt a’ Gharbh-choire heading towards the Lairig Ghru.

Looking along the traverse, with Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul in the middle.


Some later summer snow and a view back of the Falls of Dee.


The walk along to the top of Sgor an Lochain Uaine, or the Angel’s peak if you’re that way inclined, was fairly easy-going, with lovely views in pretty much all directions, including down at its eponymous lochan.


A bit of rock-hopping up to the top of Cairn Toul.

The cairn, shelter and blue skies on Cairn Toul.

I have no idea where this is looking… taken shortly after Cairn Toul though, if that helps.

Making good progress and just gone 1pm, but The Devil’s Penis – sorry – Point! was still some way off, and some way below!

A rapid descent down in to, and then up out of Coire Odhar and the Devil’s todger was tamed.


I think the photo above is looking south down Glen Dee, and to the right west from Coire Odhar over the Corrour Bothy.

Job done for the day and we all had to do was get home. I figured the most direct route skirting round the Buidheanach of Cairntoul would be better than heading back the way I came…


… but after an hour or so bashing through lumpy-bumpy clumps of soft mossy grass and seemingly miles of boulder fields I wasn’t too sure, and my feet were ready for a good cooling off at the Allt Clais an t-Sabhail.
On the way back I thought I might as well turn the GPS back and it didn’t really matter if it died on me now as I could see my destination, and blow me – the batteries lasted all the way back!


I’m sure I must have traversed the full width of the boulder field on the left, so when I saw my tent in the distance I was mightily relieved. All that lay between home and me was large flat area so riddled with streams, ponds, rivulets, bogs and the occasional dry peaty tussock I felt like I was island hopping in Lilliput.

It wasn’t much after 5 o’clock-ish by the time I got back, and it was just around then that wind started. And very windy it got too. Annoyingly, and worryingly, it was now coming from the south – side on into the tent.  Also, after a few attempts it was far too windy light a match outside so tea had to be cooked in the porch of tent. Not ideal but there was that much wind blowing through the gap that I figured CO wasn’t going to be a problem.
I’ve also had problems in getting my tent – a Zephyros 1 – pitched properly, one end always being saggy and up until now I’ve never encountered some really bad winds. It had always been quite noisy in even just a briskish breeze, to needless to say it took me a while to get to sleep!
Hopefully the wind would blow itself out overnight…

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Day 3 – Beinn Bhrotain to Sgòr Gaoith, 16 miles, 3814ft ascent.

Come the morning the wind had not let up at all, in fact it hardly paused all night.


The choppiness of the loch compared to yesterday morning illustrates this a bit. Hopefully it wouldn’t last much of the day would it? If not it would keep the mist off, wouldn’t it…?
The first hill of the day was Tom Dubh, and the south-pointing shelter looked very tempting to hide from the wind in. I thought I might camp in this if I’m up this way again!


I’d read about a fair few people having to roll up trouser legs and paddle through the chilly waters of the Allt Luineag, so I approached downwards to it with a little trepidation but after a little pause for thought I was able to totter across the stones with feet booted and dry.
As we then proceeded up the shoulder of Monadh Mor the mist came down – or I went up into it! The wind didn’t stop though. The walk across the top was all down to the compass, and it was just by chance I spotted the cairn away to my right in the foggy near-distance.


After Monadh Mor although the clag didn’t lift the path was clear so it was a pretty straight-forward march on to Beinn Bhrotain, apart from the very steep dip into and up out of the small coire between Leac Ghorm and BB.

Pleased to see the trig point on Beinn Bhrotain – but could see much else! With this wind how much more mist could there be?!


Not much more it turned out… these two photos show how quickly things can change up here. The view is looking north over the coire and were taken literally a minute apart!

Looking down in to the Coire Cath nam Fionn.

I think this is looking west over to Cairn Toul and much of yesterday’s walk.
The walk back along over Monadh Mor was nice and clear now, and the wind behind me. Which is actually just as annoying as it causes much flapping of hoods and straps and laces and the like. Something’s going to have my eye out in a minute I’m sure!


With a clear view I was able to take the direct route back along Monadh Mor missing out Tom Dubh, and was relieved that when nan Cnapan came into view my tent has so survived the winds. So now to concentrate on the second half of the day’s walk, Sgor Gaoith, clearly visible in the distance across the glen of Loch Einich.


Crossing the Allt Sgaimich progress was easy back on the land rover track, and handy cairn after a mile or indicated the turning onto the moor. The path was still quite clear and the climb up to Carn Ban Mor was simply – but very windy! The shelter-cairn offered some welcome relief so a sandwich could be eaten in peace.


The march over the top to Sgor Gaoith was about as straight forward as any windy hill-top walk can be. Although it was very windy. The views down the Coire na Caillich were impressive, and luckily the windy was a constant easterly without a respite so getting the near the edge was not too much of a risk!

A couple of steps up on the smooth granite and Sgor Gaoith was conquered!

A panorama looking north to east to south from the top of Sgor Gaoith.


On the way back, knowing better than to take clever looking shortcuts, the way the path forked off in my direction heading back up Carn Ban Mor was too simple to ignore and it worked out. It even took me past a little quartz cairn where the top stone seemed to be defiantly displaying a St George Cross! Cry God… etc.


The wind had not let up all day but at least my tent was still in place when I got back to camp, but what a funny shape, it looked inside out! What had happened? I thought maybe a couple of pegs had been torn out despite the heavy rocks I had put over them, but nope – the pegs were fine. Two of the elastic bungee tent loops had snapped! I thought they’d be able to withstand a bit of wind, even this wind. How could they snap? It turned out that the movement of the tent being blown back & forth, and therefore that of the bungees, was that great that it had caused the stones to literally saw through two of them. Bugger. I had no spares, but was able to fashion a couple of stop-gaps from a spare boot-lace.

That night the wind did not let up at all, and whilst I wasn’t expecting much sleep because of the noise I was more worried about my tent. I thought long & hard about unpegging it and turning round 90degs to face the wind head-on, but pondered it blowing clean away – possibly with me clinging on to it like an unwilling hang-glider. The tent completely closed-up a few times, sealing me inside like a shrink-wrapped chicken. And for a short while I was desperately clinging on to the underside of the ridge-pole with my finger-tips to try to keep it down. But after a couple of hours of this I figured that if it had withstood 24 hours of this so far, it was probably going to be ok so let’s just try to get some sleep. Which surprisingly I did, and it was. Well done cheap little Zephyros 1, which up until I’d doubted how it would it get on in high winds, but she proved herself today.

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Day 4 – Lochan nan Cnapnan to Newtonmore, 21 miles, 2929ft ascent.

The morning came, and thankfully I was still surrounded by tent. And it was a glorious, still, sunny day. Gotta love Highland weather!


Camp was struck and I was away by about 8am, and the way up & over & down Carn Ban Mor towards Glen Feshie lovely and easy-going with sun behind me and the views in front, which must have stretched well into the Grampians.
A few people were already making their way up, and stopping to chat they made me envious with such talk of things like “We just live in Inverness, and we saw what a lovely day this morning it was so just through a bag in the car and set off…”. Grrrrr!


The Badan Mosach Falls are well worth a look.


Thankfully I wasn’t looking for a bothy when I reached the Feshie estate again, although fording the Allt Fhearnagan took a bit of planning – and luck! Phew – dry feet again!


But the feet weren’t to stay dry for long. After crossing back over the Feshie and in the wide flat glen on the other side of the woods, I thought I’d follow the track back and investigate the old house at Baileguish a bit. But while in a vehicle the ford across the Allt Fhearnasdail would have been a doddle on foot it wasn’t going to be. After some investigation, the boots and socks came off for a quick but bracing paddle!

The house at Baileguish was eerie to say the least, seemingly abandoned in 1977 it was like a Highland Marie Celeste.


Although it does look like it might still be used… at least an estate agent wouldn’t have any trouble describing the views from the front door!

Re-crossing the Allt Chomhraig presented more problems – this time sleeping cyclists on the bridge! As they didn’t stir has I approached I decided to try to step over them without interrupting their bicycling dreams. But obviously they woke up as I was mid-stride over them, resulting in two very startled cyclists. Haha.


Back in civilisation now, I dropped down to take a look at the bridge over the River Tromie at Drumguish. Much impressive granite carving, by man and by nature, was to be seen.

A walk into Kingussie, was followed by a few pints, then a bus to the Newtonmore campsite and tea in the very tasty Newtonmore Bar & Grill.

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Day 5 – The Monadhliaths, 21 miles, 3814ft ascent.

Time for some non-Cairngormian hills today. Three of the Monadhliaths are apparently within a day’s bag, so let’s have a go.


Most people drive up to the car-park above Newtonmore but I of course had to walk up, which was pretty boring. But once past Glenballoch it all started feeling much nicer. The broad path leading gradually up hill, which is what it should be doing so far.

But once I’d skirted round the lower bits of Creah Liath and I could see today’s first target Carn Dearg above me it started get a bit more interesting. The ground was very boggy and path became increasingly intermittent and then disappeared completely – or possibly I just nowhere near it. The iPod came out again to distract me through this rather tedious slog as I picked what seemed like the best route through the watery-cart-sponge that passed for ground up towards the peak way above me.  After a while glance at the GPS showed I was way off course, well the planned course. The course I was taking was more direct but much steeper, and I was on it now so just kept on going, aiming for the top the ridge above me.


Eventually after a couple of episodes of Gardeners’ Question Time I was up on the ridge, and looking down you can see what a boggy mess it was down there.


But at least now the hard bit was out of the way, and four or so hours after setting off Carn Dearg was claimed. Phew, that was pretty tough! So much easier in the Cairn Gorms where your starting point is already half way up!

The view, looking NWish I think, from Carn Dearg.


Although when I said the hard bit was over, I was of course wrong. Now on the top the wind and side-ways rain found me an easy target, and terrain over the vast barren flat top of Carn Ballach was very tough going, considering it all almost completely flat. The terrain was either rocky and slippy, or boggy and slippy. Or slippy and slippy. At least the old fence posts meant it was hard to get lost. Eventually though after another couple of hours I made it to  Carn Sgulain, and you can see how thrilled I am!

At least the hard bit is done now… surely!?


Well, yes the hard bits were done – just plain old muddy bogs to work round / scamper through, and a rather steep dip & up to cross the Allt Cuil na Caillich, and I was up on A’ Chailleach, the wind and rain having never left me.

Munro number 28! So now feeling rather pleased with myself, all that stood between me and many pints was a long walk back down into town.

The bothy that everyone takes a photo of was pretty much the only interesting thing on the way down. Is it even a bothy?


Feeling a heavenly relief when the marsh turned back to track and the wind and rain relented an hour or so after being on the tops, and an hour or so later I was in the pub, toasting myself for the week going pretty much exactly as I’d planned it. I was in the pub for sometime, grinning at the bar, thinking to myself  “Only 90% to go….” :-)

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Home.

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

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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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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.


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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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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

******

So, I’d decided I wanted to see Braemar Castle. The Cally Sleeper would take me to Aviemore, bus to Glenmore and Shanks’s pony down to the castle and back. Seems there’s a few Munros on the way too and seven of them were right in my way.


Looks like fun.

Day 1. Glenmore to Loch Etchachan (via Cairn Gorm). 9½ miles, 4475ft ascent.

I arrived in Aviemore on time but then realised that the bus I had planned to get to take me the 6 or 7 miles into Glenmore only ran on school holidays, and this wasn’t a school holiday. The next bus would be an hour. Luckily just then a taxi turned up…



I got to Glenmore at around 8.30am and leaving the hectic (another car came!) main road set off into the forest – The Queen’s Forest no less! – heading towards Cairn Gorm (via the Coire na Ciste route) over the Abhainn Ruigh-eunachan. HM’s forest was nice at first, cool and fresh and the paths were clear.



But after a little while the path had disappeared and I ended wandering way off course and had to compass-correct myself with a tough ascent up the banking on the left using ferns and tree roots as grips. Up and over at the top and back on some sort of a semblance of a path, although the thick heather and tall ferns would suggest it wasn’t used much. It was all so dripping wet with dew that the waterproofs had to come out despite it being bright and sunny. The ground was uneven and rising, it was hot and damp and a boring start to the day. Pretty though.



Eventually I was out of the woods, figuratively and literally, and finally heading up what looked like a proper mountain. It had taken the best part of 45mins to get through the woods, and shortly after when I had passed the lower ski car-park the bus I could’ve waited for went by, round the sharp hairpin. I could have just been sitting down in Aviemore drinking tea for the past hour and only been about quarter of mile behind where I was now! And a tenner better off. Oh well, I wouldn’t have a good discussion about Scottish independence from my Islington-born and Camden Town-schooled taxi driver. Anyways, the bus may not have dropped me there anyways, or that’s what I’m telling myself at least.

Although the weather was looking good behind us, ahead of us there was a slight hint of mist.

It was a steady slog up a clear path, but not much to look at. Things just slowly appeared from and then disappeared back into the mist. A strange sign post…



At first an alien spacecraft which just turned out to be rickety-looking ski-lifts…



Reindeer, feeding up before their hectic Christmas schedule…



And a digger! A chat to the driver’s mate quickly turned to midges as conversation often does round here.



And an emergency stop button hovering a good 10 or 12ft up in the air. The winter snow here must easily cover the wooden fencing when it’s skiing season. Impressive.

The other photo is, I think, the Marquis’s Well – at around 4,000ft the highest spring in Britain. I’m not too sure though, there was a damp patch a bit further but this one looked more the sort of thing a Marquis of Huntly would go for. Not far to the top now!

Funny how one’s pace is quickened by the sight of a cairn! The cairn of Cairn Gorm was reached. Phew! Quite a slog with the full pack on.



It was very windy here, and what I thought was a shelter must have been just for the University of Edinburgh’s meteorologists. So I settled down for a chilli-egg sandwich in the lee of the weather station. But suddenly the relaxing peace was shattered by a strange mechanical whirring, and the top of the large dust-bin type thing on top of the weather was slowly but purposefully opening up. At first I wasn’t quite sure what was going on – the misty winds do things to a young man’s mind up here, but it turned out that the dust-bin was actually the weather station taking one its half-hourly readings. The vane waggled furiously and anemometer was having a blast. The sandwich was finished and onwards we went.



As I got towards the far side of the lunar-like rocky summit plateau of Cairn Gorm I could hear the weather station closing up again for another 26 minutes, and the view ahead of me looked a lot more appealing. (I later checked out the website to see what the wind-speeds were while I was up there, but couldn’t make head nor the tail of the data!)



What wasn’t so enticing was the view of someone’s carefully bagged up litter just below the top. The odd crisp packet whisked away from a careless hand by an eager wind I can understand, but just leaving crap like this knowing that the park rangers will clear it up at some point is a tad grating.  Luckily my gaze was distracted by Loch Avon (Loch A’an to the locals I was later told) in the near distance.

The beaches of Loch Avon looked very enticing, but a long way down.



The descent down the very well-constructed granite steps of Coire Raibeirt was torturous!  On the knees but also because every now and then as I cautiously and unavoidingly took a large step down, my pack would catch on the step behind me, nudging me forwards before my foot was set down, and so nearly send me hurtling downwards, to end up in a Sea-King no doubt.



Thankfully I made it all the way down to lochside without major incident, and swung to the west to head round the beach-end of it via the Shelter Stone.



But annoyingly it took me so long to navigate the drops and bogs and streams and dead-end paths at the top of loch that when I got near the Shelter Stone I just couldn’t be bothered actually going towards for a look. This is what I missed. I like the cairn on top though – good effort someone! The abandoned (peat?) spade wasn’t budging though.



Anyways, we got across the glen eventually and on my way up the Allt nan Stacan Dubha saw my second people of the day after the digger crew, a local fella and a very nicely made up (always important when walking!) American girl who was here for a wedding. Anyways, they were very pleasant and we chatted briefly. But just after what seemed like about 5 minutes they were down and on the beach, across what had taken me about half an hour to get across!! How did they do it?! I also saw some very colourful mosses.



As I got higher I took one final look back at Loch Avon, and saw my first ptarmigan of the day. I’d managed to walk obliviously past the Ptarmigan on the top of Cairn Gorm with it right under my nose because of the mist. Not that I really minded though. The feathered kind was much nicer and much more in-keeping with the surroundings that some tourist cafe. Mind you, I was soon to get very fed up of ptarmigan – they’re worse than grouse for suddenly and noisily appearing out of the undergrowth while you’re rambling on peacefully miles away in a world of your own, croaking and squawking like some angry strangulated terrier puppy. Bloody things. I like their trousers though.



Once at the top of the Allt nan Stacan Dubha I had one last look back, I think – I can’t remember which way that photo is looking now, and headed down to Loch Etchachan – my campsite for the next two nights. Unfortunately when I got down there hoping for hermit-esque solitude I was aghast to see someone had beaten me to it, and not only that but he seemed to have bagged the only dry spot in the marshy loch-periphery. By the time I’d found a spot and settled, and pitched up it was getting dark so for some reason I didn’t take a photo of my first evening’s camping.

But what I did take a photo of was some more rubbish. Working on a small pit to use for nature’s callings behind a large boulder about 20yards away from my tent I uncovered a drink carton and a foil packet of sausage and beans. Judging from the date on the foil they’d been there at least 2½ years and obviously were not far into their decomposition process. (A couple of very nice locals – Duncan & John – much later on in Aviemore on hearing this tail just rolled their eyes, and said “Aye – that’ll be the army cadets…”, and curiously much later I Googled “army cadet ration packs” and it does look similar. Come on lads, sort it out!)

No problem getting to sleep that night, although I did wake up in night needing a wee visit. It was still quite light it seemed although it was about 3.45am. Not very bright but bright enough for my hand to be clearly silhouetted against the tent. I went outside to a clear sky but no moon – the nocturnal illumination was provided by nothing but starlight. The Milky Way clearly visible to the delight of my eyes and annoyance of my neck. Usually when I camping out under these skies I sleep straight through it all, but it’s really not to be missed. Such an amazing sight – our ancestors were spoilt!


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Day 2. Beinn Mheadhoin, Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm. 11 miles, 3547ft ascent.



Next morning the skies were still clear and the first thing I noticed was how much nicer it would have been on the top of Cairn Gorm today! I’d finished breakfast and been to my own little shelter stone (ie. loo) by the time the sun was warming my tent.

My plan today was to head up Beinn Mheadhoin and then dip down the Lairig an Laoigh to head up Beinn a’Chaorainn. Didn’t look too bad on the map, and I might even have time for some afters somewhere too. On the way up Stob Coire Etchachan I got my first good view of my campsite. My tent is just above about half-way along the smaller loch.

After a short but steep climb up the views were grand, Loch Avon and the Barns of Beinn Mheadhoin above.



The walk over the plateau towards the barns was very pleasant indeed, clear firm ground and clear blue skies. The view above left is looking backwards in SW direction.



Looking SW again through the barns, but I can’t remember which the other view is. Northerly somewhere I think.

A summit-selfie, and behind yours-truly a truly fine panorama. The low-lying mist is above the Aberneth Forst / Nethy Bridge I think.



Heading briskly over towards Beinn a’Chaorainn via the cairned peak above Stob Coire Etchachan I noticed an odd perfectly circular lichen on the way looking like a company logo or something.



Once up at the top of said little peak I had a better view of where I was going and it didn’t look too promising. I couldn’t see any path, which isn’t the end of the world, but the drop down the Lairig an Laoigh did look like the end of the world and I couldn’t see a way up the other side either. Also pretty much the whole way as far as I could see was a boulder field and not easy to get across. So I could’ve got to the top of the drop, not seen any way down and then have to retrace my steps all the way back across the boulders which wouldn’t have been fun and could taken a good hour or two. So with plenty of other hills dotted around I headed back – Beinn a’Chaorainn was going nowhere and could wait for another day.

The view down Glen Derry from the top of Stob Coire Etchachan. The Hutchinson hut clearly visible in the sunshine.



On the way back down to camp Etchachan I wondered how that boulder got on top of that boulder? Also I wondered how my neighbour across the loch with (I think) the same tent didn’t seem to be suffering the same sagging problems as me…

With plenty of time left today getting Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm out of the way would make the walk – with pack – down to Braemar much easier tomorrow. So that was now the plan.

Looking back down over Loch Etchachan from the walk up underneath Creagan a’ Choire Etchachan. It was getting warm now as I headed up towards Ben MacDui.



On the way up I paused for a breather by this gap above Coire Sputan Dearg, two young men also paused on their way down. Without saying hello they started moaning about the view! “Not much down there, is there?”, “Nah, couple of crags but that’s it.”, “Not as rugged as the Lakes is it?”. I thought maybe they were climbers looking for good craggy ascents. “All we’ve seen so far is Aviemore and some windmills…”. Hard to please some folk!



The ruins of the Sappers’ Bothy indicated I was nearing the top of Ben Macdui.



The terrain leveled off towards the top, but was very rocky so I hopped and jumped the rest of the way to trig point.



The top of Ben Macdui was chockablock!! Families, ladies’ rugby teams, French people – the world and his wife was up here. Up on the large summit cairn as I was coming down two girls came up, and like the two lads earlier had no time to give me the time of day as I stood to one side to let them pass. They went off to discussing the best spot to catch some rays, and generally nattering loudly as they went.



After a spot of lunch I headed back down the same way I’d came – splendid views in every direction! But the two girls from the top had left about the same time as me, and were 20 yards or so behind… and never stopped talking all the way down. Grrrrr.

As we headed down my plan was to cut across in a west-ish direction to cut the corner a bit and left the two girls behind to carry on chattering away amongst themselves. But when I got towards the bottom of my short-cut to join the Derry Cairngorm path heading south I saw the two girls now ahead of me on the path up to DC! I should’ve just stayed on the path too – I might have been far enough ahead of them to be out of earshot by now. They were studying a map so maybe they were going a different way, dipping down in to the glen perhaps? I passed them but just after that they set off again. And so once again I had them right behind me all the way up Derry Cairngorm, nattering endlessly and pointlessly. Is it just me being a cantankerous old grump or is that really annoying??



Anyways, lots more boulders to hop, skip and jump across and I got to the first of two cairns.



The second one seemed to be the summit, so I had a rest here and made a new friend in the form of a Staffie with a collar saying “Deadly friendly” on it. And so he was! His owner, who was heading off home, on hearing I was camping kindly offered me his rations. A nice pair they were! He was also telling me about how last night he’d stayed in the Hutchinson shelter, and while it was only a few degrees above freezing outside, inside the hut was that crammed and the fire so stacked it was closer to 90 degs! Eventually a couple of lads there couldn’t stand it anymore and although it was late and dark and left to trudge all the way down to Bob Scott to stay there. I think he was in a tent, wisely.

The girls turned up, so I gave it plenty of time at the top for them to disappear off. Which wasn’t too bad as sitting down out of the breeze the top of Derry Cairngorm is a not too bad a place to be.



Clouding over a bit on the way down Derry Gairngorm.



I saw quite a few of these neat round holes in the granite – I wonder how they were formed. Wind and rain I suppose… but how?!



Lots more boulders to skip over and not all of them firmly anchored. Got to look after the ankles! As my campsite came back into view I noticed another tent not far from mine. After the initial annoyance of having a near neighbour I suddenly started worrying that he might have found me lavatory stone, as I hadn’t covered the hole up yet!

On the way down to my as-usual saggy tent I got chatting to a bloke and talk again inevitably turned to midges. I mentioned that my Sainsbury’s insect repellent hadn’t been working too well and he very kindly gave me a squirt of Avon Skin So Soft. It seemed to work pretty well – and it certainly smelled nicer than the Sainsbury’s! My tea that evening was didn’t seem midge free but I’m sure they weren’t biting, so I reckon I’ll be applying my own Skin So Soft on the next trip.

That evening two lads without bags turned up and walked round the entire loch seemingly inspecting the water all the way round in an almost official looking capacity. They disappeared briefly, returned with their packs and set up camp on the other side of the loch, then proceeded to strip off and plunge into the refreshing Ethcachan waters taking nothing with them except for a bar of soap. I think they were foreign. My worries for tomorrow’s drinking water were right now overtaken by my worries about how many of my new neighbours would spend the night providing the rest of us with a cacophony of snoring…


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Skye and Knoydart, September 2014.

Skye & Knoydart – Cuillin off in the Looney Bin.

Black Cuillins and blue skies

Day 1 – Sligachan to Rubha an Dùnain.
Day 2 – Rubha an Dùnain to Glen Brittle
Day 3 – Sgùrr Alasdair & Eas Mor Falls
Day 4 – Fairy Pools & Bruach na Frith
Day 5 – Skye to Knoydart
Day 6 – Meall Bhuidhe & Luinne Bheinn
Day 7 – Last day in Inverie

******

Day 6 – Meall Bhuidhe & Luinne Bheinn. 16½ miles, 4792ft ascent.

After last night’s village hall revelry I wasn’t up quite as early as I’d have liked to be and by the time I was suited and booted and up and away the sun was above the hills and pleasantly warming my face. “Ahhhh the sun always shines in Knoydart!” I was thinking as I set off.

On the familiar stroll up the track towards Barisdale a lady passed me on her bike. She was doing Meall Bhuidhe and Luinne Bheinn but in the other direction. She was going to cycle up to Mam Barisdale, ditch her bike and walk back while her husband at some point after a nice lie-in would walk up the track and collect the bike. Sounds like a good idea on paper, but this uneven rock-strewn track seems to me to be a nightmare to cycle on but she seemed not to struggle as she peddled off.



She went on her way and turned off the NE Barisdale track to head eastwards over the Inverie River and the Allt Gleann Meadail – and right in to the sun, which by now was getting worryingly warm. Just where this path crosses the Gleann Meadail there’s a very pleasant-looking wild-camping spot, which although can be no secret is definitely worth checking out at some point. Shortly after that though then things got pretty unpleasant – the assault on Druim Righeanaich. It was steep, pathless, uneven and very hard-going and reminded me a lot of the slog up Mám Suidheig when tackling near-neighbour Ladhar Bheinn earlier in the year. The difference here being that you’re constantly wading through thick tenacious ferns all the way up, which although often made for useful anchors and handles to hoist myself with, I wished I packed my machete as they wrapped themselves round my ankles and knees, not at all keen on letting me pass. And with sun now getting very hot I really wished I packed my sun-hat. Oh what kind of fool would try to predict Highlands weather?!
And just to make this 800ft-or-so ascent even more testing was the constant attention of some strange little insects that I’d not encountered before. They would land on you but then just hunker down and do nothing. They had the appearance of an Apache helicopter but and as they didn’t seem intent of inflicting any damage or taking any of my blood I wasn’t that bothered, and would just brush them off. But boy, did they take some brushing off! I later found out that they were in fact deer keds and was soon to get very bored with them.



I was mightily relieved to be up on the bottom of the ridge. The view back to Inverie is always lovely, but that was all behind me now. In front of me was another 2000ft ascent up roughish moorland. Heading into the sun the deer keds were constantly coming to say hello. And I mean constantly. It was no exaggeration to say that as soon as I’d brushed one off another came along. And they took a lot of brushing off being seeming made of tough rubber. Normally not killing an insect is quite tricky, but although I wasn’t going out of my way I don’t remember killing any of them they were so tough. Very tedious. Eventually I became quite paranoid and would confuse a trickling bead of sweat with a ked and vice-versa.



The view looking north over Loch an Dubh-Lochain was that of Aonach Sgoilte and Ladhar Bheinn and I got to see what I couldn’t last time I was there because of the mist. But as the sweat was running down my face and neck I could have really done with some mist today. The weather is always greener on the other side of the hill, as they say!
The view as we slowly made progress also included the long track back down from Mam Barisdale to the pub, and was a constant reminder of the long slog back after we’d conquered the peaks. Best not to think about that just yet.

I can’t be sure, but I think that’s our first glimpse of Luinne Bheinn there in the distant. Doesn’t look too far off actually… does it??



I had earlier hoped for some really cracking views given the clear skies, but the air was heavy and eventually cloaked everything with a dirty haze.



As I remember, although I knew it must be close, the cairn at the summit of Meall Bhuide appeared quite suddenly after one last upwards push and I was very pleased to see it. Worn out with the considerable heat I was looking forward to a good 10mins of pure sitting on my backside doing nothing up here.

There wasn’t a whisper of a breeze in the air here – how often can you do this with a map on top of a Munro? I’m sure it would’ve quite happily would have stayed in situ for the entire 10 minutes of my intended sit-down. But that wasn’t to happen, something very unpleasant happened instead.
As mentioned the keds had been constant all the way up and although tedious and irritating they weren’t a real problem and I’d almost got used to them. But on the top here there was nothing less than a swarm of them. Suddenly I had dozens and dozens of them all over me, a plague of Biblical proportions! Sort of. On my arms, chest, face, in my hair, in my ears, in my mouth when I opened it to curse them… I’d never seen so many things on me all at one time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were hundreds of them. And they were coming back as quickly as I was frantically brushing them off. No place for a rest then and after stopping for less than a minute I was forced to carry on. I felt like a cartoon character being chased by bees running off to the nearest pond! By now I was not a fan of these little blighters.



Thankfully though after the steep drop down from Meall Bhuide the keds seemed to thin out a bit, although they were never completely absent for a good while yet.



The section between Meall Bhuide and Luinne Bhein was uppy & downy and very rocky. And also very warm. The thin cloud cover was little use for shade and sun was unrelenting.
Around here I bumped into the cyclist lady from earlier coming the other way and she looked in much better shape than I was. I told her about the climb up to (down for her) Druim Righeanaich and the impossible deer keds but she told me she hadn’t encountered any. Maybe like the midges they just liked me much more than everyone else! Typical.



Looking down to a little lochan with strange weed growth and looking up to more rocky upwards bits – in fact that might be Meall Coire na Gaoithe ‘n Ear – I can quite recall now. But that’s the last major ascent and descent before the Loony Bin itself.

When Luinne Bheinn loomed into view it was clear how much more we had to go up – about another 1000ft to the top. Could my poor legs make it!?



On the way up my attention was caught by a couple of interesting things, one an ancient rock carving depicting a lady surfing on a giant wave and the other an old derelict fence going effortlessly scaling any peak it its way. How on Earth did they build such things back in day? They were made from sterner stuff than me – which at this point wouldn’t have been difficult!



The haze wasn’t shifting as we made our up. But it was nice to see the “volcano lochan” I’d heard about before, although I still can’t pin-point it on a map.



The top! We had arrived in the Loony Bin – and my Munro count was into double figures!! But wait – what is that in the distance…? Another cairn!? Apart from the weather this IS just like Ladhar Bheinn! And assuming the further one was the real one I plodded on.



Now we were at the top. Despite the haze the views were grand. And there was even a slight breeze in the air which was keeping my friend the keds away, so a well-earned breather was taken.



But sadly my slow progress up to here – I had been averaging 1.5mph for some while had put me behind schedule – I was due to be meeting a friend in the pub at 8pm and to be honest I was feeling the chill a bit up here as the breeze took the perspiration away. So, downwards and onwards.



The way down LB was rocky and at times a tad precarious. The above rock formation caught my eye – how did that happen? And I thought I better take a snap of a deer ked, as at the time I had no idea what they were. I was wondering if they were related to the star of the 1980s BBC Micro gaming scene Repton…?



After straying a little off route through a boggy area underneath LB I was finally back on the Barisdale track, and was muchly envious of the folks setting up their camp for the night in very nice spot – nice if it wasn’t a windy night anyways!
It was 6pm now I had 2 hours to get to the pub which was still come 6miles away – would I make it?! It was all downhill, but even the path was rocky-going and I was tired…
I eventually got there at 8.10pm and was very glad, despite the surly landlord. Beer and fodder and comfy sit-down were most welcome. I bumped into the cyclist lady again, who reassuringly agreed with me about (for her) the drop down Druim Righeanaich – and she even got plagued by deer keds pretty much all the way after Meall Bhuide! So it wasn’t just me. I proudly mentioned that I was now into Munro double figures… “That was my 10th Munro!!” I told her. She told me that MB was her 282nd Munro – so well done her!
As I sat at the bar I felt something in my hair – it was the last ked of the day!
After a plenty more Belhavens, a couple of malts and some eaves-dropping on a heated discussion between two stalkers about ‘changes’ on the estate (they reckoned I must have been from the Oban Times!) sleeping wasn’t a problem. The heat and keds had made this a long day. Top

Plot of the day’s walk:
lb_map

Day 7 – Last day in Inverie

In the morning when the ranger came round to collect the camping fees I got the full story about deer keds. Apparently they were early this year – lucky me. And have you noticed what “deer ked” sounds like if you say it quickly? Sums up what I think of them.

With a couple of hours to kill before the ferry across the water I went for a short stroll.



This is what a phone box looks like in Inverie. Actually it might just be over in Kilchoan.




The old graveyards in the Kilchoan Estate. I wish I known about the cross then.

The ferry whisked us away just as the weather set in. So farewell Knoydart until the next time! Top

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Skye and Knoydart, September 2014.

Skye & Knoydart – Cuillin off in the Looney Bin.

Black Cuillins and blue skies

Day 1 – Sligachan to Rubha an Dùnain.
Day 2 – Rubha an Dùnain to Glen Brittle
Day 3 – Sgùrr Alasdair & Eas Mor Falls
Day 4 – Fairy Pools & Bruach na Frith
Day 5 – Skye to Knoydart
Day 6 – Meall Bhuidhe & Luinne Bheinn
Day 7 – Last day in Inverie

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Day 4 – Fairy Pools & Bruach na Frith. 15miles, 4070ft ascent.

I had earlier thought about taking a look at the Fairy Pools and also had a route planned for Bruach na Frith. But on setting off I decided just to head back to Sligachan to get the bus tomorrow to get the ferry to get to Mallaig to get the ferry to get to Inverie. It was going to be a decent enough slog up to Bealach a’ Mhàim back so I’d kept the options of some pretty pools and a big mountain strictly as options and I’d see how I felt when I was there.



Firstly I’d been noticing these strange crows for the past couple of days that I’d never seen before and took a snap to remind me what they are. Turns out it’s a hooded crow and we don’t get them south of the border. You learn something new every day in Cuillins.
I was also learning that the sunshine of the previous couple of days might not be with us today. But maybe a cooler day would make for nicer walking conditions? And maybe the big mountains would be so shrouded in thick clag and howling winds the decision would be made for me!
So off we set on the long tarmac plod back up Glen Brittle. And like yesterday it seemed I’d left just at the wrong time – just behind me was a group of four chaps, one of whom I seem to recall was not wearing a shirt but still replete with rucksack – which surely can’t be very comfy. They were enjoying a loud and serious sounding natter. Nattering – especially loud nattering – should not be allowed in such peaceful remote environs! And just to annoy me more they were walking just ever-so-slightly faster than me, so they were behind me for ages and then alongside me for ages and then just in front of me for ages. They were far ahead of me eventually for their nattering to be no longer audible – and maybe if they had slowed their nattering their walking would be quickened!
The mist came down to our level and a light drizzle commenced. I pondered on stopping to don the waterproofs but as it was very warm I decided against it and a little dampness wouldn’t matter and I play the situation by (the dampness of my) ear.  I soon caught up with the nattering quartet who had stopped to put their waterproofs on, passing them I joked “If I put mine on it’d stop!!”. “Well put ’em on then!” barked one of them back rather grumpily.

The fairy pools’ combination of sounding very enticing and having a car-park at the top of the track. results in that they’re very popular with day-trippers. I left the tarmac and followed the hordes down the path to the pools.



And they are pretty pretty I suppose, but the track was very busy – both with humans and midges.



The people thinned out as we headed upwards as people decided that if you’ve seen one fairy pool you’ve pretty much seen them all and turned round and headed back to the burger van.



I’d exchanged brief pleasantries with one group – German or Swiss or something – on the way up, and a short while later one of them was calling me “Hallooo hallloooo!” , “Oh God” I thought – she wants to chat or is after advice on which is the best fairy pool or where the path leads to some such stuff that the curmudgeon I was, annoyed by all these other people not carrying huge rucksacks and getting in my way, was not prepared to enter in to. Anyways as she caught up with me she asked “Is this your watch…?”, “Oh noo!” I replied confidently “My watch is on my … oh.” My watch had gone! And how nice of her to find it and chase after me to return it – with its broken strap.  My curmudgeonliness instantly faded as I offered her profuse thanks. Thank you should you be reading this, lovely European lady! The exact same thing happened a few years ago on Greenup Edge on the Coast to Coast, but this time I was fortunate enough for it to be found by someone nice & helpful – and not a grumpy old curmudgeon!



After about 1000ft or so of ascent we’d oohed and aahed at the last of the fairy pools and the weather was coming down.

The path heading north took us under Bruach na Frithe, but I think the above photo is probably Coire a’ Mhadaidh between Sgurr an Fheadain and Sgurr Thuilm, but of course if you know better, please correct me.
I must have taken a different path to that marked on the map or wandered off path completely as when I rejoined the main path it wasn’t as far up as I’d been expecting – a good half mile short. Always a disappointment that!



Finally I was at the cairn marking the top of Bealach a’ Mhàim, and along this bit I’d had the pleasure of a very nice couple whose names I can’t remember but who seemed to be the only fairy pool walkers to have opted for the circular walk. After a brief chat we went our separate ways. It only being 1pm and only a few miles back to Sligachan and the weather looking like it could be a lot worse, I decided to give Bruach na Frithe a go after all. I left the main path back for a well-marked path heading east towards my mountain and found a place to ditch my pack. Can you spot it in the top right photo?! The only time all week I needed to put the rain-cover on it – just in case. Should be easy to find later on anyways.



But almost immediately as I set off sans rucksack up na Frithe the mist came down. Had it been like this 10 minutes earlier I may have thought twice, but I’d started now so I may as well finish.

The visibility was pretty much zilch all the way, which made for quite an otherworldly experience. And not very many photo opportunities! The path came and went and wouldn’t have been easy to follow if it was clear so a lot of the navigation was done with compass bearing & GPS. I still managed to wander way off route though – see the plot below.
Some of the terrain was very rocky, and almost as tricky going as the Chute yesterday.
There was absolute silence up here, pierced only by squeak of an eagle. It sounded very close and I was hoping it was on the ground and would strut out of the mist in front of me at any minute. Sadly it did not.



As I was approaching the top the mist lifted! And so did my spirits, but then it came back down again just a minute or two later taking my spirits with it. Well not really, I seem to remember laughing a little at the finality of the situation when I was surrounded by greyness again.
Shortly after this I heard a young couple coming down in the mist, and soon saw them too. Their time at the summit at coincided with the break in the mist the lucky devils! And the girl said she now had her pub legs on, the lucky devils! But after a brief chat, her lovely smile lifting my spirits again, we established that we were headed to different pubs and so my spirits fell again. So off she went towards Carbost with her fella – the lucky devil! And I plodded on upwards, the pub and its spirits at Sligachan still seemed far away.

Walking through this is quite disorienting – apart from constantly checking your GPS you have no idea where you are, where you’ve been or what’s to come. You also forget the scale of your surroundings. When I got to the col under the unmistakable (even in this weather) Am Basteir I stopped for a rest and a sarnie. Looking out down Bealach nan Lice over the Lota Corrie – somewhere down there – the mist once again was briefly taken by the wind, leaving the peaks below poking through. What a sight! But it only lasted literally a few seconds and by the time I’d got my camera out the mist had once returned to claim the peaks and the view, and above shot is all I managed. Amazing how quickly such large & grand views and appear and disappear.  This is what the view could look like.



A bit of scrambling upwards through the mist again, and a couple of dead-ends (tempting paths that went nowhere!) and after not long I could see a trig-pointy-like apparition come into view. I’m sure some of the right / wrong paths I had taken were a tad precarious, but with the mist I really couldn’t see for certain how precarious they were, which I’m not actually sure is reassuring or not.
Anyways, the summit was claimed. I took a photo, sat down, got cold, stood up, turned round and I headed back. If it was clearer I would have carried on and gone down the via the ridge which was somewhere straight ahead of me, but in this weather a nice ridge walk wasn’t really worth it. Better the devil you know, so I’ve set off retracing my steps through this rocky mysterious Hades trying my best not to race as there’s plenty of hellish tripping opportunities.

I don’t really remember much of the descent actually and certainly didn’t take many photos – mainly as there wasn’t much to take photos of! I certainly encountered no-one else going down, indeed not up until the main road at Sligachan. The view – or rather lack of it – was very boring. And other than getting lost again at the same point I’d wandered off-route on the way up, nothing really interesting happened. The visual blur I had is now must a mental blur too!

Although finding my rucksack would have been nigh-on impossible without the GPS. Thank goodness I’d marked its whereabouts. It’s somewhere in the above photo!


Although the mist had lifted a bit now we were lower down, the walk from Bealach a’ Mhàim back to the Slig was pretty tedious, and the pub, always visible in the distance, seemed to getting no nearer!
And to add insult to injury, the sign post which greeted me at the end of a long day had to the cheek to suggest I’d only walked 4.6miles! It felt like my walk from Glen Brittle to here had been a mammoth trek, even without the misty mountain hop and fairy diversion.

It was starting to get dusky as I got to the campsite and Seauma’s Bar was a sight for sore eyes and a thirsty throat. The pronunciation of ‘Sligachan’ was settled and the tasty tower of haggis was demolished in no time. Beer & haggis – is there anything to make a tired walker feel better?! Top

Plot of the day’s walk (with hindsight I can see much better route!) :
naf_map

Day 5 – Skye to Knoydart.



After yesterday’s mist today’s weather was looking fine. But of course it was – today wasn’t a walking day!
The morning views of the cloud sweeping over the north end of Cuillins made for a fine farewell as I struck camp.



The bus from Sligachan to Armadale was pleasingly punctual, and the journey very pleasant indeed. The ferry to Mallaig would have been more pleasant if it wasn’t for all the car alarms…
The photo above left is somewhere on Skye from the bus, and on the right is the view of Knoydart from the ferry.

With a couple of hours to kill in Mallaig before the ferry to Inverie I got to meet some of the locals.

I always look forward to popping in the Old Forge, but the pint of Loch Ness something or other tasted like it had come out of Nessie herself and was tipped away unfinished, so from then on I opted to do as the Romans do when in Rome round here and supped the keg Belhaven Best, which did just fine.



The tent was up in the time to watch the sunset from the Long Beach campsite at Inverie. The thought occurred to me that a walk from here to the Lady of Loch Nevis would make a nice stroll, with some good-looking camping spots over there too. Another plan to put on the to-do list!

Back to the pub for tea (and more Belhaven) and then next door to the village hall for a very entertaining post-referendum party, with The Dead Man’s Waltz and The Last September.
I’m not sure that everyone was celebrating as much as they’d hoped they’d be, but being back on Knoydart is always worth celebrating. Top

Carry on.

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