Another gallery from our most recent Cairngorm trip – a family walk out to The Green Loch/Lochan Uaine, and then on to Ryvoan Bothy. The walk served to remind me that there’s a path out towards Braemar that I have yet to explore – one to add to the plans!
It’s hard to believe but the last time I was in The Cairngorms was back at the beginning of August. In the interim, we’ve been on numerous trips including, most recently, Gairloch and Glasgow.
I’m counting down the days to our next Cairngorm excursion and, fortunately, don’t have to wait too long as we are heading to Rothiemurchus at the end of the month for an extended weekend.
Looking back at the photos and route data from the last trip, it was definitely one of THE most packed holidays we have had in the Cairngorms in a long, long time. With a toddler who has a preference for 5 to 6am starts, there are plenty hours in the day to fill and fill them we did. I also managed to use some of the time when Harris was asleep, both through the day and at night, to complete some specific walk/run/cycle targets that I had set myself in advance of the holiday, including, amongst others, a long overdue return to The Burma Road route.
All in all, it was an excellent break, enjoyed by all, and I live in hope that one day we can all relocate there permanently. (Hopefully before I am too old to make the most of it!).
So, without any further delay, some of the routes and galleries from our last Cairngorm adventure:
- Chalamain Gap
- Craigellachie National Nature Reserve
- Farleitter Crag & Uath Lochans
- Glen Feshie, towards Carn Ban Mor
- Meall a’ Bhuachaille
- The Burma Road
- Torr Alvie & The Duke Of Gordon Monument
Aside from the above, we did a number of routes in and around Rothiemurchus and Glenmore, taking in Loch an Eilein, Lily Pond Loch, and The Green Loch as well as general Rothiemurchus circular routes.
Torr Alvie & The Duke Of Gordon Monument is a relatively new walk for us and it wasn’t until June 2014 that we first ventured up Torr Alvie:
“Having long admired the Duke of Gordon’s Monument (erected in 1840 in memory of the 5th Duke of Gordon), we finally ascended Torr Alvie, passing the amazing Waterloo Cairn en route. Definitely a walk we will be doing again and well worth it for a stunning view of the Cairngorms.”
Well recommended for a walk that’s off the beaten path and affords excellent views over the surrounding Strathspey area, it’s also an excellent short but hilly (430 feet of elevation according to my watch stats) run if you happen to be staying at the Dalraddy Holiday Park.
Just watch out for ticks. I found myself having to remove 10 from various locations on my legs after scrambling about in the ferns that surround the monument.
walkhighlands.co.uk has an excellent map of the route:
Up until August 2014, my one and only encounter with The Burma Road had been a cycle trip with a friend, all the way back in 1999! I don’t know why it has taken me quite so long to return to the route as it’s an excellent route, from a location that I visit so often. It is a fair commitment, especially if you plan to do the complete route.
However, I think the main stumbling block has to be the fairly awkward start, involving a short distance on the busy, main road out of Aviemore, before then having to cross the main A9 Perth road. But, once this is out of the way, it’s a venture into mostly remote countryside, with some ‘seriously, serious’ ascent to start with!
I’ll be back to The Burma Road soon, with a view to running the 25 miles of the route, hopefully accompanied by Ian Minty, and will likely start with the mental ascent up into the mountains.
It took the best part of 10 minutes to descend from the top on my bike if memory serves correctly, involving considerable use of the break to keep the speed manageable and safe. That should give an indication just how steep it is, with the description ‘brutal’ often appearing alongside any online reviews of the route.
I’ve seen reference to a 17% gradient online, and I don’t doubt that for a second, such was the angle that I found myself as I attempted to pedal up that hill! According to my own watch stats, there was 1,952 feet of elevation.
More than worth it for the stunning views of The Cairngorm mountains however and, once over the hill, you encounter a variety of scenery, from open farmland to forested areas. You even pass close to The Slochd:
“The Slochd Summit is a mountain pass on the A9 road and the Highland Main Line Railway in the Scottish Highlands between Inverness and Aviemore. An old military road also goes through the pass. National Cycle Network route 7 also goes over the summit, largely following the old A9. Both the road and the railway have signs marking the spot – the A9 is at a height of 1,328 feet (405 m), while the railway reaches 1,315 feet (401 m). The Slochd Summit is the second highest place on the route from Inverness to Perth – the Pass of Drumochter at 1,500 feet (460 m) is higher and bleaker.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slochd_Summit)
Be prepared before you venture onto The Burma Road. It’s definitely a route to do with full body waterproofs and a good supply of food and fluids.
I disappeared to explore the route on two separate occasions, making the most of time afforded by Harris’s afternoon nap. On the first day, I headed out of Aviemore on the B9152, crossing the A9 and heading up the steep ascent, before then returning by the same route. On the second day, I headed out the back of Aviemore, exploring Kinveachy Forest for the first time, before getting picked up in Carrbridge which, incidentally, also has numerous forest paths to explore.
There’s a complete route map available at: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Th-Burma-Road-Aviemore
I’m already looking forward to running the entire route!
Described on www.rothiemurchus.net as “a special place at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, near Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands”, Rothiemurchus is, more often than not, our base when in The Cairngorms.
It also happens to be where Team Mac aim to one day move, finances permitting, the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned! There’s nowhere better for mountains, lochs and forests, all well served with a variety of paths, from B roads, to landrover track, to gnarly singletrack, perfect for trail running and biking.
The photos above were taken at various points throughout our August 2014 Cairngorm break, when running, walking or biking on the numerous tracks on offer.
I even enjoyed some evening runs & cycles, making the most of the training opportunities on offer thanks to the excellent Petzl Nao headtorch which ably lit up the path before me.
With so many paths, many leading to other paths, it’s easy to cover considerable distances in and around Rothiemurchus without even heaving to go near a road. It’s taken me a few years to see the bigger picture of interconnected paths, facilitated by a desire to explore and the need to train for various ultramarathon events.
In June 2014, we stayed at the Spey Lodge, just off the B970 Aviemore to Insh road. With a ‘back garden’ that led straight into the forest, onto some excellent trails, I soon discovered another ‘piece of the puzzle’, linking up paths that had, until that point, had no connection that I was aware of.
Rothiemurchus is also home to the Inshriach Nursery & Potting Shed Tearoom, described by The Observer’s Dan Lepard as “one of Britain’s best cake shops”, where the choice of quality, home-baked cake is something to behold. Once you have your coffee and cake, you can enjoy it whilst watching hundreds of birds and, more often than not, a squirrel or two, as they feed on the provided nuts, seeds and fat-balls.
Having taken a wrong turn while out on a training run on one of the many paths a couple of years back, I ended up finally popping out of the forest close to Loch Insh Watersports Centre, quite some distance from my intended destination. Fortunately, the Inshriach Nursery & Potting Shed Tearoom just so happened to be on my route home and, fuelled with cake, I finished what ended up being a 20+ mile run.
Note that the final picture in the gallery above shows the sorry state of affairs when my bike came a cropper on an early morning cycle, thankfully no more than 1 to 1.5 miles from our accommodation. Bothy Bikes in Aviemore saved the day, as they had done earlier in the week when one of my pedals came apart. My trusty 2007 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp is starting to show its age!
This is one of the few occasions that I didn’t make it to the top of Meall a’ Bhuachaille. Normally I am of the mentality that I must get to the top but a combination of the weather, atrocious conditions underfoot, and the scattered debris of a path that appears to be in the making, saw me quit my ascent ever so close to the top.
It’s an exposed climb at the best of times and, having started from Rothiemurchus, making use of the Old Logging Way path for the approach, I was more than happy that I had already benefited from the run on what were already very tired, unresponsive legs!
It’s a route with numerous options, approaching, as I did, along the Old Logging Way, for an up and back, or with the option to do an up and over, descending down towards Ryvoan Bothy. I have to say, however, that recent work on the path hasn’t made the descent down to the bothy very runnable and, last time I took this route, I found myself clipping my heels on narrow steps. Perhaps I need to throw caution to the wind and adopt the wilder, more ‘controlled tumbling’ approach of some runners!
There’s also an option to approach and/or extend your run making use of paths off to the left, taking in Creagan Gorm & Craiggowrie.
It’s also possible to adopt a more direct approach, parking at the Forestry Commission Building in Glenmore and heading up the back of the building towards the summit.
Over the years there have been a number of excellent Cafés housed in the Forestry Commission Building (and one not so good one, thankfully now gone!) and this makes for an excellent post run/walk treat as a reward for your efforts! On this particular occasion, I enjoyed a fine full cooked breakfast from the current café provider, Cobbs.
An area that we have yet to explore, our route took us up towards Carn Ban Mor before branching off to a waterfall. It’s a walk we have done before but, in the past, we’ve opted for a lower path. However, with me carrying Harris in a sling, we opted for the higher route this time around; far less tricky underfoot, wider and considerably easier to negotiate!
The Uath Lochans are a grouping of four small lochs and are a favourite walk of ours. There’s a mix of boardwalk, forest path and land rover track, offering a number of routes around the lochans.
The short climb up Farleitter Crag extends the walk and offers excellent view over the lochans, the forests of Glen Feshie, and Loch Insh. This adds just under 280 feet of elevation, according to my own watch stats.
“A perfect destination for a stroll from Aviemore, the woodland of this reserve brings together the gentle motion of silver birch trees with the constant activity of countless insects in summer. In spring and summer the woodland floor bursts into a blaze of colour as flowers like tormentil and foxglove take hold. The crags loom above the woodland like sleeping grey giants and provide a home for peregrines, who quarter the sky in search of prey below.” (Scotland’s National Nature Reserves)
Easily accessed from the back of the Macdonald hotel or from a path to the side of the Aviemore Youth Hostel, Craigellachie National Nature Reserve is another favourite walk/run of mine.
On this particular occasion, I opted for an evening run from our accommodation in Rothiemurchus into Aviemore and up to the top of the Craigellachie National Nature Reserve and was well rewarded with a cracking view over Aviemore and the Cairngorms with a sky tinged with red. A perfect end to the day. The run was approx 7.7 miles there and back.
The Chalamain Gap walk starts from the Sugarbowl car park, on your left as you ascend the road to Cairngorm Mountain, and can be used to access the Lairig Ghru.
Creag a Chalamain offers an excellent viewpoint and a great place to stop for some food and refreshment but, on this particular occasion, the walk was an out and back just as far as the boulder strewn gorge.
Unfortunately the dreader Midge was out in full force at the gorge and was intent on feasting on me!
“The Chalamain Gap is a popular route from here – a ravine filled with a jumble of boulders that makes a spectacular destination on its own, or as part of a journey to climb Braeriach. Further on, the Lairig Ghru pass is a classic long distance hike to Braemar, on the other side of the Cairngorms.” (http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/forest-parks/glenmore-forest-park/sugarbowl)