Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
6th to 8th June 2014
Gathering in a handful of Corbetts during a backpack between Blair Atholl and Kingussie in the Western Cairngorms.
Beinn Mheadhonach (Middle hill), Beinn Bhreac (Speckled hill), Leathad an Taobhain (Slope of the roof beams), Carn Dearg Mor(Large red cairn) and Meallach Mhor (Large hump).
It all started as the train arrived at Kingussie bang on time and whisked me away on the 40 minute Journey down to Blair Atholl. Alighting from the train all that was now left to do was to walk back to my starting point taking in a few hills on the way. It had been a little while since I had enjoyed the pleasures of walking along Glen tilt and I soaked up the sun as I followed the tree lined River Tilt up stream.
River Tilt near Blairuachdar
The only disruption to the sound of bird song was the occasionally shooting from the firing range on the opposite side of the river.
Carn a' Chlamain
I passed by the bridge I should really have taken and continued on to the one after Marble lodge before cutting back down stream along the opposite river bank.
River Tilt near Marble Lodge
My path now turned up the narrow defile between Dun Seilg and Meall Chlaonain. A Cuckoo made its presence known before perching on top of a dry stone wall while a meadow pipit tried suggesting it stopped loitering and move on. After turning into Gleann Mhairc I was greeted by the sight of a lovely stone bridge looking more than a little bit out of place in this remote Glen.
Bridge over Allt Mhairc
After crossing I slowly made my way up the long southern ridge of Beinn Mheadhonach, steeply at first and a little before the end, before reaching the elongated grassy summit.
Carn a' Chlamain from Beinn Mhaedhonach
By now I had picked up the plaintive cries of Golden Plover that would accompany me for much of the onward journey. There were dark clouds brooding over Beinn a’ Ghlo and it looked like they were shedding rain while heading my way. Although there was at least a couple of hours daylight remaining I thought it might be a good time to stop for the night. An area between the two tops looked inviting but I decided to drop a little to the saddle that leads to Carn a’ Chiaraidh. A fine place to pitch the tent soon had my mind made up that this was the place to camp.
Carn a’ Chlamain from Beinn Mheadhonach
After the tent was up I went on a scouting mission to top up water supplies, I headed initially to the area below a snow bank on the east side of the hills. Running water was soon located and with bottles topped up it was back to the tent to get a brew on as I settled into my surroundings for the night. A couple of Ptarmigan shifted their position on the hillside as I headed back up to toward the top of Beinn Mheadhonach to enjoy the sunset. Mist was creeping over parts of the Beinn Dearg ridge as well as floating north along the Glen between it and my viewpoint. The sky was just starting to colour with subtle orange and blues as I noticed a walker approaching. He was also a little surprised to see me, after passing my tent he had thought I was probably inside. We chatted for a while as the light show continued, more to south rather than west. I probably missed a good photo opportunity but I didn’t want to interrupt our chat. He’d had a very long day, starting early to be on top of Beinn a’ Ghlo around nine before heading over to Carn a’ Chlamain. He planned to take it steady down the Glen to reach Blair Atholl around first light before hitching back to Perth and then take the bus back to Dundee. The mist continued to fill the glens before spilling over my campsite; it was time for a coffee and a wee dram.
Mist fills Glen Diridh
I was woken from my slumber by the sound of my alarm to find the mist had cleared and the sunrise had almost started before me, it was four o’clock. I enjoyed the beautiful start to the day over a brew before my tiredness prompted me to catch another hour’s sleep. It was a lovely start and I eased myself into the day slowly savouring my porridge and another cuppa before setting off. First up was Carn a’ Chiaraidh before taking to the ridge that leads toward Loch Mhairc.
Beinn Mhaedhonach from Carn a' Chiaraidh
My next objective was Beinn Bhreac but in between was a lot of rough ground with plenty of peat bog to negotiate. Deer tracks helped to start and occasionally tracing the side of the burns also seemed to work. But wet feet, in the end, were unavoidable and some of the muddier sections took a bit of weaving about to skirt around.
It took some time but I eventually made it to Tarf water at the point where the burn running down between Bheinn Bhreac and Meall Tionail na Beinne Brice joins it. A Sandpiper was making some noise while busily patrolling the water’s edge looking for a tasty morsel, while a Dipper made a fly past as I watched.
Beinn Bhreac above Tarf water
Crossing the Tarf I then followed the grassy banks of the burn high into the corrie before striking up onto the ridge line and thence the rock strewn top of Beinn Bhreac. It was as I was approaching the top that I noticed a large heard of deer making their way over the lower slopes to the east, possibly as many as fifty hinds. There were expansive views from the top with the distant high Cairngorm plateau taking centre stage. Carn Ealer lay to the east and the Drumochter hills to the west while ahead lay open undulating terrain with many more rounded hills.
Carn Ealar from Bheinn Bhreac
Dropping off the top a little afforded shelter from the stiff breeze and allowed for a comfortable and leisurely lunch with time to way up the route ahead. The walking from here was very varied under foot, short wind cropped heather, grasses, gritty patches of earth, peat hags and boggy moor all put in an appearance, even a couple of snow fields were thrown in for good measure. Whilst I was in no rush, my pace must have ranged through steady, plodding, almost stopped and very occasionally just plain stopped while figuring out how to best negotiate the ground ahead. I was of course enjoying it all, albeit occasionally more retrospectively.
Leathad an Taobhain
The top of Leathad an Taobhain was almost in touching distance when Allt Clais Damh came into view almost literally below my feet. I hadn’t seen the dip coming but it was not actually too bad as I contoured around to the west before the final pull to the top. Another trip to the north side of the hill and I was again in a position to stop and enjoy the sunshine and views out of the wind.
It was also time to formulate or at least finalise my plans for the nights campsite. As the forecast was for an unsettled evening and with the following day’s hills in mind I decided to head down into Glen Feshie. I wanted to avoid the main estate tracks from Meall an Uillt Chreagaich so instead headed over to Glas Leathad-Lorgaidh before dropping down to pick up the path that follows Allt Lorgaidh along to pass under the crags of Slochd Beag. What was probably a fine stalkers path at some stage was now a bit thin on the ground in places. A couple of light showers threatened something more to come as I made Glen Feshie but having gained the path that runs below Creag na Caillich I soon found a nice camp spot under some pines. A little house keeping was required to remove a few loose twigs and pine-cones but the tent was soon up and in good time before the heavier more persistent rain set in. A nearby stream running off the steep hillsides provided for my water needs and I soon had the stove fired up ready take make the obligatory brew. The trees provided good shelter, keeping the rain to a light patter and the wind to a gentle breeze. Bird song faded with the light and I settled down for my evening meal.
Camp in Glen Feshie
The following day dawned bright and breezy and would bring a mixture of sunshine and showers.
Craig na Caillich
My thinking to start was to follow the track down past Glenfeshie lodge, around and up onto the hillside above the lodge and then traverse Beinn Dearg Mhor.
This would involve a good few km walking along hard track but had seemed my best option until I spied a firebreak in the pines on the slopes east of the summit.
Vehicle tracks could be seen giving expectations of reasonable underfoot conditions. The tracks bellied the steepness of the way, rising at such an angle that I did indeed wonder what vehicle had been used to climb them, it was hard enough on foot! Still, the fire break continued to the open hillside and feint tracks continued a little way through the heather, which was never uncomfortably long. I made the ridge a little north of the summit in about an hours and 30 minutes, probably halving the time I would have needed if I’d stuck to my original plan.
Summit Carn Dearg Mhor
When dropping off to Carn Dearg a Plover scuttled through the short heather, wings beating the ground, I guess it was trying to draw my attention from nearby young. If that was the case then it definitely worked, although I didn’t go looking. Lunch was taken on the back of Carn Dearg before following a boggy path onto the slopes of Meall an Dubh-chadha.
Meallach Mhor from Carn Dearg
The western slopes were pleasant going before I descended onto another stretch of rough ground en-route to Meallach Mhor. Fine views opened up as as I approached the rock strewn summit, especially across to Loch an t-Seilich and down the Gaick Pass.
Gaick forest from Meallach Mhor
After a short break I dropped to the bealach between Meallach Mhor and Meallach Bheag to pick up a good path down to Bhran Cottage.
Gnarled tree Glen Tromie
The march along the tarmac of Glen Trommie felt a bit wearing on the feet but I left the hard surface to enjoy the woods of Glentromie. Families of Great and Long Tailed Tits brought alive the airways through the tress, while a little later Meadow Pipits took up the song as the trees thinned and I crossed some open moor.
Woods of Gelntromie
The woodland track took me almost as far as Torcory before I had a final couple of km along the road, passing Ruthven Barracks before arriving back at the station at Kingussie and journeys end.
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