Hill of Faretrail running

As sure as night follows day in recent times, after a working week of still blue skies, come the weekend, another storm. Courtesy of Storm Jorge, I tempered my snow-lust to near and small hills, choosing a visit to Banchory’s Hill of Fare for a run with the wind in my back ascending.

A couple streets of town led me from the bus to fine woodland with a multitude of trails, some newly surfaced grit, some old and a bit waterlogged in places.

Ongoing work has laid some nice new trails. Presumably some of the boggy old ones will be left to grow over

I emerged from the woods to cross a busy road then headed up past fields harbouring an old ruin that I’d driven past many times but never had a close look at.

Cluny Crichton Castle
There’s large farm buildings just beside it to the north but a southern view towards the hills is nice

My camera-dalying attracted a suspicious farmer and he tailed me in his jeep past farm outhouses and buildings, but I soon shook him heading back into woods. Climbing higher, views began to develop of some of the other nearby hills, all white-capped. So far on the lower reaches of the Hill of Fare, only pockets of snow.

Burnett memorial on Scolty hill

I investigated a wooden hut and a dilapidated cottage, the hut (unlocked at this moment) might provide a shelter; the cottage was inaccessible but the nearby flat grounds might make a good overnight stealth-camp spot.

Old cottage. Looks like the occasional bonfire still happens here
Climbing through a nice copse of trees

Past Craigbeg the shaded parts of the trail held more snow and ice; I’d been expecting a sprinkling but not much more, perhaps an underestimation.

Shade holding on to snow

Once clear of the trees, although I now got a good view of more distant mountains, underfoot there was a foot of wet snow/slush that was tough going. Unfortunately I’d not got sealskinz socks on, so was committed to wet and cold feet as I schlumphed through the icey morass.

Clachnaben in the distance
Further distance, higher hills
Plenty snow up higher
I’ll be heading over there, doesn’t seem much snow looking on to north facing slopes
The tracks indentation holding a fair bit of snow, slush and snow-melt. Feet? Cauld n weet.
Rocky feature The Skairs on the right , below Craigrath

At The Skairs, I could see some rugged chunks of the underlying geology peeping through the heather. Far below, mild radioactive decay within the granite over eons creates heat, and this site has been surveyed for potential geothermal use.

Over the rolling landy track along the top, I stopped to speak to some hillwalkers picking their way carefully through the runnels of slush, snow and heather. They were heading over to the high point where there’s a mast (made it there last time), I decided that after 14k and a fair bit of tiring crumping and splunging I’d head back down below the snow line.

Splungey slushey slippery. Ended up heather bashing the centre
Looking back to the south, an unusual tall hut
Across the moor
A look north to Bennachie before descending

As the sun lowered, the temperature in the shade was noticeably chillier I negotiated the compacted ice sections with penguin steps without breaking out the micro spikes.

Slippery or crumpy
Sometimes crunchy

There’s a couple old quarries below Brown Hill that I though I’d have a nosey at, missed the first but passed the second

Back below the snow and through the trees
They’re not kidding, the water is surrounded by many feet of cliff, no way out if you fell in
Frozen in the shade

Now off the hill, it was farm tracks and back roads all the way, but a section of road had some wooden steps with a path heading off, too tempting to not explore. The grassy path wound alongside a reedy wetland/ponds – this is the Loch of Leys which was, until drained in 1850, more substantial. The draining did allow excavation of a small island which was revealed to be a crannog from the 13th century or before. A later excavation in 2016 showed carbon-dated fragments from the 1st and 9th centuries AD.

Reedy wetlands, at this time of year properly wet

Today, it looked quite loch-like with winter’s rain and snow filling it out, but I imagine in summer it is a sea of grass. It is a ‘site of interest to natural science’, and efforts are being made to preserve and restore habitat here.

nice little path scouting past the loch

This mostly concluded the day’s exploration; a couple woods near the hill of Banchory crossed through a myriad of paths, then onwards for a pint at the Burnett Arms before the bus home.


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