Pannanich to Cairn Leuchan

Today’s trip with the Marine Lab starts near Ballater and heads into the hills to the South.

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At the car park there’s a notice about a nearby bit of history

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Looking across to the hills North West clad in autumn dress

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Funcy hoose amongst the trees

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We begin making our way up the track

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Dalmochie camp is a few hundred metres along. During WW2, volunteers from Newfoundland came over to aid Britain’s war effort in the forest of the area. There’s a small plaque that looks quite recent, commemorating one of the camp’s foremen, Ralph Crocker. The forestry commission have more information on the camps here.

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There’s some notice boards also with some history

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If you want to read the text on these you can access a higher resolution version here. We continue onwards through the woods

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An old disused quarry looks like it’s being propped up by a log

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It’s pleasant walking, chilly sharp and sunny

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Beechy and mossy

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I head off track into the woods, lured by a glimmer in the dark, reaching a brief sun beam path of golden green, lush and deep. None but the native beasts have trod here in many a sun and moon

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The spell is broken by an illuminating gap in the foliage, giving first glimpse of distant snowy tops

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Near the house of Glenmuick we break free of the deep woods, blue skies beckon

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We begin climbing up through pines striped by the low autumn sun

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Canopy selfie

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Zooming SW, the crags of Lochnagar.

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We pass a small pool with a dam on the Brackley Burn

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Looking downstream from the dam. Damn nice view

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More tree striped goodness

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It was chilly in the woods but warming up out in the sun, no doubt helped by a 20% gradient

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Nice cirrocumulus high above

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The path follows a number of mans attempts to partition the wilds

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Something watches our huffing and puffing up the hill

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A beady eye in a dark body, besnared to the drystane

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Beyond the wall, is the top of Pannanich Hill, 601m. Looking NE we can see Bennachie 30km distant, and much closer loch Kinord with its crannog on the right

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A zoom into the meanders of the Dee as it passes Dinnet House

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A small cairn NE of the Pannanich trig, zoomed in to magnify Lochnagar

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Up higher now the trail has iced over

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At the trig a group on mountain bikes look NE pondering their next descent

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Beside them there’s another sculpture, a shepherd bent over backwards, stylistically and materially made by the same person as the hare previously. They don’t know why they’re there, but saw more on their climb up

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They head off NE towards Corrienearn and then to cross the rocky slabs of Bellamore Craig, there’s an unmarked trail known to MTBers as ‘Heartbreak ridge’ there that heads back down to the valley floor that is highly rated. Jealous to not be on two wheels today

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They gather breath at Corrienearn, before the descent proper begins

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We continue South past frozen pools

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Hare no.2

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Heading West we scatter some deer

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They continue on their way past the top of the ridge allowing a zoomed in view of Ballater

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Looking back towards Morven

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Our group waits at the fork near Craig Vallich for some laggards, I pop over and have a look over the back. I can hear stags roaring down in the valley though the rutting season is mostly over. We stop for lunch and take in the view. The clear skies are now gone, but it’s very still so not too cold.

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Looking past endless trees deeper into the mountains

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A hut on the track at 583. Not a MBA bothy, an estate hunting hut.

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It’s unlocked (surprising close to a town, and apparently not usually the case) so I have a peak in.

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The crossroads points the correct way to the popular Mount Keen. The fork we follow to Cairn Leuchan, which if following a compass to Keen would seem the right way, doesn’t go much further. No doubt many chose wrong before the sign was up

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The last climb up to the top of Cairn Leuchan

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This rocky mound is the top

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Good view across to Mount Keen

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Skies beginning to hue as the sun sets

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Time to head on back

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Hare 3

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Taking a left down to Balintober, another sculpture, that makes it 3 hares 2 fowk

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The track joins the road beside a memorial and seat

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Some other sculptures nearby in a garden

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Along the road for a bit then back into the woods to see ‘Meml Cairn’ as marked on OS, a splendid monument to an estate owner who was well thought of by the local community. It was restored in recent years, more information on this here

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Light now fading fast past a pool

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You should always take out your headtorch before it gets dark, because after it’s too dark to rummage for it and see it within your bag.. having made this rookie error, I return through the last mile of woods in darkness.

Foodie Footnote

I’m not one to really make a fuss about pub food.. but an exception needs to be made regards Aboyne’s boat inn.. worst meal in years, that I should have sent back, awful. Undercooked Plaice, with a feeble scattering of pickled mushrooms and hazlenuts, a poorly thought out combination, not presented or well cooked and not worth the inflated price. Others in the group were also underwhelmed with various other dishes. A shame as nice staff and a bonny place.

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