Today’s trip is with Aberdeen Hillwalkers heading west along the River Gairn, similar in scope to a trip I did the previous November on bike, except today would be running.
The start point was slightly further west too, at Braenaloin, and there was a stiff wind from the west which would be in my face all day for all of the planned 27km.
After a few stints of walking at the start to blether to the other walkers, I got my run on and headed along the river.
After about 4 km I met the first of a few groups of DOE kids with large rucksacks who had been out camping, and looked a bit dishevelled. I imagine the previous night with high winds would have been ‘character building’.
Approaching the bridge near Daldownie I noticed something new – rows of tree trunks along the banks. My initial thought of it being flood debris was dismissed: there’s no woods with large trees upstream anywhere, and the arrangement was too regular. It’s almost certainly an environmental measure to create micro-environment patches to assist biodiversity. More here. (I later found out from the project manager that these were placed here as temporary ‘staging’ then lifted in to the river channel at various points along the stretch)
At about the half way point, the legs were still firing good, so took the right fork to go to Loch Builg for an extra leg.
I tromped over to the Lochbuilg lodge ruins nearby for a nosey.
Across and then leaving the River Gairn and it was time to work up a sweat ascending the side of Cluardoch. I took a snack break at the shooting hut which I have discovered is called Culardoch Shieling. It’s a fine design for a wooden hut but I think the architects are puffing it up a bit too much here.
As I got to the nearest and highest bit of track to ascend across the steep heather to the top, I could see a couple others up higher. On reaching the top I got speaking to them, one was a chap from Cumbria (I’d visited there earlier in the year) who does navigation instruction, and was planning on ticking off a corbett nearby. I hadn’t planned on doing more, but I decided to go with him and have blether.
There’s a scratch of an unmapped path on the east side of Carn Liath, and we headed up on to the rocky tops. There’s a few tops on the hill’s plateau and it’s worth heading to the north western ones to get the full view across Glen Gairn to Ben Avon.
I left the chap to go back to grab his bike, went and checked out the shelter and wall to the south, and then proceeded down across deep heather and lumpy/boggy terrain heading south east to regain the track near Tom na h-Eilrig.
My sortie had allowed some of the walkers to catch up and after blethering for a bit I continued. The sun was now breaking through and although I was tiring a bit it was mostly downhill from here on.
The section entering the wood is a favourite bit of trail, just beginning to get some hues of autumn. I took a fork up towards Craggan Rour to check out something new.
The grassy trail ends up at a viewpoint besides which is a quaint hut – known as the fog house, it was apparently built in the 1900s, and it’s a lovely spot overlooking the valley. To paraphrase Burn’s poem ‘The Lass o’ Ballochmyle’
With careless step I onward strayed,
My heart rejoiced in Nature’s joy,
When, musing in a lonely glade,
A wood-hut fair I chanced to spy.
I scooffed the last of my water and continued onwards, there’s an old lime kiln ruin near here but it was one for another day.
Following a faint track across the meadow allowed me to stay on soft ground and rest my weary feet, avoiding the tarmac of the Invercauld track until the last moment. A total of 36km would be the day’s effort.
I met up again with the English chap and his wife in the car park who poured a most welcome cuppa in their camper van. I recommended the Fife Arms as worth a visit before they headed off, and with some walkers still out headed down to the lovely old bridge over the Dee to round off the day before heading home.