This was an A to B from Inver to Keiloch taking in the hills of Meall Gorm (617m) and Craig Leek (635m). 15 members of the club arrived at Inver at 9.30am. The first job of the day was to transfer most of the cars over to Keiloch car park, and for the driver s then to return back to Inver all in one car. As it was too chilly to stand around, an advance party led very ably by June Barclay, set off up towards Tullochcoy, where they were soon overtaken by our leader Bill and his fellow drivers. As we gradually walked up the contours, panoramic views of the Lochnagar range opened up on our left. However, ominous snow clouds seemed to be brewing over mighty Lochnagar, but we decided to ignore these for now and live in the moment. By the time we reached the settlement of Auchtavan the first snowflakes had arrived. We had morning coffee at a very civilised picnic bench and had a little nosy inside the abandoned blacksmith's house and the cottage with the 'hanging lum'
All refreshed we set off again along the track into remote Glen Fearder. By now there was snow on the road and in the sky, but as there was no wind and visibility remained good, we were unconcerned. Our party forded several streams without any mishaps and then continued the winding track uphill. We stopped at the foot of Meal Gorm for lunch and one of our party noticed on the map that the next bit of the walk was straight up straight down and straight up and straight down again. And that is exactly what we did next. We climbed steeply off path through the heather and, despite the swirling weather fronts on the tops, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the Dee valley. Straight ahead off us rose Craig Leek, our next hill. So down we went again and then up again following an incredibly long stone wall bedecked in the most lovely freshly fallen snow. We scrambled up the first craggy false summit and then very soon we were on top of Craig Leek. The descent of Craig Leek down a steep wooded hill side proved to be the most challenging half hour of the day. At the bottom of the hill we picked up the circular walk track and after a couple more kilometres, we arrived back at Keiloch car park, 16km later at around 4pm, ready for refreshments at the Bothy cafe in Ballater.
Sunday Saunter the Fog House and beyond…..
Just as the Met Office predicted, the snow started falling at 11am, the very time that we set out from Keiloch car park. We made our way at first north east before turning off the main track to Felagie and taking the very comfortably gradiented path upwards in the direction of Craig Leek. But this wasn’t to be our focus for today as we turned back on ourselves and took the lower path to the ,Fog House, where we had our first stop, comfortably seated in the dry under the heather (i.e. “fog”) roof while watching the snow gently falling outside. From here we descended to take a good track again with a pleasant gradient, which leads in the direction of Carn Liath. We turned off this track to a motorway-type track, pausing for another bite to eat, sheltered by the trees from the still-falling snow, seated on some handily felled logs.
As we were eating our sandwiches, we noticed from the map an interesting track which looked very tempting descending to the valley floor along the side of the Allt Dourie, so instead of following the motorway, we turned off and started our descent. The only problem with this was that we had to cross the Allt Dourie farther down and there was no bridge. Sadly, all of us didn’t get through the ford without mishap. Soon we reached the tarmac road past Invercauld House which took us back to Keiloch. We saw 5 people on our route, a few vehicles and a number of houses with dogs who greeted us ecstatically, from their cages – their bit of excitement for the day. But the highlight of the walk had to be the bull, a lovely small fawn highland cow who we just couldn’t believe would be able to live up to its reputation on the sign on the gate of being fierce. It eyed us placidly as we went on our way.
This was a bit of an experiment to see how this walk went the opposite way round to the way we’d done it before. The initial climb gave us a marvellous view of the Felagie valley, but it wasn’t so good ending the walk on the hard tarmac surface.
20TH JANUARY 2020 Creag nam Ban
Thank you, Marijke! A brilliant idea to go for Creag nam Ban (527m), with its history of 16th witch burning: but no such horrors were evoked on this lovely steep little summit, the whole ridge glowing in crisp winter sun. The route starts easy along the Glen Girnock track to Bovaglie farm, abandoned after many centuries– there are still bruising, threshing and separating machines left after the last farmer threw away the keys in 1981 (correct technical details available from Bill!).
The easy clamber on to the ridge is rewarded by possibly the best views of Deeside. Balmoral rests in a gentle bowl of field and forest, rimmed by the scatter of lower hills, and the snowy Cairngorms provide a magnificent backdrop to the whole. Very fine indeed.
James claimed we found nine cairns altogether, including the one marked DK, and assumed to be dedicated to Queen Victoria’s mother; Creag nam Ban itself seems to have an excessive number for such a neat summit, but June spotted its most famous, sited lower down and boasting not only a dead tree trunk but the remains of flags too, possibly celebrating the 400th anniversary of the burning.
An old grassy track bordered by juniper took us back to Littlemill in the dying sun, a lovely finish to the day. Oh, and I nearly forgot the deer, two groups of barely two dozen each, sheltering in the lee of the hill, away from the stiff but almost warm breeze; the only wildlife we saw.
As always, many thanks to the drivers, and congratulations on your impressively tidy parking in the limited space!
Our group of 16 travelled to Tarland in shared cars and met at the village square (NJ 480045). The weather was dry with good visibility and no frost but fresh SW winds were forecast for the tops.
The walk was a clockwise circular route from Tarland and the group set off around 9:30am. We headed NW from the village on tarmac road towards East Davoch then on track to the edge of a forest plantation before turning NE uphill to a gate where we entered the woods. The wind was starting to pick up so we took advantage of shelter at the edge of the woods for our first refreshment break. From this vantage point, we had fine views of the hills around Deeside with clear tops visible on Clachnaben, Mount Battock and Mount Keen although the tops of Lochnagar and Morven were in cloud.
After the break, we continued uphill on good track through the established forest then into a vast area of newly planted trees covering the flank of Broom Hill, enclosed by a new deer ,,fence. Our route joined a track heading ENE up the ridge to the summit of Broom Hill (576m) before dropping to a saddle just south of Humphrey's Well, then ascending again to the summit of Pressendye (NJ 490090, 619m). We had our lunch break in the shelter of the summit cairn with fine panoramic views across the Deeside hills to the south and the hills to the north, including The Buck, Tap o'Noth and the Bennachie range. The cloud had lifted revealing the summit of Morven although Lochnagar remained in cloud.
The return route headed SE down a steep flank on good track and into open woodland where we took a short detour to the viewpoint cairn on Pittenderich (NJ 496079, 508m). We then returned to the main track, descending though woods then open moorland, where we were rewarded with good views back towards Pressendye and across the farmland to Morven. The route skirted the woodland above Douneside, a country house retreat in the grounds of the MacRobert Estate and finally through an avenue of tall beech trees to join the road back to Tarland and finish our walk in the village square at 2:15pm.
This had been a fine walk to start off the New Year, covering some 16km with great views across Deeside and Donside although very little wildlife was visible, apart for some buzzards and geese. Our group stopped for refreshments at the Commercial Hotel in Tarland where we were joined by 4 members from the club who had done the shorter walk to Pittenderich. A great attendance from the Club and many thanks to all the drivers for providing transport.
Sunday Saunter, January 2020, Pittenderich
As far as I remember, the last time the Club did this walk was in December for a Christmas walk and the leaflet "Walks Around Tarland" is very useful for this route since not all the paths are marked on the OS map and the route taken is a mixture of different colour-coded routes. When we parked in Tarland, it was remarkably windy and colder than at home and we wondered if we were wearing sufficient warmth. We set off up the long drive to Allastrean House, turning left off the main track to stop briefly at a pleasant viewpoint with a seat before crossing the Queen's View Road and heading upwards past Cock Forest Lochan to enter the woods and our first real respite from the wind. We therefore had lunch here and continued up to the summit of 508m from which there was a good view and the sun was beginning to shine.