13th-16th MAY 2021 Ullapool weekend
After a period of 18 months Culter Hillwalking Club held its first weekend away, postponed from 2020 to May 2021 as COVID restrictions allowed. However ongoing restrictions did limit accommodation rooms to single household occupancy, so our happy band of eighteen were scattered around Ullapool hospitality, though remaining centred on the original Moorfield Motel.
Decent weather prevailed the whole duration, with sunny mornings, and a threat of showers in the afternoon, though we all seem to have been fortunate in avoiding the showers. Some members bagged a hill during the drive up on Thursday, or went a short walk after checking in Thursday afternoon. Friday and Saturday were both highlighted by the hiring each day of two guides from Kirkhope Mountaineering, Fort William, taking 6 club members on a traverse of An Teallach, a gruelling day of 17km and 1400metres of vertical ascent but well rewarded with stupendous views in the cool but clear air.
Away from An Teallach club members tackled a huge range of hills from the outstanding opportunities of Assynt and beyond including the following:
Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach)
Bidein a Ghlas Thuill(An Teallach)
Speicein Coinnich (Ben More (Coigach)
Sail Gharb (Quinag)
Spidean Coinich (Quinag)
Sail Ghorm (Quinag)
An Coileavhan (Fannichs)
Meall Gorm ( Fannichs)
Sgurr More (Fannichs)
Beinn Liath Mhor (Fannichs)
Sgur Breac (Fannichs)
A’ Chailleach (Fannichs)
Beinn Liath More a Ghiubhais Li
Probably not an exhaustive list, but certainly an exhausting one!
With that amount of mileage and vertical ascent conquered evenings were pretty relaxed at the various accommodations and an early bedtime was called for
2ND MAY 2021 Walks
Burnt Hill walk – Sandra Sutherland’s report for Jackie’s walk
We met in the car park at Glen Esk for 9.30 am and at 9.32 am the 5 walkers (from 3 households) set off. It was a popular walk on Sunday 2nd May as the car park was already more than half full of cars.
We had excellent views as we headed off; with the loch on our left-hand side, and we could see clearly, at this time, where we were heading; up to Burnt Hill, then along the ridge top to complete a circular walk. Conditions were good, dry underfoot and a clearly marked track.
As we began to climb, we could see mist ahead, but at the same time if we looked down the valley, we could also see sunshine. We began to experience the old Scottish saying of “there’s plenty of weather in Scotland, 4 seasons in one day”.
We had our first stop about halfway up Burnt Hill, lovely views of the loch on our left-hand side, views down the valley to our backs, ahead and on either side hills and above us mist, cloud and approaching rain, sleet, and hailstones.
As we reached the top at 450m and headed to the cairn just before our lunch stop, we now had jacket hoods up, gloves on and were glad of the invention of Gore-Tex.
We headed to the trig point for our lunch stop, views were less clear as we ate our sandwiches. We could see patches of snow on the hills on either side of the loch. After our sandwiches and a hot drink, we were nicely refreshed for the downward walk. Good views, some humorous jokes and for a wee while we had dry weather.
Finally, down to the farm, turned left and headed back to the car park. We were passed by 2 other walkers who quipped “Good weather for ducks.”
We all agreed that we had had a good walk, good views, and good company.
Cnapan Nathraichean – Catherine’s Report on her walk
Aware that it was the May Bank Holiday, we assembled early at Keiloch only to find acres of empty space…everyone else had clearly read the weather forecast…Nevertheless we set off on a rather different route through Ballochbuie - we stood on the padlocked suspension bridge for beautiful views of the Dee (and a dipper), and passed the shiel, being stared at by a group of up to 50 red deer, hardly put out at all by our presence; hmm, tame?
A lovely path rose through the best stands of juniper I’ve seen on Deeside, and we then threaded our way over the watershed towards Glen Gelder, before climbing steeply up to the Prince’s Stone, commemorating Prince Albert’s overnight stay in this somewhat remote area. On up to the high point of 830m and a magnificent view of Lochnagar and its satellites, their snowy slopes gleaming in the sun. The Cnapan itself is also a good viewpoint; then we descended to the new deer fence to follow the path west, where some of us also tackled the sadly overgrown path to the Honka hut, followed by Queen Victoria’s pony track. More tremendous views; better weather would have been appreciated but overall a great day out.
Carn an Tuirc 1019m and Cairn of Claise 1064m – Graham Metcalfe’s walk
We were due to meet in the Sean Spittal Car Park for 9.30am, though due to eagerness from all 5 walkers from separate households we were ready and underway for 9.20am. The day was overcast but with clearly visible snow on the peaks.
The route was popular with other walkers despite the forecast, with several other parties on the mountain including a couple of running couples.
Ascending Carn an Tuirc first, we crossed the snow line to then be in intermittent hail and snow showers though thankfully only a light wind. Hunkering down for a quick coffee break, we then headed along the ridge towards Cairn of Claise. The clouds lifted a little though still with restricted visibility, we reached the summit which was already occupied by another group having a break. Lunch was calling so, finding a convenient wall for shelter, we had another socially distanced break. During lunch, the clouds started to lift and like the opening of a curtain, views towards Caenlochan Glen, Monega Hill and Glen Isla became visible.
With lunch concluded and the summit now clear, we agreed to reascend at least 5 metres to the summit for a team photo and then set off keeping the cliffs on the right. The cloud lifted completely and the sun came out, with several of us rueing the reckless decision not to bring sunglasses given the reflection from the snow.
Coming across a small pond, we saw a family of dunlins having a great time playing together whilst seeking food, then left the track to head North West towards Sron na Gaoithe. By now the clouds had lifted, the sun was blazing, and the panoramic views across the Cairngorms were tremendous.
Ascending Sron na Gaoithe, we spotted a golden eagle flying in the distance (there was a suggestion that this may be a buzzard but that was quickly discounted as talking the walk down). Following a steep descent off Sron na Goithe with a mountain hare watching us from the horizon, we then returned to the cars after 5 hours. It was agreed this had been a super walk, with fantastic company.
Carn Aosda 917m, Carn a’Gheoidh 975m and Cairnwell 933m from Glenshee ski centre – John Adams’s walk report (with a little help from his friends)
The drive up Deeside wasn't promising with low cloud obscuring many of the hills. Fortunately, at the Glenshee Ski car park conditions were better with views up to snow covered tops. All five of us arrived within a few minutesof each other and we set off on the steep ascent up through the ski area towards Carn Aosda. Nearing the top jackets were donned as the cloud had descended and we found ourselves in driving snow and hail on cresting the hill. Following a brief photo stop at the cairn we were quickly underway again. Leaving the track at one point we found ourselves in full winter conditions. A course correction led us back to the planned route and before ong visibility improved enough for us to see the second hill of the day, Carn a'Gheoidh.
Seeking protection from the north winds we found a small gully above Choire Dhirich which offered shelter. Over coffee we admired the views and noticed a network of white lines cutting across the slopes of Cairnwell where snow lay in the deer tracks. Moving on we had a clear path and undulating terrain all the way to Carn a'Gheoidh. By now the weather was much improved with extensive views of the snow-covered Cairngorms from Braeriach to Ben Avon to the north and all the way to the Lomond hills to the south. Another refreshment stop was called for as the conditions were fine and shelter available.
On the return we diverted to Carn nan Sac where a substantial cairn lacked any flat surface capable of supporting a camera for a group photo. Jo's persistence paid off and a group photo was finally obtained (without any camera damage). The cairn is a good vantage point with views across Choire Dhirich to Cairnwell and also down the glen to the Spittal of Glenshee.
A special request for the return was a visit to the highest lochan on our route (867m) where Jo enjoyed a "stimulating" paddle. Unsurprisingly the others in the group didn't feel that the conditions warranted a paddle. From here the route continued with a high-level circuit to Cairnwell where sheltered southern slopes provided another good vantage point. While there, a pair of ptarmigan in grey and white plumage landed close enough for a few photos.
Returning to the route we stopped at the top of the chair lift and chatted to the operator outside his cabin. He was a quite a character and talked to us until he could no longer ignore a shivering family waiting to be allowed to reboard the chairlift to get down the hill. Reluctantly we left our high-level circuit and headed down the track to the car park, passing a couple of mountain hares on the way. Like the ptarmigan they were halfway between winter and summer coats. Reaching the cars, we had completed 15.6 km with 700m of ascent in 6 hours. A fine hillwalking day in excellent company which a few of the group extended by stopping at the Bothy in Braemar.
Greenhill, Strathdon, 570m – Geoff Weighill’s report on his walk
Our group of 6 met at the Strathdon car park opposite the ancient ‘Motte’ (NJ 352129). The forecast indicated cloud in the morning with light northerly winds and temperatures up to 7 deg.C but rain likely in the afternoon. We had arrived during a heavy shower but this soon cleared and we set off in brighter conditions around 10am.
Our route took us NW from Strathdon along a minor road and track, passing the farm at Lost then along the edge of conifer plantation. We took a short break on an open bank, overlooking the bend in the Water of Nochty, and had fine views across the farmland and Ladylea Hill to the N. In the distance to the NW, we could see a tower on the hillside at the site of an old walled garden of the now demolished Auchernach House.
We continued on the track over the fine stone Bridge of Auchernach, then headed W along the Water of Nochty through an area of felled and replanted conifers before emerging into open farmland around Tolduquill. From there, we followed a rough path around the farm buildings then across open moorland to join a rough track above the steep gorge of Quillichan Burn, passing through an extensive area of low lying juniper trees. We continued through the gorge and eventually joined a wide estate track near a shelter before having our lunch stop outside the distinctive octagonal shooting bothy by a pleasant lochan. Wildlife was sparce on this stretch of the walk although we did hear the distinctive call of curlew over the moorland as well as other small birds that were too fast to identify.
After our lunch stop, we headed NE uphill following the boundary fence toward the rough crags of Knapps, where we had fine views looking back over our route that morning. We continued over rough heather to Red Craig then onto Greenhill (570m) where we noted a boundary stone by the gate but no summit cairn. From here we had excellent views across to Morven, Lochnagar and Ben Avon with snow cover on the summits in bright sunlight.
We then headed SE downhill and joined a rough path, taking us around the shoulder of Breagach Hill and down a pleasant grassy track with fine views across the Water of Nochty. The weather had brightened up and the rain held off as we headed through conifer plantations, then into open woodland with tall beech trees before cutting down to join the marked trail back to Strathdon, arriving at the car park around 3:30pm.
This was a fine walk with great views covering 15 km, 330m of ascent and a time of 5.5 hours.
Ripe Hill 519m – James Brownhill’s walk report
Three households turned up at the Balmoral car park visitors centre for the circular walk up Ripe Hill. Considering a forecast of 40% chance of showers it was disappointing that the sky was overcast with steady rain, so waterproofs were donned from the very start. The route took us past the ruins of the old Crathie Kirk, where Queen Victoria’s faithful servant John Brown is burred, probably also for the reason he was born in Crathie. The suspension bridge, significantly wide enough to take a horse and carriage, took us to Easter Balmoral and onward to the well-trodden landrover track towards Gelder Shiel. With the gain in height the rain took on a sleety nature but was never unpleasant. A group decision was made of whether to stick with the planned route, take a looping diversion to Gelder Shiel or just take a “there and back” diversion to the shelter. The latter was chosen and although everything was locked up as expected, there was a very functional (but cheap) lean-to with bench seats where we enjoyed our picnic lunch and drinks. By the time we had finished the cloud was breaking up to give us views of the relatively close, Lachnagar, clad in fresh snow, and to the north west Beinn a Bhuird, impressive when the sun reflected brightly of its expanses of snow.
One member returned to the car park the way we had come, the remaining three headed on track generally northerly enjoying fine views of the recently popular hill Cnapan Nathraichean to our left. Crossing the Gelder burn was the signal to turn off track and heather-bash to the foot of the slopes of Ripe Hill, easy going as the ground was so dry. Our ascent was relatively brief, taking us through a section of windfall timber amongst which were some active wood ant nests giving off a stringent pong of formic acid that the ants produce and squirt to warn off any intruders, and it is believed also to disinfect their nest. A black cloud gave us ten minutes of continuous soft hail stones (official name is “graupel” of Germanic origin) but was not unpleasant as we reached the diminutive summit cairn of Red Hill at 519 metres. An intuitive stroll along its forested broad summit shoulder brought us to the main attraction, the cone shaped, granite Prince Alfred’s Cairn and Memorial built in 1874 to commemorate the marriage of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Marie, Duchess of Russia that took place on 23rd January that year.
Our route off Ripe Hill, where there was no sign of any regular path of ascent or descent, was on a northerly heading to a well maintained landrover track running East/West. At this track one member turned east, and homeward, whilst two of us turned westward following the track which headed into the forest and downhill towards the Dee. We spotted a whole string of wood ant nests on the edge of the forest in a position to catch as much of the sun’s warmth as possible.
Back down into the softness of the Dee valley we decided to go off the Balmoral tarmac and follow the riverbank downstream as close as possible on an occasionally used landrover track. However we were baulked by a fording of the Gelder, and rather than get we feet, side tracked upstream through a couple of fields to cross by the official tarmacked bridge. Immediately after, despite our recent experience, we took anther track to the riverbank and was able to follow that to Balmoral Castle. Noticing the restaurant was serving through a hatch we stopped briefly for a tea/coffee before heading out to get a full frontal view of the Castle. A brief detour to the vegetable garden, immaculately prepared but showing little sing of growth after such a cold month of April, lead us down the drive to the main Balmoral gate, then over Crathie bridge to the car. 19km, 390 metres of vertical ascent, a great walk to loosen up the COVID locked down muscles.
Saunter round Loch Kinord
The weather continued its pattern of showers but thankfully these didn’t include hailstones today. We chose to do a complete circle anti-clockwise starting from Burn o’ Vat which wasn’t too busy when we left at 10am. As we left, it started to rain, not heavily, but nevertheless wetly. Throughout our walk, we saw quite a few people, including a number of dog walkers, horses and quite a few geese as well. To our delight, the shower cleared up on our way back up the Loch which enabled us to have a sunny lunch on the handily placed bench by the Celtic cross. On our return to the car park, cars were lining the road once again, but a number of cones had been placed along the road to deter parkers who were too late for the car park.
4TH APRIL 2021 COVID "Stay Local" walks
Nigg Police Station was the start/finish point for four city-resident club members and one guest for this April 4th COVID “Stay Local” walk. Very appropriately for Easter Sunday the first point of interest was Nigg Kirk, built in 1828 but from long ago not a functioning kirk, believed now to be a storage facility for oil company geological core samples. Although appearing to have modern UPVC windows either side of the nave, on close inspection these are complete fakes being metal sheeting painted rather skilfully to look like windows. It was not determined what was behind the metal sheeting.
It was a short walk across the dual carriageway to the entrance to Kincorth Hill nature reserve. Being a bright, partially sunny morning, but with poor weather for late afternoon, the hill was busy with local dog walkers and many more. It was a direct ascent on wide, easy walking gravel paths that raised our temperatures somewhat, before briefly heading “off-piste” to visit the trig point, on a lightly elevated earthen mound and listed as a lofty 105m, one of our hills for the day. Another slight detour, on path, took us to a viewpoint, which did exactly what it said on the tin, good views of the city from an unusual angle. To the north over the city the beach stretched away; we discerned Elrick Hill and Tyrebagger Forest to the northwest, the flat topped Hill of Fare to the west, and snow-capped Deeside peaks to the southwest, but we were unable to ascertain if these included Lochnagar.
We left Kincorth Hill by a “backdoor”, single track sometimes muddy path that wandered through heather and gorse to the second hill of the day Craighill, notable for a moderate stone cairn and GPS measured hight of 97m. We could hear the rumble of traffic speeding up the close-by A92 from Bridge of Dee but it lay out of site due to the contours of the hill. More distant though we could see southwest to Banchory-Devenick and south to the Charleston Flyover, the city end of the AWPR and the city boundary which we were not allowed to cross. We stopped for refreshments a good while before taking a tortuous route through invasive gorse onto track, and our first experience of tarmac, 200 metres of Redmoss Road. Following well established COVID dog walkers tracks we twisted and turned around disused pastures, passing the burnt-out shell of the former Aberdeen City Rangers Centre, before arriving on the western shore of Loirston Loch, bounded on the far side by the A956 Wellington Road.
More twisting and turning paths through planted tress (of over 35 years ago), pasture and more gorse put us back on Kincorth Hill but the maze of paths offering a different route than in the morning, to emerge suddenly back at our cars for 1.30, ahead of the inclement weather of winds and later snow showers. 8km, visiting a kirk, two hills, a trig point and a loch, all within city boundaries, was a good workout for better times to come.
And Marijke’s report is on the next page:
River Dee – Slewdrum forest -Hill of Tillylair- Bucharn Cairn – Scotly circular At 9 am our small group of five set off from Bellfield and followed the Dee upstream for 4 miles. The weather was spring like, daffodils were dotted along the banks and on the river we spotted first a mallard duck, and later on a pair of goosanders, which made us all reflect on how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. Before our track turned left uphill into the forest we made good use of a socially distanced picnic bench along the river bank for morning coffee. Soon we swapped the views of the river Dee for forest tracks. We walked uphill for a mile and soon views across towards Potarch and the Dee began to open up. After a couple of miles of forest tracks we picked up a small steep footpath that skirted round the edge of the forest and wound its way up to the Hill of Tillylair trig point (248m). Views of the Feugh valley had begun to open up and we soon rejoined the main forest track . At Tillygownie we dropped down towards the hamlet below. We had a lunch stop and visit to the 3000 year old Buchan burial Cairn. When we climbed back up to the forest track we had left, we saw the tower into view. The visit on top of Scolty hill was very brief as we struggled to stand up in the gale. We dropped back into the woods and soon found ourselves back at Bellfield car park, 20km and 5 ½ hours later.
Graham Neish’s report – Pressendye
Meeting point for one of the first 2021 CHC walks was at the base of Langgadlie Hill at 9.30am. This is at the highest point on the road between Muir of Fowlis and Towie. The weather forecast for Sunday was for high winds and snow coming in later in the day. Opening the car door at our agreed meeting point certainly confirmed the strength of the wind! From here the five of us enjoyed the shelter from the wind walking along the four-wheel drive track of Loanend Plantation. This track bypasses Beadshalloch Hill (404m) before a small path is taken to Scar Hill. On route to the masted 526m summit we stopped at a small picturesque lochan and boundary stone to enjoy the 360 degrees views. The plan was to have a tea-break here, but it was far too windy, so we had to take shelter behind one of the communication masts out buildings. Heading south from here and climbing over the rounded summit of The Socach was slightly unpleasant due to being buffeted by the strong westerly wind. Luckily for us, as we veered to the east, the wind decreased and it was quite pleasant on the top of Pressendye. After a short stop here to take in the views, we continued in an easterly direction before picking up a path that would lead us into Cushnie Woods. Various options were open to us in these woods. All participants contributed to finding the shortest route back to join the outward path south east of Scar Hill.
Thanks to all for coming along and making this 5hr walk very enjoyable with excellent company. Two walkers successfully went on the hunt for the trig point on Langgadlie Hill once back.
John Adams’s walk - Cults Kingshill Wood Circuit
After gathering at Cults Primary school our group of four set off through the woods in fine weather. An alteration to the route was required due to an ongoing bridge replacement. However, the alternate route allowed us to admire the fine architecture of the former Aberdeen Convalescent Home built in the 1890s. (Having been various schools over the years it is now under restoration by the Camphill Wellbeing Trust). From here a short road section took us along a popular wooded track within the Hazlehead Golf Course. Leaving the main route via a woodland path, we reached higher ground and stopped for refreshments in the shelter of the trees. Then, successfully skirting the development of the new Countesswells village, we entered woodland again and made our way to Kingshill Wood. A short ascent led to the day's highest point, the trig point at 207m. Sadly, trees obscured much of the view although they provided excellent shelter. Metal covers on an underground reservoir provided a comfortable lunch stop - although the lack of a tablecloth was noted. A circuit of Kingshill Wood gave fine views to the west but also allowed us to feel the chilly westerly winds. Onward through Gairnhill Wood before dropping down through the Westfield Estate we reached Hillhead Road with its open farmland setting. Local woodland paths led us back to the start for a total of 16km in a leisurely 5 hours (lots of chat). As noted at the time, the circuit had a surprisingly rural feel for being so close to Aberdeen City. A good start to the new walking season.
Our group of 5 plus Jessie the dog set off from Brighton Place down an old ginnel for a short stretch beside the Culter burn before taking Lovers Walk and continuing by the River Dee (thrilled to see a dipper!) and on towards Milltimber, where we segued on to the Deeside Way amid hordes of Lycra cyclists, family cyclists, joggers, dog walkers – everyone out to enjoy the day. Having had a good look at the Waterwheel flats, we then turned up Hillhead Road, passing the best-manicured farm ever (spotless concrete – amazing…) but also some beautiful very young Highland calves tottering gingerly around their mums. This road is well-patronised by residents of CBM district, but we left them behind as we dodged under the AWPR and took the track south towards Culter, passing, admittedly at some distance, between 2 of Aberdeen’s ancient March stones. Some cross country took us past Culter’s quarry then entered a scene from the American Mid West where fine soil was blown high in vortices into the air; more bizarre was the sight of 2 empty cars each parked in the middle of a field with not a soul in sight– very X Files!
The Culter helipad is sadly closed down; a tarmac stretch took us to the Easter Anguston farm trails, an inspection of allotments and then into Newmill Hill wood, with stunning views of distant hills, of the rolling farmland around and of Culter itself. A final haul past Culter in Bloom’s St Peter statue and a most enjoyable walk was over. Many thanks for the great company - don’t tell anyone how long we took!
From the Heritage Centre at Peterculter the small Culter Hillwalking Club party (4) set off in the sunshine and headed through the village and up to the Hill of Ardbeck. Yes, we did get a small hill into the walk despite the COVID-19 restrictions on staying local! From the Hill of Ardbeck there were good views over towards the distant hills of Deeside. We passed through the farms of Nether Beanshill and up over the A90 (AWPR). Then within the grounds of Westfield we paused to take photographs of the highland cattle. We then made our way to Binghill. There is a small moss-covered stone circle in a wooded area nearby. A badger’s sett was also observed, but too early in the day for the sight of an actual badger/s. However, while in the wood we did spot some deer making their way to the nearby field. We walked down to the North Deeside Road past the new housing development with its new school. The construction work and all the activity that goes with it must keep the residents living across the road from it interested, annoyed, inconvenienced – did not stop to ask! We carried on down to the Deeside Way former railway, then to the path that leads alongside the River Dee. There were posts with notices on them warning of an electric fence at the side of the path, but no fence. The path along the river goes under the A90 (AWPR), across the road and past horses grazing in the adjacent field. On the Culter side of the A90 there was plenty of evidence that the path had flooded recently. This included erosion of the path and embankment along with fallen trees and landslides. The weather had remained kind to us with some spring sun and warmth before winter made its return on Sunday night with newspaper reports of snow Armageddon again!