Saturday, 26 May 2012

Three men and a lady...............walk the Lairig Ghru.                May 23rd.

  Some way into the walk Brian suggested that the things you need for a great day out were;
A warm day with sunshine and blue skies so you could walk in T shirt and shorts if you wanted;
A gentle breeze on your back to keep you cool and blow away moisture;
Superb scenery:
Good company.
 On May 23rd, walking the Lairig Ghru we had them all, surprising considering how cold and wet May had been up to May21st. The gods smile on the righteous!
  The Lairig Ghru is a mountain pass walk in the highlands of Scotland, connecting Speyside with Deeside, and is approximately 19 miles long by foot, 60 by road.
 The trip had been discussed for months, planned for weeks and finally undertaken. Four of us, me, Harry the routemeister, Brian the punmeister and his wife Margaret, gadgette.
Harry and I met Brian and Margaret in Pitlochry and we drove in a convoy of two cars to Coylumbridge near Aviemor.There walking gear and some clothes were transferred to Harry's car and the four of us drove to Braemar, leaving Brian's car in Coylumbridge.
In Braemar we signed in at the Schiehallion guest house, where we were made most welcome. With time to kill we walked around the small town.
Pub quiz question. Where was Treaure Island written?
Answer: Here
The birthplace of Jim lad, Blind Pugh, Long John Silver and a crew of characters.
                                The plaque is above the door.

  A new feature: a system of barrels along the same lines as flitches to grade pubs.
We went to a hotel/restaurant /bar for a drink. The cheery Northern Irish barman informed us that there had been two and a half feet of snow in the Ghru the day before. Very encouraging. The bar had two ales, I drank one called Trade Wind, but can only award two barrels. like the moon the pub had no atmosphere.
Moving on to the Braemar Lodge for dinner we found that establishment had food but only bottled beer. No barrels. But Margaret enjoyed a glass of wine.

 Next morning three of us enjoyed the traditional Scottish breakfast, which is remarkably like the traditional English breakfast. Our hostess warned us to watch out for large stags which could be a nuisance and small tics which could be trouble. Then off to the Linn of Dee, some six miles out of Braemar, to start the walk.  The map needed for this walk is OL403 in the explorer series and the car park is at GR0657783445 approximately.
We paid the parking fee, a mere £2, for 24 hours, kitted up and set off at 9.45 am. There are several footpaths leading out of the car park, the one needed for the walk is signed Lairig Ghru. Easy.
Getting ready for the walk at the Linn of Dee and the starting point.
  The first section of the walk, to Derry Lodge, less than two miles, is easy going through woodland and open country. The footpath is well made up and is also popular with mountain bikers who can sneak up behind you but are generally very friendly.
                    T shirts and blue skies. Harry, Brian and Margaret near Derry Lodge.
 Leaving Derry Lodge the path deteriorates but is still fairly flat as it follows the stream up Glen Luibeg until it reaches the Luibeg bridge. Probably in the height of a dry summer it is possible to cross the stream below the bridge but on our trip, with melt water pouring down we went those extra yards and crossed the bridge.

                Luibeg Bridge and below, the stream.

   From the bridge the path begins to climb steadily, but never really steeply all the way to the Pools of Dee. About a mile beyond Luibeg Bridge the path enters the Lairig Ghru proper. And this is where the scenery really starts. On the left hand side the Devil's Thumb, Cairn Toul and Braeriach, on the right Ben Macdui. All of them snow covered but with the heat of the day the snow was melting fast and the streams roared down the mountain sides, providing cold fresh water on a thirsty day.

                                         The Lairig Ghru, about 12 miles to go!
 Like many others I suffer from a complaint called "earworm".  Usually I sing early Lennon- McCartney tunes to myself, like "I've just seen a face" or "Eight days a week" or Paul Simon songs, but today's worm was "Cool Water", the Marty Robbins version of course.
 About 1pm a Herbiespot was declared. Sitting in the sun the temperature about 20 degrees (68 F) surrounded by some of the most magnificent scenery Britain has to offer, eating sandwiches and drinking ice cold mountain stream water takes some beating.

                                       Herbiespot par excellence.
  Lunch over we continued the steady climb to the top of the pass, the Pools of Dee.
Geography time, put on the jacket.
The Pools of Dee appear to be over the divide and not to have a stream emerging from them. They are not and they have, the water goes beneath the stones on what appears to be a morraine and flow down to the river Dee. And while we are at it, it is a U shaped glacier carved valley. Back to the gym.

   The Pools of Dee, not quite at the summit of the pass.

                                            U shaped indeed.
  The path from the Pools is the hardest part of the walk. From here to the top of the pass (which stands at 747m or 2450 feet) the ground is strewn with boulders and large pieces of rock, ankle breaking territory if you don't take care. And there were occasional snow patches, depth and hardness unknown.

                                           Harry in the snow.

    Picture gallery. After all the scenery is part of the walk, especially this one.

        The Devil's Thumb, Cairn Toul and Braeriach.

                                           A fat plodder.
                         Views like this make the effort worthwhile.
  The rocky path continued  over the summit still with patches of snow and streams running down from the melting snow on the peaks. We made use of one snow patch buy filling our water bottles with the cold powder, it melted quite quickly in the heat, providing a refreshing drink.
 The path emerged from the rocks and was now going gently downhill. At one point another path led off to the left, don't take it, it wanders back to Braeriach. The Lairig Ghru walk goes steeply downhill on a well built path towards a stream which it crosses. On one of the large boulders is a memorial plaque to a gentleman called Sinclair, a D. Litt and Colonel of the Officer Training Corps at Edinburgh University. Sadly he died on the Cairngorms in 1954. Beyond his memorial the path levels off and crosses moorland before entering Rothiemurchus Forest. The first stretch of woodland looks like a remnant of the Caledonian Forest, firs and pines with a few birches and spaces in between and a sweet little notice asking if you have seen any reindeer in the area. Looked hard, never saw one, perhaps in the dark you can spot red noses in the distance.
 Once you cross the Cairngorm Club Footbridge the almost attractive woodland reverts to being a wood factory with pines arranged in neat lines. Looks awful.

                 Looking back from Rothiemurchus Forest.

              Getting very near the end! This path seemed to go on forever but was easy walking if a little on the dull side after the Ghru itself.
  Brian and Margaret were about 15 minutes ahead of Harry and I (We had stopped to take photographs, that's my excuse!) and as we approached the car Brian ordered us to dump our sacs in the boot of the car, keep our own boots on and get in.  It was 7.30pm. Within minutes we were in the Bridge Hotel downing a pint of Stag I give this pub 5 barrels, if it only sold Watneys Red I would give it 5 barrels. The Stag was one of the best pints I have tasted for a long long time and was quickly followed by a second.

                The first mouthful went down quickly, and very well too, followed by a few more.

                                Four weary but very happy walkers. still with their boots on!
   As this was the end of the walk here are the readings from good old reliable Higear.
  Number of steps  :     43308               Miles 19.661
 Reluctantly leaving the 5 barrel Bridge we drove to Aviemore, signed in at the Cairngorm Guest House where we warmly welcomed by Peter in the most exotic braces I have ever seen.
  After showering we went to the Cairngorm Hotel, as opposed to the Cairngorm Guest House for dinner of fish and chips and some more Stag, after all we were dehydrated with the walk. We decided to end the day with a whisky night cap, we deserved it.
Back in the guest house sleep came very quickly. On Thursday morning we had a leisurely full Scottish breakfast and drove back to the Linn of Dee. The route we took goes through Coylumbridge, Nethy Bridge, Tomintoul and Corgarff. It is one of those roads that should appear in a list of "Britain's Beautiful Drives" that appear in the weekend  sections of quality newspapers! Back in Braemar Brian and Margaret decided to stay on for a couple of days, Harry and I drove slowly home, stopping at Carfraemill for afternoon tea.

For more details of this walk, and others too go to
It is a terrific site, gives a distance for the walk of 19 miles and also gives ascent, a profile of the route, a map and several descriptions of the walk. The site suggests the walk should be done from Coylumbridge to the Linn of Dee but given the conditions, which were perfect, I think we did this walk the right way round and the other gruesomes agree.
  I think this is the longest and most gruelling walk I have done for some time and to be honest feel quite proud of our achievement Who knows, could repeat it next year.

Contains OS data(Copyright) Crown copyright and data base copyright 2012.

The following are a selection of Harry's photographs. He takes excellent pictures, not like me, I'm just a snapper
Harry the photographer
Brian and Margaret

Me, Margaret and Brian
Resting by the Dee
                         Looking back.

Photographs by permission of Harry Nagel.