The Vault Regulars

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Creag Choinnich 538M

From anywhere in Braemar you can see the impressive hill of Creag Choinnich that is located just to the east of the village .
It's not a long walk so we didn't rush get going. We had a wonder around the village where there was an outdoor gear market sale on. We didn't buy anything.
Then the usual tourist bits, the information centre, the art gallery, The Old Bakery and the Co-op for supplies.
Many large motor bikes had descended on Braemar and i mean many. So it took some time to get away with so much engineering around.

Eventually we did get going, passed the chippy and the house with the old railway signs, past the fire station and into the woods. There are numerous paths and not wanting to do the direct short route we picked a path that skirted the perimeter and heading east. It was a good path but eventually became more of an animal track. It was heading up rather than down and so followed it.
More off shoots of the path caused some head scratching but we decided that as long as the paths are going up eventually we will reach the top. That is exactly what happened and to be honest the views we got down to Invercauld bridge and across Glen Callater were wonderful.
Through a bit of a boggy mire brought us to the top and it was well worth the effort.
The day was perfect weather, no breeze, clear tops, the kind of day you wished you had done something higher. However we were where we were so we sat down and enjoyed the scenery for about 1 hr including a late lunch.

The downward path was quite steep in parts and harder than the path we had taken to the top. A number of people were sweating cobs as we passed them going the opposite direction. Is the bar open at the top we were asked. Of course was the reply.

 Looking back to Glen Callater

 Looking over towards the Lion's Head.
 Almost there.
 Creag Choinnich top

 Braemar and the upper Dee 
Trinkets at the top.

Braemar Castle

At the campsite you wouldn't believe where a couple had put their tent. The camping area has 2 fields, 4 small tents shared this expanse. They had put a large tent up with the guy lines going straight in front of our tent door. I don't mean 6ft away i mean 1ft away. The Germans were sat around a picnic table about 30ft away and they just shook there heads and raised there arms as though to say "we know". What kind of people do this, why do they think it's ok?What do they have between their ears.
Because our tent is freestanding, the removal of 4 pegs was all that was required to move it 15ft away. It wasn't far enough, when the couple came back from the shops they started on the booze and got louder and louder, in Scottish accents, (not that i mind Scottish Accents) until as dusk arrived i had had enough and moved the tent another 30ft away so we could barely hear there stories of woe.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Onto Braemar.

Its a nice trip from Cannich to Braemar which we did via Nethy Bridge, Brown Bridge, Tomintoul and Cock Bridge.
Stopping off for a coffee in Tomintoul was a bit of a shock to the system, when we entered what used to be the old Fire Station we were met by a very enthusiastic lady who never came up for breath during our entire stop. The cafe itself is full of memorabilia and photographs of the old station and is worth a visit.

I have been to Braemar campsite before and it was good to see that it remains a top site. The tent area was empty so we had the flattest bit of ground.
Out and about in Braemar we found out that the Fife was still closed and that it will not re-open until 2018.
The Old Bakery was open unlike Challenge week when it was closed. I believe it was closed because of a funeral.

Without the Fife open,  Braemar is a sad watering hole. The Invercauld Hotel has a public bar but its a bit sterile and not cheap. The Moorfield is lifeless as most hotel bars can be. The owners are pleasant enough and chatty and the beer was good.

I hear that what used to be the Off Licence opposite the Fife, which closed down last year, may re-open as a pub, so fingers crossed for that.
Back at the campsite we had neighbours, three tents belonging to German Motorcyclists. Pleasant folk.

The weather was pretty good and the morning brought the same. Sheila wanted to see Mar Lodge in the flesh having seen numerous photographs before. So it was that we headed off walking along the path on the south side of the River Dee until it petered out and we had to join the road.

Just before the car park into Moronne Birkwood i spotted a number of female Deer on the opposite river bank and watched them for a while cautiously moving west until at one point i counted that there were around 60 of them. What a sight, magnificent.
 Mar Lodge is a wonderful building and always impresses. It was a pity that the Great Hall was locked because it would have been good to see all the antlers on the ceiling again. However, we made our way to the back of the lodge and had a seat in the courtyard for lunch. A sign at the gate explained that TGO Challengers should go to the stable block for refreshments.
We must have seemed a bit out of place to the staff who passed us with a cheery hello but nobody asked us to leave or why we were having lunch in their back garden so to speak.
Some estate workers came out of the usual challenge watering hole and by looking at them i would guess that renovations are under way in those buildings and that is the reason why the estate had moved the refreshments.
 Stunning Mar Lodge.
Challengers Notice.
 It was indeed nice to wander around at a slow pace, knowing that we didn't have to be anywhere by a certain time or had to do a certain mileage. My foot situation had improved and i was not feeling any pain. I was still walking in my Brookes Cascadia's rather than my Ecco Terrains however.

Just before the gate into the Morrone Birkwood a Golden Eagle was spotted, this was probably my first sighting of an eagle, at least from what i can remember.
Going through the gate into the woods we were faced with a choice of paths, 3 in fact. I chose the right one which happened to be the wrong one. It was rising and bending away in the wrong direction so having retraced our steps then picked the centre path which proved to be the right one. I didn't have a map with me.
The Morrone Birkwood is a very nice trail, it passes a small lochan at NO126901, just before leaving the forestry. Today it was wonderful, almost glass like, finding a place to sit down we enjoyed a coffee and what was left of lunch. Still warm and clear the views from the viewpoint cairn were excellent with Carn Toul fleeting in and out of the cloud to the west.

 From the Moronne viewpoint looking west.

 Zoom to Carn Toul.

  Braemar Duckpond.
  The track heads down back into Braemar via the duckpond from where we headed to the Moorfield for a beer and to see the Queens seat in the Memorial Park where the Highland Games take place.
Todays walk was not long but full of interest and good views. One not to be missed.
16km, with 214m of ascent.

A bit of a memory jogger in Glen Cannich.

We were leaving Cannich post breakfast in the Bog Cotton Cafe but after chatting with a local who lived near Loch Mullardoch Sheila talked me into driving down Glen Cannich to have a look at what the lady had described as wonderful and usually a calm (weather wise) glen.

In 2014 JJ and I walked over the top from Glen Strathfarrer and down the Liatrie Burn to Glen Cannich during the TGO Challenge, so it was a memory jogger for me to return and be able to see what we couldn't see due to the low cloud and persisting rain on that day.

I was quite amazed at just how long it took me to drive to Liatrie and even more surprised that i didn't recall it being so long walking it in 2014.
However things are now very different at Liatrie. I remember a peaceful glen with just the infrequent passing car on the single track road. Now there were huge excavators, massive dump trucks and a road up the Liatrie burn.
A large work shop had been built and it didn't look temporary either. What was once a green and pleasant land now had turned industrial.

Passing Liatrie i spotted what i thought was a Peregrine Falcon sat on the telegraph wires and so i pulled over to get the camera. It was being dive bombed by Mr and Mrs Meadow Pipet. Only when it took flight i realised it was a Cuckoo. We could hear Cuckoo's all along the glen but it is very unusual to see one close up.The Pipet's were certainly giving her short shrift.

At the Dam across Loch Mullardoch, the north side was again taken over by industrial machines and machines were moving along the track to Allt Tiage where another hydro scheme was being built.
We didn't hang around but drove across to the south side of the dam and parked up. It was blowing a hoolie and bitterly cold. Just the opposite of the reason why we had driven down here.

 Looking down Loch Mullardoch east to west you cannot feel the cold or the 
strong wind that was battering us taking this image.
 Looking across the dam south to north.
It was so cold and blowy that we only spent a few minutes here, preferring the warmth of the car. The good thing was that just as we set off back down the glen we spotted deer at the side of Loch a Bhana. They didn't scarper as most deer do when close to humans. In fact they were not in the least bothered as i approached them to get these photo's. 

 It made the drive down to Loch Mullardoch worthwhile but we had to now get going, our next camp site was in Braemar.

Monday, June 13, 2016

A stranger sort of day.

With enough of the afternoon left we drove to the car park at the east end of Loch Affric. The pay and display machine was broken which was a bonus. A number of short walks can be had from here as the information boards display and also longer ones that follow the loch and river out to sea or the numerous Munro's which surround the area.
When we walked down Gleann Beag to see the Brochs the other day my left foot and boot were not happy partners. For some unknown reason, after walking in them for about 50 miles or so I was getting pain underneath my heel and up my Achilles' tendon. Plantar Fasciitis I thought.
I limped back to the B and B but having inspected both foot and boot, I couldn't find a visual problem but the pain persisted.
When I put the boot back on the pain was worse. I was worried and limped for the rest of the day in my trainers.
What's that got to do with today you may well be thinking. Well it restricted what I was prepared to set out and do, hence the numerous short walks.
So looking down Glen Affric was very trying as it was in my head to go part way along the Affric track, north bank, for about an hour and then return. As it was we strolled by the river on the marked path and then went up to the viewpoint that is Am Meallan. It is a great view.
Back at the car I noticed an elderly chap sporting a day pack and walking poles and for a moment just wondered, as you do, where he was going. Then the thought was gone as we had a sandwich and coffee.
Driving for only a couple of minutes and approaching Chisholme bridge, said chap was there and I thought he was indicating to us to go across the single track bridge before him, which we did with a smile and a wave. Across the bridge i slowed and looked in the rear view mirror.
This chap wasn't letting us go as I thought, but was in trouble.
He struggled across the bridge and I got out and asked if he was ok.
His back had gone He replied.
Making room in the car, which was loaded with camping gear we got him in.
It turns out he had set off from Drum yesterday and stayed in Cannich last night and had set out to walk to his booked accommodation in Morvich today. Cricky I thought, that's a good plod for anyone let alone an elderly chap.
I said I could give him a lift to Cannich or to somewhere to stay and he replied, rather surly I thought, "well I suppose that will have to do, I' m going to Morvich".
As much of a Good Samaritan as we were there was no way I was going to Morvich. If he had been a bit more grateful I probably would have taken him back to Drum.
As it was, we dropped him at the bus stop where there was only a short wait for the bus to Drum which would then put him on a bus route to Morvich.
When we came out of the grocers he was sat on the wall on the opposite side of the road to the bus stop. He said to me, "where am I", Cannich I said, where you said you started from this morning.
He shouted Cannich down the phone. He had ordered a taxi, from where I can only guess, Drum but it could well have been anywhere.
I shook my head and left.

In the Slaters, the chap who said he was walking from The Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness came over and asked, What's the walk like from Altbeithe to Cannich?
I looked kind of blankly at him and questioned, to get here you must have passed there already?
No he replied, I walked to Morvich and then drove to here.
He was telling me things that made absolutely no sense whatsoever for someone doing that walk.
I wondered if I had "talk to this idiot" tattooed on my forehead. Sheila went next door, bought a bottle of wine and was about to walk out when as luck would have it, he stopped mid sentence and left, got in a car and drove away.

What a day. I must stop taking the tablets. Sorry no photographs at this time.

Friday, June 10, 2016

An enforced wee break.

I was hoping i had enough time to get all the posts released on our Scotland trip but a flight is waiting and we have to be on it. I will write the remaining posts while i am sunning myself in Greece, not grease. The problem is my photo's are on my desk top so i will add them when we get back. . I would have put them on the cloud but again, time.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dog Falls and Viewpoint 306 metres.

A short drive onto the other side of the glen, is Dog Falls. There is also a good viewpoint that overlooks Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin, Loch Affric and an array of Munro's.
The car park at Plodda was free whereas Dog falls had a £2 charge. Reasonable considering there are conveniences.
A wide logging or estate track crosses the river and is well marked as well as numerous new information boards. We are really into tourist territory now.

 Viewpoint 306 metres. Lunch stop.

 River Affric
The falls themselves are somewhat disappointing but the walk around the estate is worth doing. The viewpoint at 306 metres is worth doing, and a great place to have lunch, however the estate need to manage the trees as they are restricting the actual view up the glen. It is only around 5km, but again it can be extended if you wish.
Not shown on the OS map 1:25,000 is the path that runs parallel to the road on the north side of the glen. This keeps pedestrians off the single track road. 

The Affric/kintail way crosses here also.

A walk around Plodda falls.

A good, quiet nights sleep apart from the folk who arrived at 10.30pm and pitched about 30ft away from us. To be fair, they pitched as quietly as possible so i am not complaining other than the fact that they woke us up.
We were waiting for the cafe to open, so brewed up on what was another glorious morning. The crew that arrived late had already packed up and were about to leave.

Once Sheila in the cafe had fed us and had us laughing with her bubbly chat we set of for Plodda.
The road to Tomich from the A831 was closed so we had to use the Affric road adjacent to the Power Station.

The drive up to Plodda car park is a little challenging if you don't have a 4 x 4 vehicle,  so care and low speed is required. Tomich is a very nice and obviously well off Hamlet. The home of the first bred Golden Retriever, as the plaque commemorates.

There is also a grand water trough (or memorial fountain) for Lord and Lady Tweedmouth who owned the Guisachan Estate.

The landowner has applied to build 6 turbines near the Tweedmouth Memorial on Beinn Mhor, 1800 metres to the south of the village. This would obviously spoil what has to be one of the most lovely areas in Scotland. To consider putting turbines up here is going to be a tough decision, but i suppose the argument will be that there is already electricity pylons here so why not turbines as well.

Beinn Mhor, the proposed site for 6 turbines.
Plodda falls lies on the track which eventually leads to Cougie, a place that will be well known to Challengers. However i bet many folk have walked passed the falls without paying an awful lot of attention to it because of having to be elsewhere.
So this is what its like.
Just a short walk down from the Cougie track there is a viewing platform which is right above the fall. You do get a sense of vertigo when you look over. (Well i did anyway). 
 There are 2 trails leading from here, the short falls walk which is only 20 minutes plus whatever time you spend admiring the view or the Tweedmouth trail which takes about an hour with stops.
 The photo doesn't convey the depth of the drop.
 The track descends to the base of the fall where viewing is safest on the left bank. The right bank shows where a rusty fence remains in pieces. I guess this was from Victorian days and over time it has been washed away.

 The old fence visible above Sheila.

 Track through some large redwooods that leads to Guisachan House.
 Lots of Bracket fungi.

There are paths all around this area so walks can be extended to what ever length you want.
We are off to Dog Falls and a Viewpoint.

Arrival in Cannich.

We sadly said our goodbye's to Glenelg and to Martin ? who was walking the whole Scottish Coastline. What wonderful scenery and very friendly locals.
Back over the Mam Rattagan Pass with stunning views of Kintail and Loch Duich and onwards via lunch in Drumnadrochit to Cannich campsite.

Views from Mam Ratagan Pass

We pitched our tent and later in the evening the site manager came over and recognised me from when i camped  in 2014. That was nice.
The site was very quiet with only 3 other tents within any sort of distance. No kids, no music, just peace and quiet.No midges here either.

Cannich campsite has a cafe franchise called The Bog Cotton, run by another Sheila. Its a nice place, friendly and decent food. It opens at 9.00am every day and around 7.30am on TGO Challenge week.

Showered and changed we headed off to the Slaters Arms. Unfortunately most folks first sight of the village is the run down, empty, dump of a place that used to be The Glen Affric Hotel.  Part of it was on fire when we passed and the Fire Brigade were in attendance.
It seems that the building is full of asbestos and no one wants to pay for its removal or demolition. Cannich is poorer for this eyesore and eventually someone will have to bite the bullet. Sooner the better in my opinion.

The Slaters had quite a few in for meals and only a few folk at the bar. We chatted to the landlord who was telling us stories, funny i may add, of this years Challenge crowd. He is very upbeat about the Challenge and wanted me to convey that he will always try his best to ensure everyone who wants food gets it, even though officially the kitchen closes at 8.00pm.

The quiet after the storm.The Slaters Arms.
Whilst chatting, another guy joined in and it came about that he was walking Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness. More on this later.
Tomorrow we go to Plodda Falls, Dog Falls and a trip down to Loch Affric. Doing the touristy bit.

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