We were very lucky as the forecast was poor and we were blessed after a massive snow dump on the Thursday evening which left the Cairngorms area with plenty of good snow. Due to the ongoing restrictions we had to change our venue to Boat of Garton, which was in tier 1. Everybody arrived on the Friday evening and enjoyed an unusual experience – we were allowed alcohol in the bar.
The Saturday walk was a circuit of the Corbett Meall a’ Bhuachaille. We took the less conventional way via Loch Morlich and around the back of Glenmore Lodge. The going was hard as the snow at this altitude was slushy. We had a lunch break at the Ryvoan Bothy but instead of sitting inside we brought the chairs outside because by this time the weather was clear and mild. On climbing up the hill, the snow was a lot firmer and this meant it was much easier underfoot. There was no views at the very top as the cloud was at about 500 metres. Once we all made our way up we didn’t hang around too long before descending straight down to the cars.
After the late booking and under the circumstance the Boat Inn provided us with good food and drinks (the mulled cider was particularly popular). It was not the usual Christmas get together this year, but at least we could get together!
A small group had a pleasant walk in the Anagach Woods near Granton on Spey before heading home.
Thirteen club members attended this month’s walk including a new member.
Well no accompanying images. Why you may ask? Because we could not see very far, the visibility was very limited until we descended to Charr Bothy, luckily it was open as the rain had just started. The best thing about the day was the opportunity to catch up with other club members.
The one real issue is: as we were following Scottish Government guidelines on outdoor access it meant we had to travel with only one household per car this then makes it difficult for members who do not have a car to take part.
It has been six months since the club met as a group. Nobody could have foreseen the difficulties everyone has experienced this year. During the weekend we ensured that we meet the Government’s protocols – travelling with no more than two households in any car and splitting up so four different walks were undertaken and meals were socially distanced.
Everyone arrived on the Friday evening at the Ardoch House Hotel, which we hadn’t used before and we all agreed it was an experience and a place we will not forget. Generally the accommodation was very spacious, clean, comfortable and the quality of the furnishings was of a very high standard. There were a few contrasting points – in particular no heating was provided even though there was a wood-burning stove in the lounge which Dru (the manager) found several reasons why it couldn’t be lit. The front door remained open at all times, but as someone noted was to help the flow of air throughout the hotel. Dru was some character and entertained us with some wild and fanciful stories of previous guests. This house was actually the family home of John Muir – or so we were led to believe.
We only walked on the Saturday as weather warnings had been given from the Saturday evening into Sunday (torrential rain). A small group reached the summit of Ben Lomond and they had great views down Loch Lomond. The weather on this day was to be showers with strong winds, which didn’t deter the masses mainly hardy Glaswegians climbing this iconic mountain. Our group mentioned some girls in cropped tops, thus pointing out there is no real need for all these fancy outdoor retail shops!
The main group decided to do the Luss Hills but split into two thus observing the rules! The group of three went for the solo Graham Mid hill, which they completed in under 4 hours. The group of four attempted the remaining three Grahams in the area which includes Doune Hill. The biggest problem on this route is there is very limited car parking (1 car) down Glen Luss. There were great views especially of all the surroundings mountain and down the length of Loch Long.
The final group visited Mugdock Country Park for a more leisurely stroll.
As it turned out this weekend was the last opportunity we had to travel and meet as a group. 10 of us stayed at the hostel in the centre of Callander, which was in a state of repair, so not on our list of preferred hostels at the moment.
Due to the weather forecast (especially for the Saturday) a few decided to head off early on the Friday to get some exercise in by venturing up a small hill near Callander (no great shakes).
On the Saturday the main group travelled by car for 45 minutes to Loch Katerine, only to find the Graham we intended doing was not accessible from Stronachlachar Pier due to landslides around the shore road. After some discussion we decided on walking on the old military road to Inversnaid. This was easily the best suggestion as it was a relatively easy flat walk with changeable scenery, and involved a coffee break at the Inversnaid Hotel and lunch on our return to the Stronachlachar Pier tea room, which served excellent food. The weather was dreich but the rain was light and we did get views across Loch Lomond. A self isolation group of 2 ventured up Sgiath a’ Chaise, and it seems that they definitely had the better of the weather.
On the Sunday as it was pouring down people went their separate ways, a small group of 3 climbed Ben Venue and were rewarded with good views. That’s Scottish weather for you, very changeable.
February saw us take a trip to the seaside to do a walk which was possibly unique in two respects in the annals of club history. The first respect was that we were walking 22 km but only ascending 80 metres (not very impressive for a hillwalking club). The second respect was that we were combining two waymarked trails in the Speyside Way and Moray Coastal Trail.
Prior to the walk we had discovered that the bridge connecting Lossiemouth town to the East Beach was closed due to being declared unsafe in 2019. It is possible to still get across the River Lossie onto the beach but only if you have a wetsuit. This meant we had to change our intended end point from Lossiemouth to Arthur’s Bridge, which is a couple of miles south of the town.
Seven of us started the walk from Fochabers, heading north along the Speyside Way towards Spey Bay. It was a dull day which threatened rain but the River Spey was high and fast flowing carrying snow melt from the highish temperatures of the previous days. We decided to detour to Spey Bay in the hope that the visitor centre coffee shop would be open (it wasn’t). Instead we had our lunch on the beach gazing over a very placid Moray Firth to the hills of Caithness, with Morven being clearly visible.
We then headed to Garmouth over the very impressive ex railway bridge which spans the Spey. The bridge took three years to build and is 947 feet long. It operated from 1885 until the Beeching cuts of 1963 when the line was closed.
As the drizzle started we chanced upon the Speyside Coffee Roasting Co. in Garmouth who provided us with an excellent brew and biscuits. Suitably refreshed, we made our way to Kingston and then along the coast. We were slightly disappointed that although we were right next to the sea, we couldn’t see it for much of the way because a shingle bar blocks the view. However, we were able to see all manner of fortifications left over from the Second World War. There must have been a real concern here 80 years ago that the forces of fascism would invade and strike on to threaten Lhanbryde or Mosstodloch.
We finished with a pleasant walk through the forest back to the cars. Although the weather had not been great, all agreed it had been good to get out and stretch the legs.
Happy New Year to all hillwalkers reading this. The Club roared (or rather spluttered) into the new decade with a walk up Bennachie (also known as the Aberdonian’s Munro).
The walk was originally scheduled for Saturday 4th January. Due to the bad weather forecast and the low numbers of people who said they would be coming, a decision was taken to rearrange the walk for the Sunday when there was a better forecast. Unfortunately, this message didn’t reach all members of the Club with the result that some turned up on the Saturday.
Apologies for the inconvenience if this was you. One brave walker even ventured up the hill in the driech weather – we are Grateful that he did not end up Dead in the conditions.
All Club Members are reminded that they need to let the Club Secretary know if they are coming on the walk in advance so that any late changes to planned walks can be properly arranged and communicated.
Sunday dawned much brighter with clear views. Five of us set out on the walk. Starting at the Back o’Bennachie Car Park we headed in a west to east direction going over the tops of Hermit Seat. Watch Craig, Oxen Craig, Mither Tap and Craigshannoch. Going was easy on the good paths although the wind was very strong on the summits and plateau. As is normal Oxen Craig and Mither Tap were crowded with people with dogs, toddlers, family groups and mountain bikers all enjoying the views. The only snow to be seen was on the distant Cairngorms and even this was only patchy, highlighting how unseasonably warm it has been of late.
Bennachie has a fascinating history and many books have been written about the hill. Our Iron Age ancestors must have been very hardy to sit in a fort on the summit with the fleshpots of Kemnay and Insch a stone’s throw away. Bennachie has also been suggested as the site for the battle of Mons Graupius between the Roman and Caledonian armies in AD83 – an early example of a dispute about hill access!
Next month we are off to the seaside!
The Christmas weekend has always been more of a social event rather than walking. 22 members attended this year staying at the Royal Dunkeld Hotel, Dunkeld.
The walk on the Saturday was part of the Rob Roy Way from Aberfeldy to Pitlochry. This was a fairly easy walk in beautiful crisp winter sunshine due mainly to the -5⁰C overnight. For the first half we followed the River Tay to Grandtully where the group split up, one half going for nourishment in the local hotel while a smaller group only had chocolate in their sights and headed to the local chocolatier. The second half of the walk consisted of a small climb over to Pitlochry where the walk finished. A strange phenomenon seems to happen on marked routes – losing our way three times – where crossing empty areas of Scotland in tricky conditions never tends to be an issue.
We were glad to return to the hotel with the temperature plummeting. The annual photographic competition was the usual high standard with the overall winning entry being a holiday snap in the high Austrian mountains. All the winning entries will go onto the club website for next year.
We then had an excellent 3 course meal in the hotel restaurant; this gave us enough time to have the annual quiz which tested our weary brains on important dates in history, film trivia and general knowledge. Thanks to Alan and Margaret for coming up with all the memory teasers.
Another bright sunny morning tempted some early birds to try out the circular walk starting at the Cateran Trail, Blairgowrie. This long distance walk is something worth considering for future.
Below are the winning pictures from each category, the overall winner was the picture of Alison and an Alpine Chough in Austria.
The Club walk for November saw three radical departures from well-established tradition:
– We headed South to the Sidlaw Halls, an area we had never been to before. Some people were so disorientated by this that they got lost on the way to the start of the walk.
– We moved the walk from the first to the second weekend of the month so that club members could enjoy Bonfire night (!). This proved to be a good decision as the weather was good compared to the downpours of the previous Sunday.
– We planned to do two short walks and use the cars to travel between them, rather than the normal single walk.
Nine gallant hillwalkers set out from the village of Collace and made the short ascent to Dunsinane Hill. This hill was an iron age fort and was made famous when Shakespeare featured it in “Macbeth”. Thankfully, there were no witches or other ghouls encountered. From there, we continued on the ridge over Black Hill to King’s Seat. This was a bit of a tiddler at 377 metres, but the views very good with Dundee and the silvery Tay to the South and all manner of snow-covered peaks to the North including the Angus Glens and Schiehallion.
We could have returned along the ridge but decided to traverse down in order to avoid reascent. As is often the case, this was a mistake as the ground was boggy and tussocky and give the hardest walking of the day.
Once back at the cars, we drove to Tullybaccart for a short walk up a good track to the top of Lundie Craigs. The highlight was a stop at the lovely Ledcrieff Loch. This was mirror calm with trout breaking the surface.
On the way back we had a pleasant coffee stop in Meigle. All in all it was an enjoyable day with fine weather to explore an unfamiliar area.
In September the club made a visit south of the central belt. The club stayed at the hostel on the UNESCO site of New Lanark, which was very impressive. On the Saturday the main group headed off and climbed the Grahams Culter Fell and Gathersnow Hill; the weather was perfect and we had great views in all directions. Other groups consisting of no more than 2 did other grahams. We all returned back to the hostel early after an excellent ice cream in Biggar. In the evening we traveled by taxi to the Italian restaurant `PREGO` in Lanark, which everybody thought was also excellent and one of the best Italian meals most us have every had. Congratulations goes to the club secretary for choosing this place. In the morning we did the local walk to the falls of Clyde, which is to be highly recommended.