Gleann Laoigh Bheag camp.
Day 9 - 16km. Gleann Laoigh Beag - Braemar.
I was quickly away in the morning as I knew I would get tea at Mar Lodge. At Derry Lodge people were mostly packing up with a few people walking along the track down Glen Lui in the light rain. I chatted briefly to a young American lad who had come over the hills from Kingussie.
Mar Lodge was full of of people having tea, munching on biscuits and chatting away to each other. There was no rush and it was very pleasant to sit there. Eventually I roused myself and walked over Victoria Bridge then along the road and into Braemar arriving a whole lot fresher than when I’d got there two years before after crossing the hills from Glen Feshie.
Victoria Bridge, Mar Lodge.
The River Dee ( a bit bigger now!).
I headed straight to the Bothy Cafe at the far end of town. I’ve known Karen Bruce who owns the cafe for many years and she bravely came over and gave me a hug and we caught up on each others news. I joined a few others at one of the big tables and had some soup and a sandwich and tea and chatted to the group that gradually changed as people came and went. After a brief shop for supplies I found myself back there again for coffee as I was waiting to get into the room that I’d booked at the Moorfield Hotel. Paul created the biggest laugh by pulling out the big saw that he'd been carrying and waving it around.
At four I walked up through the Games Park, which had sprouted an impressive new pavillion and up to the hotel where I was given the same room room as I’d used two years before. I went through the usual hotel ritual of cleaning myself and my gear, which takes quite a time and then resting and drinking tea.
Early evening I headed back into village to get some fish and chips from the Hungry Highlander before meeting my other brother Alan and his partner Uraiwan, who had driven up from Ballater to meet me, outside the the Fife.
The Fife Arms Hotel has just undergone a major renovation but I was surprised how similar the new version looked to the old one. Right down to the faux-nicotine stained net curtains in the bedroom windows. We had a look inside. It was doing a roaring trade but the kitsch decor and dead animals in cabinets and on the walls showed that money and good taste don’t always go together.
We went round to the bar at the Invercauld where the friendly barman gave us some free crisps and explained that the Invercauld would be done up too but aimed at a different clientele so there’s hope that it may be a bit more down to earth. The bar slowly filled up with Challengers and eventually after a few beers we decided to go for a short walk by the River Clunie before saying goodbye to them and heading back up to the Moorfields.
New pavillion, Games Park, Braemar.
Day 10 - 27km. Braemar - Allt Darrarie.
Next to me at breakfast the next morning was Russ Manion who had given a warm and funny speech at the Thursday evening dinner in Montrose the year before and next to him the La Borwit’s who are still walking across Scotland at an age where I will be glad just to be walking.
Walking along the back road by the golf course and the Clunie Water, the weather was cloudy and a bit humid but not too bad at all. Then across the livestock bridge by Auchallater farm and up Glen Callater towards the Lodge. I passed two lads who were looking fit but the worse for wear after making the most of last night in Braemar. Then I stopped for a bit at Callater Lodge for tea and a dose of Bill’s stories before slowly making my way up the path towards Lochnagar. This climbs up then turns the top of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor and round to the top of the crags of the Stuic. From here I walked up to the top of the literally pointless Munro of Carn a Choire Bhoidheach then gradually up on to the misty top of Lochnagar itself which is characterised by pimply granite tors. I’ve walked and climbed on Lochnagar many times before, in fact it was the second largish hill that I’d climbed after Beinn Alligin when I was twelve on a walk from Blair Atholl to Glen Doll with my dad. I’d not been up there for years though and realised that the last time had been with Karen Bruce when we had walked down by Glas-allt Shiel on a very sunny day.
I tried to get a view of the cliffs but most of them were hidden by the mist though it still looked very atmospheric. The path down towards Glen Muick has had a massive amount of work done on it and is now more or less a stone staircase until you reach the rubbly track.
Down through the trees at Allt-na-giubhsaich and across the flats of the glen to the Ranger Station at Spittal of Glenmuick. This has a couple of vending machines and I sat on a bench and had a cup of tea and wearily read some of the interesting environmental and historical displays. Although it’s well done it does give the strong impression that the Cairngorm National Park Authority is a PR group for the shooting estates.
After this good rest I walked up into the little glen that holds the Allt Darrarie. This is a fine spot with lots of rocky pools in the tumbling burn. I knew there were places to camp along this and stopped at the first one that I found. It was a mild evening and again after eating I lay and looked out of the door of the tent until I drifted off to sleep.