Walks around Deeside
A series of short walks around Deeside for visitors
Ballater and Braemar are ideal bases for walking in the surrounding Grampian Mountains, and if you feel like 'bagging a Munro' (ie climbing a mountain over 3,000 ft), there are some close at hand. All of this area is to be included in the new Cairngorms National Park http://www.cairngorm.co.uk, opened in early 2003. This is the largest national park in Britain, covering a vast 4,500 sq km, from Aboyne in the east to Dalwhinnie in the west, and from Blair Atholl north to Grantown-on-Spey.
The best walk in the area is to the summit of Lochnagar (3,786 ft), made famous by Prince Charles in the book he wrote for his brothers when young, The Old Man of Lochnagar. The noble and mysterious mountain dominates the Royal Forest of Balmoral and takes its name from a small loch at its foot (it's also known as the White Mounth). This fine granite mass is approached from the car park by the Rangers' visitor centre at Spittal of Glen Muick. For information on their free guided walks, Tel. 755377. The path to the top is well trodden and well marked, though steep as you near the summit. It's 10 miles there and back, so allow a full day for the climb. You'll need to be properly equipped and take a map.
Cambus o' May & Morrone
An easier walk is to Cambus o' May, on the river, about four miles east of Ballater. It's a great spot for a picnic, or to swim in the river, or to enjoy a stroll along the riverbank. A good walk from Braemar is to the summit of Morrone (2,818 ft), the mountain to the southwest. The walk takes about four hours in total.
Glen Tanar to Glen Esk
Another good climb is the route up Mount Keen (3,077 ft), the most easterly Munro, which lies between Deeside and Glen Esk, the loveliest of the Angus glens. Again, you should allow a whole day for this expedition. It can be approached from the Visitor Centre in Glen Tanar, at the end of the little road that runs southwest off the B976, across the river from Aboyne. You can climb to the summit and return by the same route but, if your party has two cars, it is well worth walking over to Glen Esk, 14 miles away. Drive around to the Invermark car park at the head of Glen Esk and park one car there. From Glen Tanar follow the old drove road which at times runs with the Mounth road. Skirting the Home Farm with its Arboretum and its dammed lake, the fairly flat track winds along Glen Tanar through the forest for about four miles. Then comes the Halfway Hut, used for rest and repast by former shooting parties. You will pass shooting butts en route. The next stretch is through open country with the Clachan Yell (626 ft) on the left.
The walk proper then begins to take shape. Cross the stone bridge of Etnach, and then the path begins to lead up to the Shiel of Glentanar. The second bridge forks left and the track heads for the summit. The rough path continues along a ridge, the shoulder of Mount Keen. From the summit with its stone marker,Dinnet and its two lakes is visible to the north, and the River Esk glints its way down the valley to the south. Watch out for adders around here. On the descent, you'll pass the Queen's Well, used by Queen Victoria when she and her party went down to Fettercairn posing as a wedding party. The well is decorated with a graceful granite crown which was erected in 1861. The royal party covered much of the climb on hill ponies. The stone arch at Fettercairn commemorates this visit.