In over 100 walks, this Walking in the Cairngorms guidebook explores the Munro summits of the Cairngorm region and the smaller hills outside the main range. For the adventurous, it offers the best of the area’s rocky scrambles and the classic through routes. For those who aren’t quite as adventurous, there are easy, sandy trails along the banks of the great rivers Spey, Nethy and Dee. Each walk in this guidebook ranges between 1 and 23 miles in length, and is graded for difficulty.
For low-level walking, the Speyside has the best network in Scotland, and it’s improving all the time. These paths are sandy, well drained and sheltered by the pines. Some are waymarked and signposted, some not; it’s a good idea to carry a compass and keep a general idea of which way is road and which way is vast and pathless wilderness.
The mid-level hills are more demanding. Apart from one or two favourites such as Meall a’ Bhuachaille and Morrone, they are little visited, so there will usually be no path. The hillsides here have heather that’s knee-high, or else a wood of pine’s juniper. Adventuring through this wilder ground is rewarding in itself; but then you emerge to the deliciously easy walking across their tops, where nature and the weather ensure low vegetation.
The mountains of 900m and upwards offer, oddly, easier going than mid-height. Across the plateau there’s no plant life to twine around your ankles; there are boulderfields, but mostly you’re on moss, gravel, or patches of old snow. The ground may be comparatively easy, but it is also serious. On the Braeriach plateau you’re several hours walk away from any shelter, and that walk may be down between crags.
Each of the Munros (3000ft/914m mountains) has its well-worn ‘standard route’. The will be the quickest and most convenient – and fairly straight-forward – route, but usually not the most interesting. However, this guide concentrates on what the author considers to be the most rewarding routes for each hill. These may also be a little bit more demanding, as they seek out the steeper scenery and avoid the flat landrover track.
But for the five finest hills the choice is up to you. Macdui, Cairn Gorm, Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Lochnagar: these are hills you will want to ascend lots of times by many different routes. For each there is a ‘summit summary’ with the standard route and the adventure around the back, the rocky scramble and the long, long walk in from somewhere else altogether. Many of the mountain routes start off along one of the low- or mid-level ones.
Author: Ronald Turnbull
Published: Jan 2015