The Monaliadth is a different style of mountain area. The rounded hills and extensive high moorland give it a remote feel but without the dramatic landscape of the steeper and more rocky West Highlands or Cairngorm.
The area is dissected by landrover tracks, which provide the most popular through routes. My plan took me from Drumnaglas Lodge over Carn Odhar to Coingnascallan and thence to Dulnain Bothy and Feshiebridge via Kincraig.Download file for GPS
Drumnaglas is busy with development. The whole area seems to be under threat from windfarms but here, although the access roads and a new bridge need to be negotiated, the main site to the south remains hidden from my route. There are campaigners promoting protection of this wilderness look here and here.
The track goes steadily upwards and I am soon passed by Shap who left the campsite a little after me. He is aiming for the ‘lunch hut’ at the very top, and we share a table 30 minutes later in the shelter of the prefab. On the skyline a van from Scottish and Southern Electricity is parked – as if to save us from any sense of isolation.
From here I have my cross-country route planned down to the next valley, while Shap heads off along the ‘ridge’ (more like a wide and rough moor) – both routes pathless. As the skyline disappears behind me I get a glimpse of Sandy arriving at the hut by the SSE van.
My journey will take me across three ranges of hills as I move eastwards. The first two watersheds require some navigation skill as the tops are relatively featureless while the last one is traversed by a track which leads down to Kincraig.
In this territory the landscape underfoot can be difficult to negotiate without a path and often a stream will provide an easier route – although it is never straight.
So the routine is to follow a track to get close as possible to the crossing point, then follow a river or stream to the watershed, navigate by compass over the top, then pick up a recognised stream heading downwards to join a track on the other side. Even in fine weather a compass is useful to ensure you continue to travel in the right direction.
Near Coingnascallan the track turns into a paved road. It was no surprise to find a few bird watchers parked here, but when a small bus appears in this wilderness I was taken a-back. Peering out of the window at the back is a single school boy being delivered to the lodge at the end of the road. I learn later that one benefit of living in Scotland is free school transport for all.
It is now around 5 in the afternoon and I decide to save the ascent out of this central valley for the next day. A field close to a ruined building provides a good camping spot, and an hour later I am joined by Sandy with his distinctive tent, a red Laser Competition. The small wood here hides a large group of dismantled houses which add to the atmospheric setting.
We set off together in the morning with different destinations in mind. Skirting the small wood we crossed a river to join the track heading east. This is shooting territory and gamekeepers are keen to protect the targets by trapping predators. By the road in quick succession we found 3 different traps.
07 in hereDownload file for GPS
A little later we parted ways – Sandy heading east and slightly north towards Caggan and Red Bothy whereas I faced southeast to reach the Dulnain river further upstream. 3-4 hours into the day I reached Dulnain Bothy, which was my overoptimistic target for the previous night.
This looks a comfortable night spot and from the bothy book I could see that someone had camped near the river here the night before (as was my plan). A rickety bridge crossed the stream, and by heading south along the valley without a path I soon reached another small hut and a junction with the track that was to lead me out of the Monadliath to Kincraig.
Before long the views to the east are dominated by the Cairngorms and I spend some time with the map trying to identify my target entry point which was to be Glen Einaich.
The track leaves the Monadliath at Leault Farm which is announced by the barking of many dogs. All around are kennels with dogs chained up shouting at the intruder, but not one person. Most of the dogs are collies and once through the farm yard I see why the people are missing. There is a coach and a crowd of visitors watching a demonstration of dog craft with a few wary sheep in the field ahead. Follow the link above for more information.
Kincraig looks important on the map, but it is a small settlement with just one general store. I was relying on this place for a resupply of gas – I’d heard of others making order with the shop so I was reasonably optimistic about my chances! As it turned out they did have some gas, but completely the wrong fitting except for the two pre-orders. They stock warm food, but that had sold out in the morning.
This is the crossing point for the river Spey, and working around to Feshiebridge bypassing the road found some pleasant way-marked paths with an intriguing sculpture park.
After Feshiebridge the route heads into the forest and follows several kilometres of wide track with any potential view obscured by the tall conifers. Eventually a path breaks away from the service track and emerges out of the plantation. Now I’d been walking for over 11 hours and it was clear that I could not comfortable reach my target at the top of Glen Eanaich so I was looking for somewhere to camp.
The first place which looked comfortable was a clearing next to the path where also, tucked partly out of sight, was the small bothy known as Drake’s Bothy. I pitched my tent on the flat grass nearby and as I searched for water I bumped into another TGOer, Humphrey W. racing onwards to meet some companions at the Cairngorm Footbridge 5 or 6 km further on. A little later Louise and Laura appeared on the same late mission.
As it turned out I had the site to myself. The bothy had a small supply of gas which helped me eke out my remaining supply.