TGOC Plockton to Redcastle Lunan Bay – #3 Feshie to the coast

“Is anyone planning to go up onto the Cairngorm plateau in the morning?” I asked the crowd gathered around the fire in the bothy. No takers.

Track looking back towards the Feshie

Just a little to the north is a track which covers a lot of ground in 8 or 9 km to over 900m high. This is easy Munro walking. The lingering snow which worried several other TGOers presented no obstacles that could not be circumnavigated, and it was an easy march over Tom Dubh to the rather featureless top of Monadh Mor.

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The flat top of Monadh Mohr

Beyond here is the slightly more shapely Beinn Bhrotain. The path south to the top disappears, dispersed in a large mound of rocks, but once the cairn is reached the views are tempered again by the broad and flat summit.

On Beinn Bhrotain

The way to the south is pathless but pleasant and easy going in a zig-zag fashion around the subsidiary tops all the way down to Cairn Geldie. Here is a fine view up the Dee towards Devil’s Point and over White Bridge towards Mar Lodge. It was with great satisfaction that I had finally traverses this corner of the Cairngorms – it has featured on my route twice before when weather or fitness has forced me to keep low.

Looking towards Devil’s Point from Cairn Geldie

I joined the track beside the Dee and before long met Dave 2 again – sunbathing and talking with another challenger preparing to camp at the bridge. This was too early for me and I determined to walk on. Before long I was almost at the road and the Linn of Dee.

In the last plantation before the bridge, down by the river I found Darren Fowler and Stuart Dixon. I pitched my tent nearby, and then went on to explore the ‘Linn’. This is quite a remarkable narrow gorge – the river, perhaps 20 or30 metres across is suddenly constrained as it approaches the bridge to less than a metre. I was pleased to see this for the first time on the forth trip past here!

The carpark a hundred metres along the road is useful for its toilets!

Mar Lodge used to offer rooms, meals, and camping to TGO walkers. Now it is taken over by other kinds of hospitality. The TGO is still welcome is consigned to a meeting room by the stables where a tea urn is placed. This year and last year I passed by around 9am to find the place locked up. Not one to wait around I moved on to Braemar where I knocked on doors looking for a room. Eventually I succeeded.

After stocking up with fruit, I spent the afternoon cleaning up – first me, then my clothes.

Bar with man in green

I found the two Daves were in town and we shared a table for food. As the bar became busier I headed of to St Margaret’s church for a concert.

This is one of four churches in Braemar and surplus to requirements for worship so the local population are trying to establish it as a regional arts venue. A pair of pipers marched in to start off the proceedings. The host was Fiona Kennedy. She brought along Paul Anderson – said to be the Queen’s favourite fiddler and probably Scotland’s finest, and Beth Nielsen Chapman who was running a song writing workshop nearby. In support was Nils Elders a young Dutchman, very talented according to his wife who sat next to me in the audience, and singer Alistaire McDougal. A great variety of music in the folk idiom, some enjoyable sing-song to join in, virtuosity on the fiddle and interesting stories from Nashville; and free wine and tea and coffee included before the concert as well as in the interval. Here’s a short film someone took and another.

An early Sunday breakfast and then off along the road to the golf course, which eventually leads to Callater. There’s always someone in front and when I reached the road I found two or three already heading towards Lochcallater Lodge.

The shore of Loch Callater

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callater 1 here

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The weather forecast was generally good so I was confident to head to Lochnagar on the path behind the Lodge. A cuppa and biscuit with Iain and the rest of the company there was an enjoyable break, and it was nice to hear some of the same jokes as last year!

Looking back toward Lochcallater Lodge

The path make a easy upwards traverse across the hillside, but skirts around the first Munro which requires a diversion – to follow the fence posts – to reach the twin tops of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. The summit of Carn a’ Chiore Bhoidheach is flat and less interesting than the crags of The Stuic with their view down to a Lochan.

One of the two summits on Carn an t-Sagairt Mor

Across the void are the two high points of Lochnagar Cac Carn Mor and Cac Carn Beag. To the north rain showers moved from left to right across the hills. These tops are the target of day walkers from several directions. Here were handbags and high heels, trainers and bikini tops among as well as the more serious walkers.

CacCarn Beag
What can I see? (from Cac Carn Bheag)

Heading down I joined John Wright from Dundee. Although a first timer this was his back yard and he had reccied the route a few weeks earlier. We had the same destination – the bothy at Shielin of Mark and with John as the guide our navigation was perfect.

Cac Carn Bheag

Before long though the distant showers we had seen earlier were upon us and we arrived at the bothy in pouring rain. 3 or 4 tents on the flatish ground next to the bothy were firmly closed up with their residents inside and the beds in the bothy were taken. The ground by the river was not so inviting in the wet. Soft and very wet; anything dryer was hummocky. After much indecision I pitched my tent and tried to dry out.

John Wright finds Sheilin of Mark bothy

By morning the sky was clear, the river had not flooded its bank, and I was first of the campers on the road. My route plan showed me following the Waters of Mark as I did on an earlier challenge, but on the day I followed the more direct option along Glen Lee.

Lochnagar from Muckle Cairn
Guarding Glen Lee

Arriving at Tarfside on a fine dry day was a new experience, and tea, fruit, and a bacon roll were all welcome. There were even rooms available, but I was happy to camp and after a while went down to the green with Shap McDonnell to put up my tent. Shap has the same design tent as me but in a different material.

Camp Tarfside
from Gordon Green
Dinner at St Drostans

 I took the simple evening meal on offer from the team at St Drostans of home made soup, baked potato with chilli sauce, and cake and tea. When I returned I found another similar tent parked next to mine – and there was Colin Ibbotson the designer and fabricator. Mine was the only silnylon version of this tent in the wild, and I was pleased to report I was very happy with it.

Tarfside Freemasons club

The Freemasons was open for TGO socialising as usual. A can of beer or a dram of whiskey. Or a glass of wine for those that wanted it.

Dalbrack bridge

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tarfside 1 here

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Estate bridge at Tillbardine

At this part of the challenge the brown hills are all very similar with landrover tracks and furnished with shooting stations. My route took my to Tillybardine where I crossed the road, then up the steep track onto the ridge heading SW to Mondurran. Then a line on the map heading for the farmland to the south.

4 young boys looking for attention

I had identified a camping spot on the ‘hills of Finavon’, but before I reached there a small hotel appeared. It was hard to resist, and I settled into the tiny room before joining some business travellers in the restaurant for beer and homemade steak pie.

Moving on from here to the coast it is impossible to avoid road walking. Paths through woods and on over farmland are sometimes moved or missing altogether, so off-road navigation can be frustrating.

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tarfside 2 here

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I pitched the tent then climbed the large sandhills to look down on the wide shore of Lunan Bay. As I did this a minibus arrived and out bundled a number of students with surfboards. It is said that this beach is rich in semi-precious stones and although I didn’t find any myself the rock in the cliffs at the end looked rather unusual to me.

.. .. .. to coast
Surfer on Lunan Sands
Redcastle remains at Lunan Bay
Looking for Gemstones

When I returned to the campsite next to my tiny tent was another. Markus Petter from Austria was standing there in admiration. He must have such a tent it was wonderful!

We parted company in the morning, he heading for Montrose for breakfast while I wanted to pass by the lighthouse at Scuddie Head. This is a pleasant enough walk in good weather and took my past an unusual family cemetery on the cliff top, and the TGO monument by the lighthouse.

Cliff top cemetrary
Scudie Lighthouse
First view of Montrose with TGO monument

Opposite Montrose is Ferryden which with some interest along the shore including washing lines over the see and information about the old communal craphouse.

Ferryden washing lines
tea and biscuits Park Hotel

3 thoughts on “TGOC Plockton to Redcastle Lunan Bay – #3 Feshie to the coast”

  1. Good Lord!

    Thank you for the links to the concert. Our B&B was next door and we had had no idea that Beth N-C was singing inside, but as we walked past on the way to the pub we stopped outside as she was singing Sand & Water inside. It was absolutely magical. And then we remembered that earlier we had met an older American chap in the cafe in Braemar who had told us his wife was singing in the church! Doh!

    I would have given anything to have been there. A voice like an angel! *sigh*

    I've just noticed that our routes coincided this year by a single kilometre, above Waterhead. But you were there a day before us.
    Thank you, Paul – I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.


  2. Thanks Alan! I met a few of her ancient admirers in the interval who had travelled from Nashville to stay in a 'real Scottish castle' and work on their song-writing with her. Seems a bit odd to me, but then some other old folks spend days of their time each year staggering across the Scottish countryside 😉

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