I had one of those lovely emails on Thursday, asking if I was doing anything on Saturday. As it happens, I wasn’t, so plans were hastily hatched and after dropping Ciara at work and Rhiannon having a haircut, I pinched the car and drove over to Ballater.
What a superb drive! I’ve not been beyond Tomintoul before, by car or on foot, so the Lecht was a new experience and quite entertaining. I wouldn’t like to attempt it in foul weather! The scenery is quite different over here and I really enjoyed the views, although as I was driving I was concentrating really, honest gov.
I made good time and arrived before Laura, so I had time to pick a good, shaded place in the car park to abandon the car and find the public conveniences. As they require 20p, I had no change and they ‘don’t do’ change, I had to wait, but Laura’s bus wasn’t long and the decision to snaffle a coffee before setting off was made, so we could both powder our noses before heading for the hills.
We left Ballater over the bridge and turned south west towards Braemar. At the Bridge of Muick we took the track heading for Balintober and soon found ourselves heading uphill with woodland on our right and hills to our left.
We made a steady climb uphill, pausing for plenty of photographs and air as we went. The wildlife was stunning. Along with buzzards and kestrel, we were thrilled to hear red stags roaring in the hills and glens around us. It’s a really magical experience and given the fabulous weather, really made our day. The views over to the Cairngorms, Lochnagar and Mount Keen were incredibly clear.
There was a brief pause for a snack while we enjoyed watching a large herd of deer on the hillside before making our way to the junction that would take us towards Craig Vallich. We passed the small, derelict hut before making our way to the end of the track, nearly at the summit.
As it was rather rough terrain to the cairn, we enjoyed the views over Ballater before heading back along the track and then towards the Pannanich Hill. Again, a large herd of deer were spotted in the glen just below us and we were able to watch them for a while before they trotted off. An easy climb along good paths saw us at the trig, then down a little to find a sheltered spot for lunch. The 360 views from the top were absolutely stunning.
We made our way off the hill quite steeply, following the track to the side of Craig Collich. It lead to a gate in the deer fence and onto a pleasant woodland path, with natural woodland to our left and plantation to our right. After a short nostalgic trip for Laura down the wrong path, we found ourselves tumbling onto the road again by the bridge into Ballater and all of a sudden, we fell into seats with coffee and cake on the table in front of us. Quelle suprise!
Laura ‘missed’ her bus, so I happily took her down the road to drop her at her doorstep before taking the very interesting Old Military Road to Gairnshiel Lodge and the return trip over the Lecht.
A thoroughly enjoyable and totally spectacular day. Thanks Laura, you turned up trumps again!
8.12 miles, 1679 feet and just over 5 hours 10 minutes, including stops, a guesstimate as ever as my battery ran out!