Walking the Cairngorms cover
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Walking in the Cairngorms

Cicerone Press, 2005
Paperback 175x120mm, 12.95
320 pages full colour photos, OS 1:50,000 map extracts, sketch maps
ISBN 1 85284 452 3

Cover: Avon Slabs, Ben Macdui by Ronald Turnbull

Britain's biggest mountain range is special in several ways. There's the granite plateau: an Arctic ecosystem of gravel, boulders and late-lying snow. There are the glacial glens and high corries, where green lochans lie below great crags of the plateau rim. And at the hill foot grows the ancient Caledonian forest. Here easy, sandy trails wander among the tall pines and along the banks of the great rivers: Spey, Nethy and Dee.
      Over 100 routes, this guidebook explores the 26 Munro summits, but also the smaller viewpoint hills outside the main range. Quite different, quite a lot easier, and special to this part of Scotland, are the walks at valley level, with ancient castles, Royal Deeside and the fairy lochan at Ryvoan. For the adventurous here are the best of the area's rocky scrambles, and the long walks in used by cattle-drovers and Queen Victoria.
      Along with the main Cairngorm range between Speyside and Deeside, the book covers Lochnagar. It is illustrated with sketch maps and OS mapping, and many colour photos.
      Big is bleak, but also beautiful. Join the capercaillie and the ptarmigan in exploring the forests and boulderfields of the Cairngorms.


Having lived in the Cairngorms area for 16 years I thought I knew it well but Ronald Turnbull's excellent guide book has given me a few ideas for new explorations. It's probably the most comprehensive guidebook to walks in the Cairngorms ever published... though at 404 grams it's a little heavy Chris Townsend, John Muir Trust Journal


Why the Cairngorms?
Walking conditions
When to go
Safety in the mountains
How to use this book
Part 1 Aviemore and the Spey
1 Grantown and Spey127low
2 Spey at Boat of Garten196low
3 Craigellachie Birches53low
4 Geal-charn Mor1811Corbett
5 Around Loch an Eilein53low
6 Ord Ban74low
7 Argyll Stone159medium
Part 2 Glen More
8 Gleann Einich and the Sgorans 2717Munros
9 Creag a’ Chalamain and the Cat Notch 1610medium
10 Down Cairn Gorm2012low
11 Lochan Uaine85low
12 Meall a’ Bhuachaille 1912Corbett
13 Creag Mhor and Bynack More3119Munro + Corbett
14 Beinn Mheadhoin3622Munro
Summit Summary: Cairn Gorm
15 Bynack More and the Saddle
16 Strath Nethy and the Saddle
17 Lairig an Lui, Loch Avon, Coire Raibert
18 Lochan na Beinne and Cnap Coire na Spreidhe
19 Coire Cas (descent)
20 Coire an t-Sneachda: Headwall scramble Grade 1
21 Coire an t-Sneachda: Pygmy Ridge scramble Grade 3
22 Coire an t-Sneachda: Goat Path
23 Fiacaill Ridge of Coire an t-Sneachda scramble Grade 1
24 Lurcher’s Crag
25 Plateau route from Macdui
Shelter Stone Summary
26 Strath Nethy and the Saddle
27 Lairig an Lui, Loch Avon
28 To Coire Cas or Cairn Gorm by Coire Raibert
29 From Coire Cas by Coire Domhain
30 From Linn of Dee by Loch Etchachan
31 To Ben Macdui by Loch Etchachan
32 To Carn Etchachan by Pinnacle Gully scramble Grade 1
33 Forefinger Pinnacle scramble Grade 3
34 To Ben Macdui by Avon Slabs scramble Grade 1 or 2
Summit Summary: Ben Macdui
35 From Lairig Ghru by Tailor Burn
36 From Derry Lodge by Carn a’ Mhaim
37 Sron Riach
38 Via Derry Cairngorm
39 Coire Etchachan
40 From Coire Cas
41 Plateau route from Cairn Gorm
Part 3 Badenoch
42 Badenoch Way811low, linear
43 Insh to Aviemore2817low, linear
44 Druid Circle at Dalraddy106low
45 Take an Insh117low
46 Carn Dearg Mor2012Corbett
47 Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair by Coire Garbhlach1912Munro
48 Badan Mosach waterfall42low
49 Summer Road to Ruthven96low
50 Glen Tromie: Croidh-la1610medium
51 Creag Bheag74medium
Summit Summary: Braeriach
52 From Glenmore by Sron na Lairige
53 From Rothiemurchus by Sron na Lairige
54 Gleann Einich and Coire Ruadh
55 Gleann Einich and Coire Dhondail
56 Coire Dhondail scramblescramble Grade 1
57 South Ridge of Coire Bhrocain
58 Ridge route from Cairn Toul
Summit Summary: Cairn Toul
59 Coire Odhar
60 Great Moss
61 East Ridgescramble Grade 1
62 North East Ridge of Angel’s Peak scramble Grade 1
63 Corrie of the Chokestone Gully
64 Ridge route from Braeriach
Part 4 Glenlivet and Tomintoul
65 Hills of Cromdale 1912medium
66 Carn Daimh106medium
67 Around the Brown138low
68 Glen Brown and Ailnack Ravine1912medium
69 Ben Avon by its River4024Munro
70 Tors of Ben Avonscramble Grade 1–2
71 Cnap Chaochan Aitinn2919medium
72 Ailnack Upper Ravine2113scramble Grade 1
Part 5 Donside
73 Carn Ealasaid1610Corbett
74 Brown Cow Hill1911Corbett
75 Don to Ben Avon 3220Munro
Part 6 Deeside Braemar
76 Clais Fhearnaig1610low
77 Derry Cairngorm by Lochan Uaine 2314Munro
78 The Happy Face of Beinn a’ Chaorainn2918Munros
79 Dee and Derry2515medium
80 Around Glen Geusachan 1912Munros
81 The Devil’s Back Side 64Munro
82 Glen Quoich138low
83 Beinn a’ Bhuird 2818Munro
84 Carn na Drochaide and the Fairy Glen 159Corbett
85 Morrone Birkwood and the Dee 95low
86 Morrone and Glen Ey 2012Corbett
87 Creag nan Gabhar138Corbett
88 White Mounth and Jock’s Road 2717Munros
Part 7 Balmoral and Lochnagar
89 Balmoral Castle85low
90 Craigendarroch and the Dee 74low
91 Around Loch Muick127low
92 Dubh Loch and Broad Cairn 2717Munros
93 Creag an Dubh-loch 2113Munros
Summit Summary: Lochnagar
94 Queen Victoria’s Ballochbuie Route
95 Byron’s scramble by the Stuic scramble Grade 1
96 Tracks from Balmoral
97 Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe
98 Tourist path from Spittal of Glenmuick
99 Conachcraig
100 Loch na Gaire
101 Falls of Glas Allt (descent)
102 From Loch Callater
The Long Routes The Cairngorms 4000s
The Lairig Ghru
I Access (in particular during the deer stalking season)
II Mountain bothies
III Gaelic place names
IV Lists of hills
V Scrambles summary and grading
VI Accommodation and information
VII Further reading


Why the Cairngorms?
The Cairngorms are Britain’s biggest hills, above the 900m mark for 30km (if you discount a couple of glacier-gouged gaps). Here are 18 Munros (3000-footers, as listed by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891) linked by a high granite plateau that’s unique in these islands.
       So it may seem odd that I should be writing a book just as much about the low places of this high ground.
       The first time I walked eastwards out of Kincraig and along the River Spey, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. I was tired, I had very sore feet, I was carrying 15kg, and I’d just spent five days coming across the tops of some of the finest mountains in western Scotland.
       But my bad feet – and even the wonders of the high-level west – were knocked out by the beauty of the birch trees. The path switch-backed above the river, sometimes just glimpsing it between the branches, sometimes looking across its wide brightness to miles and miles of forest and the dun-coloured hump of Braeriach.
       When the following dawn brought the sound of birches beating in a gale, I abandoned my plateau ambitions. Instead I walked for a morning through the pine and juniper of Rothiemurchus. Between the wet tree trunks, lochans were thrashed white by the wind; the grey-black cones of Eilrig and Lurcher’s Crag came and went through the moving boughs; the miles of forest crashed and sighed like the sea.
       At lunchtime I emerged through the cattle-thieves’ pass of Ryvoan, beside the green lochan. The weather was still not right for the heights, and this was confirmed when a man came down off Bynack More, bashed against a boulder by the wind and with a broken rib. So I went up to the mid-level, the 750m mark. This is where the heather gets shorter, and granite gravel shows between the stems; and where, from behind the hump of a moor, the great slabbed crags around Loch Avon start to appear.
       Creag Mhor is seldom walked on: at 895m it’s too low to be counted by the Munro-bagging fraternity. Accordingly, Creag Mhor is pathless, bleak as the ice left it 10,000 years ago. Even so, the going is easy, over low tundra vegetation of crowberry and bearberry, cropped by the ptarmigan and swooped over by the lonely piping plover. On the bare rock top I leant into the wind, gazing into the fastness hollow of Loch Avon. Then I descended to Fords of Avon, where the lowly iron shelter stood under a centimetre or two of fresh, wet snow.
       Low-level is lovely, and not just on a nasty day. Mid-level is unwalked but very walkable. And yet, as you wander that ancient pinewood or along the banks of the Dee or the Spey, beyond the branches are the snow-topped shapes of Braeriach and Beinn a’ Bhuird. As you emerge from the juniper and birch onto one of those mid-height hills, above are the really high ones, grey and purple, topped off with a row of granite pimples. Pinewoods are fine; mighty rivers make great walks; but above all those great walks is the Great Moss. Up there you wander a bleak landscape of stones with a gently winding stream, a clump of moss campion showing pink among the pebbles. It’s a land that comes from 10,000 years ago, and from somewhere else altogether – up in the Arctic. Then all of a sudden a top edge of crag rises behind some boulders; and you’re high above the Lairig Ghru, looking into a steep-sided scene of wet granite slabs, black peat, and a silver river.
       To reach the heart of the Cairngorms you need high ambitions, and pretty strong legs. At the centre of everything lies Loch Avon, its waters level with many of England’s mountaintops; but above it, the slopes rise in boulder and bare rock for another 400m. Great chunks have cracked off the crags to lie around the loch shore, and between the rocks are patches of bright bilberry, and little grassy places for the tent.
       Low Cairngorms give some of Scotland’s loveliest walking. Mid-height hills ask more, and offer in return a level of adventure. And the high Cairngorms can call on all your strength and skill. High or low, Caledonian forest or sub-arctic plateau, the Gorms are British mountain country as grand as it gets.