Moray Marilyn on the Dava Moor

I was up visiting family in Forres last weekend and managed to persuade one of my brothers to come out with me for a walk on the beautiful Dava Moor.  The Dava Moor is a vast and desolate stretch of moorland between the north from Forres and Nairn to the south at Grantown-on-Spey and Carrbridge.  It truly is a real hidden gem.  The road between Forres and Carrbridge is a spectacular landscape with a beauty all of its own, and makes a great cycle with big views on a quiet road.  There is also the Dava Way, which is a long distance walk between Grantown and Forres on the old railway line.  As railway paths go, this one is great – you are not blocked in by the railway embankments for most of it and cross the moor in a real feeling of solitude.  I biked it last year on my old trail bike which is also a good option, starting from Grantown.  The Dava Way Association do a fantastic job in maintaining this way, an organisation I am happy donating to (find it here http://www.davaway.org.uk/).

Back to the walk.  We chose the small hill, Carn na Loine (549m and a sub-2000 Marilyn) as a focus and made a circuit out of that.  We drove down from Forres to Knock Of Auchnahannet and parked outside a house there, squeezing the car along the side of the road by the house bins (the Bongo is in the garage – a replacement radiator and an eye-watering pre-Christmas bill is to follow…she is worth it though).

Dava

From here we took the good LR track north-east for about 1.5kms until it started to curve round towards the mast on top of Tom Mor.

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Looking back towards the Cairngorms

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Carn na Loine

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From there we left the track and carried straight on across the rough, tussocky heather, hard going at first but giving way to shorter, scrubbier terrain higher up, until we got to the summit trig point of Carn na Loine. We got some pleasant views back towards Grantown and the Cairngorms / Monadhliath but it wasn’t as far ranging as we’d hoped due to the clouds.  Sadly we could not see Ben Rinnes from the top – apparently a great view from here.  We could see the Knock of Braemoray to the north-west though – another interesting looking wee hill.

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Simon at the summit

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Knock of Braemoray

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Sigh

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We made our way across to the subsidiary top, Carn an Fhuarain Mhor, crossing a flat part that looked like it was once a loch.

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There was no summit marker here that we could see so we carried on across to Carn Ruighe an Uain where there was a small cairn, and we then clambered down through the deep heather to a good LR track.  We saw a small building on the map where the track came to a t-junction and decided to have lunch there.  It turned out to be an unlocked hut with benches and a table – I guess a hut for grouse parties.  It was a useful place to sit out of the cold and wind.

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After lunch we turned left to take the track south.  A further km along we passed the ruin of Badahad, now nothing left but a lum, much to Simon’s disappointment since he is quite a fan of old ruins.

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We were keen to find Huntly’s Cave marked on the map as well and we walked further along until we came to an interesting rocky section, strewn with big boulders.  I spotted a faint flattened track leading off to the right and guessed it might lead to the cave.  After a bit of clambering about and false alarms we eventually found it.  It was about the size of a 2 person tent and distinctly creepy and uncomfortable looking inside.  Looking this up online when I got back, this was apparently where a Royalist Lord Lewis Gordon, later the 2nd Marquis of Huntly hid in 1644 or 45 during the civil war when pursued by the Earl of Argyll.  There are two Huntly’s Caves within 3km of each other (this one appears to be the lesser known one) so perhaps he bided in both.  In no way would I ever want to hide out in that!

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It was then an easy 2kms of good track to the minor road and then a further 1km back to the car.  On the way home I was reminded of the Jesus Saves stone – a stone I can remember passing for as long as I can remember when travelling home to Forres from any trip south.  It regularly gets an update with various ‘Jesus Saves’ slogans and I always knew I was near home whenever I passed it. This stone is a bit legendary round these parts 😀

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This was a nice walk for a shorter day and the bleakness of the moor makes it spectacular in any weather.

Glen Isla – Monamenach

I don’t know what I was thinking when I made a hair appointment 3 months ago for the middle of Saturday afternoon.  What a weekend wrecker!  Luckily Sunday was by far the finer day.  The Met Office forecast was full sun and low wind over the north and east but MWIS was forecasting winds of 45-50mph and likelihood of snow with appalling visibility for the Cairngorms / Southeastern Highlands and worse everywhere else.  Ever the optimist, I went with the Met Office forecast (but took lots of spare clothing just incase)!

I had a hard time making a decision this weekend.  Ally was working over the weekend and I really wanted to go off somewhere in the Bongo.  I looked at my options in the east for hills I hadn’t climbed yet.  I’m not averse to climbing the same hill again at all, but having climbed most of the Munros in the east / Cairngorms I wanted new routes and hills.  Plus, Cairngorms are generally a long walk in and there’s only so much daylight.  I noticed Monamenach, a Corbett in Glen Isla.  It seemed close but far enough to justify a one night trip, and also I’d never been to Glen Isla.

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Cannich weekend – Day 1

Corbett – Sgorr na Diollaid

Ally was away this weekend, doing some practice for his Summer Mountain Leader assessment next year.  I considered whether stay at home and do some local walks or go further afield.  I followed the weather forecast all week and when it looked like the north-east was going to be hit with heavy rain all weekend and further west looked drier for a change, I decided to take the opportunity to go west to explore some hills.  I also thought it would be good to be in a campsite this time, taking into account the long, dark evenings and cooler weather.  This way I could hook up electricity and have a light on in the van, plus enjoy a hot shower.  The trouble is, most campsites are closed this time of year for the season.  One I found open was the Cannich campsite (http://www.highlandcamping.co.uk/) which helped me narrow down my options even further.  The campsite is very close to the beautiful glens of Glen Affric and Glen Cannich, and also not too far from Strathfarrar and Strathconnon.

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Cannich weekend – Day 2

Corbetts – Meall nan Uan and Sgurr a’ Mhuilinn

I packed up and headed off from the excellent Cannich campsite.  This is a lovely, low-key campsite with everything you might need in a superb location, including a nice looking café on site (although that was closed for the winter season).  It took an hour to drive from here right down to where I parked in Strathconon.  Strathconon itself is another long and lovely glen – they all are around this area.  At one point I could see the two Corbett summits in frame so stopped to take a snap.

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Dreich November

I like the outdoors to keep fit in better than a gym or my cold garage.  It’s good to get some daylight and fresh air.  The longer nights and colder weather sure make it harder to get outside though.  During the longer days of spring and summer I either get up early and run or go for a long evening bike ride depending when the forecast is looking its best, so when the days are short it really is a thought to push myself outside when the weather is looking horrible, especially when I can’t promise myself a treat when I return, just an afternoon of work.  That small window of time leaves no room for faffing about.

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Creag nan Gabhar

Checking the forecast yesterday evening, I couldn’t believe it – sunny all day with little chance of rain and no wind! Despite being out just about every weekend this year I have not seen conditions like it. Ally and I quickly put a plan together to make the most of it – a local Corbett that would give tremendous views – Creag nan Ghabar from Glen Callater.

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