The best laid schemes o Mice an’ Men

I was on my own last weekend so planned to get out into the hills at some point.  I watched the forecast all week, predicting the east side of the country would as usual be the better side, and planned some Cairngorm Corbetts in.  As it was, by Friday the west side was forecast to be wall to wall sunshine, a light breeze and an almost 100% chance of cloud-free Munros!  Whereas the east would remain cloudy and dull. I leapt at the chance to go up to the north-west in these conditions and randomly looked up the Corbetts map on Walkhighlands.  I chose some Corbetts north of Inverness, mainly based on time to reach them from home – notably Carn Chuinneag for Saturday to promise tremendous west views over Assynt, with maybe Little Wyvis or Beinn a’ Chaisteil the next day.  I found the campsite at Tain was open (I hate trying to find a suitably remote ‘wild’ camping spot in the dark with the Bongo’s poor lights) so threw all my gear in the van and headed off on Friday straight after work. Yay!

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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).

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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.