Family get together in the Trossachs had been booked for 2 years, but had to be cancelled due to covid restrictions ... wouldn't have been too bad if I could have used the week off for going up mountains nearer home instead, but the weather didn't co-operate. Friday wasn't bad though, forecast for showers and windy, so good enough for some smaller hills - plus if I wasn't getting to meet with my living family, I'd at least try and hunt down the graves of previous generations seeing as my sister is doing loads of work on the family tree and asked me to get photos of some gravestones if I was ever in the Rothes area.
CONVALS - 8km, 570m ascent, 2.3hrs:
First up for the day was the drive to Little Conval and Meikle Conval - according to Google maps, 50:50 whether to go down the A9 and via Grantown and Ben Rinnes, or along the A96 and down from Elgin via Rothes. I decided to do the latter on the way home. Some heavy showers on the drive down, and the single track road down Glen Rinnes wasn't fun (wouldn't fancy it in the dark or in winter conditions), a brief dither about whether just to do Ben Rinnes instead as it has a good path and the Convals are meant to be boggy, but I continued on. Rather than doing the WH route from Dufftown, I parked in a rough layby with bins opposite the turn off to Convalleys, having read there was a track up from there. I wasn't entirely sure if I was starting from the right place, but I walked a short distance north along the B9009, past the private road access to Brae Conval and next to that there was a rough track. This gained height nicely, then when the track ended, a path continued on all the way to Meikle Conval's summit at 569m. Nice view over to Ben Rinnes from there, and windy enough to make me glad I'd opted for these lower hills.
Then took the path heading along and down to the bealach between the Convals - after so much heavy rain recently and walk reports mentioning it being boggy, I was expecting the worst ....but it was actually fine. A bit wet, but feet stayed dry in hiking boots. Another clear direct path headed up Little Conval (a track took a more zig zaggy route, but both meet up). The path goes to a couple of decent sized cairns, but bypasses the summit with it's little cairn for some strange reason. Again, windy, plus I had plenty to do the rest of the day still, so I didn't hang around and headed back. Quickest way would have been to take the path down from the bealach to the B9009 but walking along the road didn't appeal, so I went half way back up Meikle Conval before contouring round through the heather, deep here rather than the ankle deep stuff on the south side of Little Conval. Felt like a good leg and lung work out. I hit the track and followed it back down, getting caught in a shower on the way, but not as heavy as the ones when I'd been driving.
My plan had been to do those hills then try and find the 2 cemeteries, but I'd got up at a reasonably decent time for once and so felt like I could get another hill done. Knockan would be short and easy but a bit dull just walking up a short windfarm track, so I went for Ben Aigan instead, having printed off the WH route instructions just in case I had time for it. First problem was finding the turn off ....the instructions are a bit old. There's now no mention anywhere of bike trails and the car park isn't signed other than a not very obvious Forestry Commission sign. I went right past it before having to head back.
BEN AIGAN - 8km, 275m ascent, 1.6hrs
Anyway the instructions still more or less worked, though some bits I took lucky guesses that the new, huge forestry roads should be ignored and I should just look for old tracks that looked like they'd been there a few years. Asides from a boggy stretch up the fire break (which could have been avoided by sticking to the good track for a longer route round), it was good terrain all the way. I was doing it at a good pace to make sure I'd be down and graveyard wandering while it was still light, so didn't linger at the summit, just went over for a look at the view of Rothes, then did a swift descent.
The subsequent cemetery visits shouldn't count as walks so not included in distance, ascent etc for today, but the first one ended up as a hike. Tiny Dundurcas cemetery wasn't on my OS map, and Google Maps had it shown where it turned out there was actually a farm. I climbed over multiple gates, barbed wire fences, hiked through mud, gorse and fields, before eventually finding a route to the derelict old church nearby (marked on the map as Kirkhill, a turn off before Dundurcas) involving walking up a bank in a copse of trees and clambering over the wall into the graveyard. Fortunately it was a tiny place, so didn't take long to find 3 graves of definite direct relatives, as well as taking photos of a few more just in case they were more distant relatives.
Going back to the car was a lot easier, leaving via the cemetery gate and walking back the unmarked track up to the B9015, back at the car in 5 mins rather than the 45 mins the other way. Rothes cemetery was a doddle to find in comparison...
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