Another day another walk from the bus stop at Ballater. The forecast was for ‘sleet showers’ but with heavy rain in the evening; I figured I had plenty time even with a late start to bag the Coyles of Muick using the first part of the WH ‘Seven Bridges and Knock Castle’ route to get to the start point and then KatTai’s route up to the top.
The bus deposited me in the centre of Ballater at 10.40am and from here it was a pleasant walk along the Dee to Polhollick Bridge albeit the ground was very muddy in places.
I could see that the Dee was pretty high after recent rains but soon Polhollick Bridge came into view
This bridge is a super little structure, I suspect little-used.
Having been slightly intrigued by the bridge and Alexander Gordon from Kent, I did some digging about this man when I got home; appended at the bottom of this walk report.
Once over the bridge I now diverged from the ‘Seven Bridges’ route, turning right (instead of left) past a house along a rough vehicle track that runs alongside the River Dee. After a short distance the vehicle track is closed off and I entered a nice path through the forest where there are some gigantic fallen trees.
The reason for the track closure became obvious soon after once the path rejoined the track - the river has eroded part of it away, presumably after a flood.
Soon the track reaches the south Deeside road where I turned and walked along the road for 15 minutes or so, meeting only two cars.
Eventually I reached the gate leading south west and upwards into the forest as described in KatTai’s walk report. At this point before even starting the climb my feet were already wet from the muddy approach paths - need to get some new boots…
The path leaves the forest soon enough but continues rising on the edge of the trees. Once in the open it became obvious I wouldn’t get any great views today, with cloud cover below 700 metres. Nevertheless it had stayed dry.
At this point I entered some patchy snow and some boggy ground but as my feet were already wet it was no big deal. Meall Dubh looms up ahead but the path avoids it, heading straight for the ridge at the top of the Coyles.
I followed the path up to the summit of the Coyles and visited both cairns; visibility was now a little bit worse and there were no views at all to be had other than the cairns themselves.
I contemplated navigating forest routes down the west side of Glen Muick but decided instead to get back to the south Deeside road using the route of ascent. I made pretty quick progress squelching back through the bog and snow. At the south Deeside road I turned right for about 3-4km of road walking, hoping to catch the 15.11 bus back to Aberdeen. I made quick progress but as the bridge at Ballater came into view in the failing light I realised I would have to catch the next one.
I arrived in Ballater aroud 15.25; this gave me plenty time to have a coffee and some cakes in one of the cafes that were open for business before catching the bus home just after 4pm.
Notes on Alexander Gordon
From an obituary published in the Aberdeen Journal and an earlier article in the Kentish Mercury it appears that he was a ‘self-made man’. He was born at Littlemill of Strathgirnock (very close to the southern end of the Polhollick bridge) around 1815. He became a clerk apprenticed initially in Dundee, and then moved to London where he started a brewery business, opening breweries in Caledonian Road and Peckham. As a result he became rather wealthy and spent £10,000 on various public buildings in Ballater as well as the footbridge. He retired from his business in 1892 and died in 1895 at Southwood, Kent.
Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.