I reached Glen Muick carpark a little before 6pm after a slow drive, against the prevailing flow of traffic. I looked around, checked out information boards, used the facilities and checked I'd pack everything for a wildcamp before setting off around 6:30.
A herd of deer was evident back from the path near the old Spittal of Glenmuick, while the evening light was warm and fine on the hills. I followed a track across the bottom of the glen, which felt wide and flat enough to call a strath, then around the buildings beyond to a gently rising path through pine woods. That joined a track, climbing still-gentle slopes to reach a ford, easy to cross with dry boots. I could feel that I was carrying a camping load, but the pack was comfortable and my legs fresh (though feet were worn), so I carried on up and round Conachcraig rather than looking for a campsite yet.
The track grew a little steeper at points, climbing alongside a narrow glen, but not enough to become troublesome. And there were glimpses of the Lochnagar crags between the outer tops, several of which displayed their outlines to remind why the hill is also known as Ben Chiochan.
With energy left in my legs, I went ahead with thoughts of walking Conachcraig. The rounded slopes to the south and east had looked too rocky to draw me into ascending early, but I found a slight path left the track soon after the main route to Lochnagar split in the opposite direction. After a moderate slope, a zig-zagging stretch climbed more steeply - though certainly not vertiginous - to a bouldery rounded top.
Conachcraig revealled some fine granite tors, cracked and weathered but especially handsome in the early evening light (nearing 8 pm). The cairn is rather an artistic creation.
After some snaps, I headed over what looked like some secondary tops, one of which looked a near match for height. The distance turned out to be a little more than had first appeared; consulting my map showed that the northmost top was a separate hill, Caisteal na Caillich. At just 3m lower and half a mile away, it merited a visit "just to be sure".
Clouds caught and at times hid the evening sunlight and a chill, though not gusty, north breeze was coming in. I gratefully pulled on a pair of gloves while heading to the tors atop the Caisteal and to hang around for some more photos. The views were excellent, from Lochnagar nearby to Mount Keen further east and much of the Cairngorms stretching northwest and north.
I returned over Conachcraig again, following the faint path back down to join the track. That seemed safer than striking out across the hill with a full pack, plus the best-looking site I'd spotted was in that direction. A few walkers passed me at about 9pm, then I seemed to have the hill to myself. The spot I'd picked was out of the breeze, well-grassed and practically flat; views of the rising moon and dusk made up for what proved a chilly night.
After a dawn awakening, a beautiful (though early) morning tinted the clouds and tempted me out. I sauntered back down the track, through the pines and even more slowly across Glen Muick, snapping photos, watching the deer and the clouds.
I lingered at the visitor centre and watching red squirrels at a feeder, but eventually packed off and left at around 6am.
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.