Having freshly arrived in Scotland for my summer break, I decided to start with one of my favourites: a walk around Loch an Eilein. I made my way in from Aviemore, and once I had managed to escape a very loud grande Italian family I was happy to wander through Rothiemurchus. I manage to find new tracks every time I'm there (although this time I ended up following a yellow waymarked track back out that I didn't recall seeing before, but perhaps I just missed that).
To get my legs used to hills and mountains again I figured it was wise to incorporate a wee climb on my first day, so I set out to go up Ord Ban. It had been on my wishlist for a while, I just never got around to it. Also, I must confess, because I had never quite managed to figure out where to actually start going up the hill. All the walk reports talked about crossing a fence at the start and then finding a track, but with nothing being signposted or shown on an OS map, I was a bit unsure.
Luckily, when I started wandering off towards the fence right behind the parking area, an older gentleman called after me to ask if I planned to go up the hill. Well yes indeed! He was so kind to point me towards the stiles, warning me that "otherwise you have to scale this high fence". We both agreed that the spectacle of me trying to climb over a two meter high fence would be a bad idea. Indeed the stiles were smack next to the toilet building. Once you know that, they are impossible to miss.
The start of the track going up Ord Ban was a bit vague. There was only a hint of it in the grass, but about back at the level of the parking area, it looked like a small track wandered of towards the left to start going up the hill. Once I had found it, it was quite evident. With nowhere else to go, really. It zigzagged up Ord Ban, where the vegetation and views were beatiful.
It was a bit rainy (which made the descent a bit slippery later one, given that the track - quite steep in places - was only grass and stones), but this meant I had the place almost to myself: I met one family going down when I was about halfway up. They were as surprised to see another human as I was.
After that I was all alone. I had lunch on the top of Ord Ban, where the views seemed to stretch out forever even on a cloudy day. It was hard to imagine that I was only a couple of hundred meters away from the Loch an Eilein parking lot.
Nature's rhythms were powerful up here: once the drizzle stopped, the midges came out and when they were out swarms of swallows descended from the skies which then reduced the number of midges until the birds stopped hunting - then it was quiet again, for a moment, until apparently the 'all is safe' sign had been given again and the midges returned.
I walked back down the same way I had come to finish my circle of Loch and Eilein. The grass on top of the old castle was a bit more yellow than last year, so I figured that despite all the lush green colours the Scottish summer may have been more dry than usual as well. All in all, a lovely start to my summer break and I will add Ord Ban to my shortlist of favourite secluded places. Let's hope not too many people find this track accidentally.
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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.