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Derry Cairngorm with surprise reindeer guests

Derry Cairngorm with surprise reindeer guests

Postby CraigReid » Mon Aug 10, 2020 9:30 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a' Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Bhreac, Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm

Date walked: 24/07/2020

Time taken: 10.15 hours

Distance: 38.6 km

Ascent: 1838m

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First real hillwalk after the lockdown and with a sunny forecast I was eager to get back to them. Decided to join together Beinn a'Chaorainn and Derry Cairngorm hills together since it seemed like a not too troubling ascent and descent between the two sets of hills. Set off at 3.15am from Glasgow and arrived at the Linn of Dee at around 6.15 after what seemed like a eternity of wood pigeons trying to kamikaze into my car along the old military road, waiting until the very last second to fly away from their early morning meetings on the tarmac.

Took the dog with me so it didn't allow me to take a bike as I don't think she would keep up in her aging years, which I would highly recommend to get to derry lodge as I watched jealously as many a biker went by. The path is well done, at the start of the forest there is wooden walkway to get over the bog then straight onto a track upto derry lodge. Derry Cairngorm was the first target of the day, so it was time to power on.

Cali hastily climbing the walkway.

At Derry Lodge

The path then goes through the trees with a nice incline and in no time you are above the tree level looking back to the lodge on a superb path.

Looking back to Derry lodge


Once passed the first incline the path is a lot gentler, with the route I took a little bit of scrambling over some solid rock was required which was no problem, the going gets a lot tougher getting upto the final stretch of Derry Cairngorm being a sustained boulderfield climb but wonderful views are to be had at the top.

Boulders, boulders and more boulders

Derry Cairngorm summit

Beinn Mheadhoin tors

Didn't stay for long as I knew I had a long day ahead and seeing the magnificient tors on Beinn Mheadhoin made me eagar to get there, the skies started really opening up and it became very warm with no breeze to cool me down. Followed the path to the left side of Creagan a' Choire Etchachan and onto amazing views to Ben Macdui and Loch Etchachan.

Loch Etchachan

Beside the loch looking back to Ben Macdui

In for a swim

Had a nice break near the Loch, gave Cali a chance to go for a swim and me a chance to rest before the steep pull upto Beinn Mheadhoin. The path was in progress of getting repaired, once done will make this climb a lot easier. Steadily climbed up the path and onto the magnificent tors.


As I passed the first tor I went over the brow of a hill and seen these animals, thought the first one I saw was a huge dog, then there was more and then there was 15 of them.

First sighting

Coming closer

Wild reindeer!


To my disbelief it was herd of wild reindeer, I never knew there was any in Scotland. Recently read up about them and they had been reintroduced into the cairngorms, they must be fed quite often by humans as they came about 10m away from me and the dog, somehow Cali never freaked out over them but my heart was racing I never knew what to expect especially with them coming so close. It is the best experience I've had in the mountains so far. I started to walk away to keep a distance cause I definetly wouldn't win in a fight against them. After such a cool experience I continued onto the summit tor, scrambled up it and giving the dog a helping hand I had a very long chilled lunch bathing in the Scottish sun. Amazing views all around to all the Cairngorm mountains. Used the Panoramic summit view on the walkhighlands website to find out the names of the hills nearby and ones further afield, extremely useful.

Summit tor

Lunch at the top


Whilst having lunch I should have studied a route better, as it would have saved me 150-200m of descent and ascent and less distance covered to get to Beinn a'Chaorainn. I clambered back down the tor with the dog in tow and retraced my steps back to the Loch, reindeer nowhere to be seen. I shouldn't have returned to the loch but cut off early and headed to the bealach between the two hills, instead I followed the path not realising how much height I was going to lose. I followed the path back into the valley to roughly 570m of height then cut accross the heather to get to the other side, which was extremely tiring work due to the height. Breathed a sigh of relief once I got back to the track. Saw two people climbing where I would have descended, looked a steep ascent and descent but a lot easier than the route I took.

Down to the valley

Along the wrong track

It was a very slow and tiring ascent up Beinn a'Chaorainn but was eventually reached it, this is when Cali started going extremely slow. I don't know if it was the path or the boulders but they had cut her paws at the furthest away point from the car park. We had a break at the top and to check her paws out and clean them as much as I could, attempted to lift her but as a 25kg dog it is hard work. Would recommend for any dog owners to bring boots to these hills, something I had overlooked.

Beinn a'Chaorainn summit

Rest at the top

We continued on to a very faint path to Beinn Bhreac, which was boulders at the start, then bog. Would highly recommend not doing this hill if it has rained in the days before as it was very boggy despite days of dryness before. I was hoping not to shower the dog at home but she had better ideas as she jumped fully into a bog and was completely black coming out of it.. just had to get on with it. I was moving quick through the bog as it was getting late on and the sky was clouding over. Eventually reached the summit and with a quick snap I continued onto the descent without stopping.

Beinn Bhreac summit

On the home straight


After following a slidy and wet path eventually descended enough to derry lodge where I would have killed for a bike, After a long walk back eventually got to the car, loaded the dog in the boot and headed home to Glasgow.
Would definitely do Beinn Mheadhoin and Derry Cairngorm again but I don't think i'll ever plan on returning to the latter two. Would recommend joining the two sets of hills together for fit walkers, added on roughly extra 1-1.5 hours. For such a beautiful day only met one person on the hills and only seen one other couple, was a lot quieter than I expected until you hit the derry lodge track and it was completely different with so many campers, hikers and bikers.

On the long walk back



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