Broad Cairn and Cairn Bannoch from Glen Doll

Munros: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch

Date walked: 02/09/2017

Time taken: 7.25 hours

Distance: 26.3km

Ascent: 1072m

Broad Cairn and Cairn Bannoch from Glen Doll.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

This was my first major walk for some time after I'd done my ankle playing football about 8 weeks ago - a small bone chip. The ankle wasn't quite 100%, but the forecast for Saturday was so good I decided to go for it anyway and take on a route I'd had my eyes on for a while. So up at 6, on the road by 6.45 and into Glen Doll car park by 9, having played dodge the suicidal pheasant all the way down Glen Clova - there were hundreds of the buggers!

From the car park (£2 charge) my route took me through the adjacent picnic area and along an excellent path with the plantation on my left and the River South Esk on my right. After about 15 minutes you come to a bridge that crosses the river...crossing this would take you on an alternative route via Moulzie farm, but I stuck to this side of the river and carried straight on, leaving the trees behind and following a faint path through the tussocky grass.

Path from Glen Doll car park

Approaching bridge across River South Esk

The path eventually meets up with the track coming down from Moulzie. This track leads all the way to Bachnagairn and provides some easy walking for the next few kilometres. After briefly passing through a patch of conifer plantation, the glen opens up before you and its magnificent sweep as it curves left is quite a sight. Just before it sweeps left there is a bridge that I'm sure wasn't there the last time I was here just a year ago. I think a bridge had been here and been swept away, and this is its replacement. If you were coming via Moulzie then you'd be crossing this bridge to join up with the track to Bachnagairn.

Looking back down River South Esk, with new bridge

After taking the left turn the path begins to climb, gradually at first, and the trees of Bachnagairn come into view. Just short of these the track ends and a footbridge takes you into this delightful woodland.

Approaching Bachnagairn

Footbridge at entrance to Bachnagairn

After crossing the bridge and entering the woods the path climbs for a few hundred yards before the first real navigation point is reached. You need to look out for a path branching off to the right and crossing the river on a bridge similar to the one you've just crossed to enter the wood. There's an impressive waterfall nearby, so just listen out for that and keep your eyes peeled!

Bridge over the River South Esk

It's now time do gain some serious height and the path steepens significantly. The trees are soon left behind and height is gained quickly on an excellent, well-made path. Maybe a bit too well-made for some tastes - a bit unnatural perhaps, but my dodgy ankle had started complaining a bit by this point, so I was glad of some easy going underfoot. About now I decided to stop for some breakfast and take in the view back down where I'd just come from.

Breakfast view

Having refreshed myself with banana, juice, chocolate and tobacco I resumed climbing the wonderful path and soon the two Munros on today's walk appear, looking reassuringly close.

Broad Cairn (right) and Cairn Bannoch

The steepness gradually eases off and soon Loch Muick comes into view. At about this point the path coming up from Spittal of Glenmuick joins up with your path. On a day like today the route is obvious - turn left and climb gradually up to the summit of Broad Cairn. The path eventually peters out near the summit amid a brief boulder field but way ahead is obvious and I reached the summit three hours after leaving the car park.

Loch Muick

Final approach to Broad Cairn

Broad Cairn summit, with its ironically narrow cairn

From the summit of Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch looks really close and with minimal descent it would be a very straightforward job to stroll across to it in less than 30 minutes I would imagine, but I decided to take a bit of a detour. Once off the summit the clear path heads straight for Cairn Bannoch, but a few fainter paths head off to the right, heading for Creag an Dubh-loch, and I fancied checking out Dubh Loch which looked on the map as if it might be a nice view...and I'm so glad I made the effort. You need to go over the top of Creag an Dubh-loch and up to the edge of the cliffs, but the views are spectacular and this was an easy choice as the spot to stop for lunch.

Dubh Loch

Lunch view

I'm sure the route I took from my lunch spot overlooking Loch Dubh wasn't the quickest or the most efficient, but it wasn't too bad. No paths, just an annoying descent into a rather wet area and then a straightforward climb up the side of Cairn Bannoch before rejoining the main path. The hill was quite busy at this point with dog-walkers and cyclists all over the place.

Approaching Cairn Bannoch

Cairn Bannoch summit, looking back to Broad Cairn

Looking due west from the summit of Cairn Bannoch you can see a couple of cairns, and indeed a path branches off to the left from the main track off the summit and leads you past the cairns and down the Shank of Fafernie - a broad "ridge" that seems more like a plateau. Keep following this due south and eventually you join up with Jock's Road which takes you over Crow Craigies and all the way back to the car park. I did not enjoy this section of the walk one little bit. Maybe I was getting tired, maybe it was the relentless wind in my face all the way down, maybe having bagged my two Munros I just wanted to be back in the car, or maybe it really is just a bit of a featureless trudge, but until you descend into Glen Doll and get a bit of shelter it is just a matter of getting the head down and entering that zen state of mind where you just put one foot in front of the other to try and eat up the kilometres.

The wild and windy moors of Fafernie

Once you reach the shelter known as Davy's Bourach (erected in memory of some walkers who lost their lives on this path I believe), you really are on the last leg...albeit a rather long leg. Eventually you re-enter the forest and then it's very easy going on smooth paths (and aching legs) back to the car park.

Davy's Bourach

Glen Doll

Path through the woods

When I got back to the car I was totally knackered. I had probably bitten off a bit more than I could chew for my first outing in over three months, and the following day I was suffering big time with legs and shoulders that objected to even the slightest movement, but I'm glad I got out and knocked off a route that I'd been pondering for a few years.

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Comments: 7

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Activity: Wanderer
Pub: Horseshoe
Mountain: Goatfell
Place: Orkney
Gear: gps
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Ideal day out: Ridge walk

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Last visited: Apr 19, 2018
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