Creag Bheag and Hanoverian history

Sub 2000s: Creag Bheag (Kingussie)

Date walked: 03/03/2024

I had thought about trying to get over to the mouth of the Caledonian Canal on Sunday morning, but it would have meant a very early start when I was already quite tired. So a fairly leisurely hotel breakfast, and then a dash through the town because I'd thought the Ardersier bus was at 9:10 rather than 9:05 (only for the bus to be late anyway), and off for a quick trip to Fort George.

It's a wonderful setting - and it was a lovely morning - but the fort itself was all a bit functional looking. Quite interesting, though - built after the 1745 rising to replace an earlier fort in Inverness, and never used in anger.

Inside Fort George

The Moray Firth from Fort George

Then a mad dash back to just catch the bus at Ardersier again - another wandering trip taking in the airport and a lovely doocot at Culloden and a good view of the coast - and a brief potter about the centre of Inverness, and I was off again on the 13:26 train, having settled on Creag Bheag at Kingussie for a civilised Sunday walk.

So civilised that I was (almost) following a walk description as written - past the hotel and through the carpark and up the road, and onto a slightly diverted track through the trees.

Diverted path

There were a few more signs telling you where not to go, but it was mostly just a wander through the woods until a clever little double bridge and a gate, and a signpost pointing to the summit and an alternative descent, which I kept in mind in case I decided to retreat the way I'd come.


It was more open after that, but a well made path - through a few leftover pine trees at first, and then a scattering of birches.

Open path

From up here there was a view to the snow-covered higher hills - not actually as dramatic a view as from Aviemore station, but pretty good.

Snowy hills

A little higher up the path-menders' equipment was enjoying a Sunday rest, a bit before a stone bench and windbreak.

Resting equipment

From there the path climbed more steeply, more often a series of stone steps, but something that might be a summit trig point was already in view up above.


About halfway up this stretch was an ordinary wooden garden bench, an unexpected thing to see so far up a hill - it didn't even seem to be dedicated to anyone.

Ordinary bench

The higher of two bumps to the left did look suspiciously high, and had a tiny path winding up it, but I was carrying all my stuff now and decided that I couldn't face it - the main summit area was just over to the right, with what had turned out to be only a tall stone cairn.

Cairned summit

In the confusing way of Marilyns, there was now higher ground directly behind, the stone-and-heather slopes of Creag Mhor, with the valley invisible in between. I was higher than I'd been on the south side of Loch Ness the day before, but the lowest snow was at about 650m at the very top of Creag Mhor, with no particular sign that it had been recently lying lower - I just seemed to have been caught in a Loch Ness microclimate.

Along the strath to the west the most striking thing in the view was Creag Dhubh at Newtonmore, separated from the higher hills.

View to the west
To the east the foreground looked flat and gentle.

View to the east

I had considered heading straight back down avoiding the steep descent of the description, but I was doing fine for time, so headed on along the little summit ridge, where two rocky outcrops beside the path also seemed to be potential summits - from the higher of these the cairned summit looked definitely lower, but this one was plausibly as high as the bump I'd avoided, so I could sooth my conscience. (Hill-bagging says the first bump is 'of similar height', so fine.)

True summit?

Clouds were gathering over the higher hills now, producing a tiny scrap of rainbow in the valley, but they stayed away from me.


The ridge ended at another shelter, and then did begin to drop pretty quickly, with a good view down to Loch Gynack below.

Loch Gynack from above

Stone steps and stone steps and stone steps - for one short stretch the main path was sloping rock and the bypass sloping mud, and in one of the steepest places the steps were also more than usually covered in dead leaves, but it was a well-made path, if hard on the knees.

Steep stone steps

The descent took a bit longer than my optimistic hopes - I've done more bouncing down heather recently, which is quicker, but it really wasn't that long before I was at another signpost by the lochside, offering identical distances to Kingussie by the same path in two different directions.

Signpost by the loch

I kept the path listed in the walk description, past a ruined house and through the golf course, but rather than turning into the Tom Baraidh woods I kept on down the golf course drive - I'd taken a notion to go down to the Ruthven Barracks, and I should just have time if I took the direct route back.

The path through the golf course

This took me back along the burn, eventually coming out on the road a bit above the carpark where I'd started.

Gynack Burn

I got caught just after the station by the level crossing gates closing, which worried me a bit - I'd have to get back through them to catch my own train, which made the time a bit tighter than I'd realised. Further down the road I crossed the Spey, which wasn't nearly as big as I'd expected given its cultural and geographic importance

River Spey

After the bridge I went under the A9, and then glanced to my left and stopped dead - because I'd come on a whim I didn't know much about it, and I'd been expecting just a bit of a ruin, not this castle on a hill.

Ruthven barracks

It turns out that it was the site of a castle originally, dating back to the 13th century, with a later building garrisoned during the Civil War(s), and the barracks built after the 1715 rising. This was more my kind of site, and I enjoyed my quick wander round, before hurrying back - I beat the barriers by a minute or so at the cost of getting very warm, and was glad to meet a refreshment trolley on the train.

There was enough light to see the Drumochter hills this time, and then a quiet journey back with a change at Stirling, where the waiting room has got very posh since I was last in it.

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Location: Edinburgh
Activity: Wanderer
Mountain: Eildon North Hill
Place: Tarbert Loch Fyne

Munros: 19
Tops: 4
Corbetts: 9
Fionas: 7
Donalds: 26+10
Wainwrights: 214
Hewitts: 133
Sub 2000: 64
Islands: 34
Long Distance routes: West Highland Way    Borders Abbeys Way    Fife Coastal Path    Forth & Clyde and Union canal towpath    St Cuthbert's Way    Berwickshire Coastal Path   

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Donalds: 9
Sub2000s: 19
Hewitts: 27
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Trips: 44
Munros: 3
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Distance: 90.5 km
Ascent: 395m
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Joined: Jul 07, 2011
Last visited: Apr 15, 2024
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