Exploring Glen Isla and Glen Clunie

Day 1 Monamenach – Creag Leacach – Glas Maol

Day 2 An Socach

Day 1

Monamenach – Creag Leacach – Glas Maol

28 March 2012

20.1 km/1089 m/07:00 hrs

Corbett: Monamenach (No. 31)

At the end of March, Scotland was hit by a mini-heatwave – three days in a row the temperature record for March had been broken in the NE Highlands (on Tuesday, 27 March the temperature in Aboyne was 23.6 degrees C). Of course, I had to work during this spell of gorgeous weather!

A few weeks before, I had taken advantage of a special deal and booked a room at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel. Until the end of March they offered a single ensuite for £ 18, breakfast was an extra £ 7.

My main target was An Socach, the Munro I had omitted on my recent trip to Glen Ey, and because of the long drive, I was going to stay for two days and do another walk in the area. When I had climbed Glas Maol in September 2011, I had crossed the Monega Path which I thought looked interesting, and since then I had wanted to come back and explore the path and Glen Isla a bit more. This was also a good opportunity to try the hotel, which I had booked for one night during the TGO Challenge in May.

On my first day off, I drove down the A9 and then to Glen Isla via Pitlochry and Kirkmichael, a route I didn’t know yet. It was very scenic, and especially Kirkmichael seemed to be a lovely little village, a place I might even include in a future Challenge route. I had been looking forward to a warm and sunny day, but when I arrived at the car park at Auchavan, it was still sunny, but very windy and chilly, quite a big difference to the previous days.

I climbed up the hillside to join the track beside the Glack Burn, and followed it until I reached the line of fence posts that leads directly to the summit of Monamenach.

Looking back to the farm at Auchavan.

Following the fence posts, I soon arrived at the summit of Monamenach.

The route ahead, Black Hill in the middle and Creag Leacach in the distance.

The boggy area at the Glack of Glengairney between Monamenach and Black Hill was surprisingly dry and nice and springy to walk on! From here I could just see Monega Hill and the head of Canness Glen.

Creag Leacach.

After passing the top of Mallrenheskein, I climbed along the Fashilloch Burn to the ridge.

Looking SW towards Carn Ait.

I walked along the dry stone wall to the summit of Creag Leacach, which I had climbed the first time in October 2011. On that occasion the summit had been in cloud, this time the views were good, but the wind had become so strong that I was struggling to stay on my feet, and it felt very cold. I used my trekking poles as a tripod for my camera to take some photos, and then quickly descended to a more sheltered place.

Towards the summit.

The ridge leading to Glas Maol.

The Cairnwell on the other side of the road.

Glen Brighty.

View back to the summit.

After walking up the long, but easy slope to Glas Maol, I reached the trig point and summit shelter with some relief, and could have a lunch break away from the wind, at last.

After my break, I walked east to join the Monega Path.

The crags of Little Glas Maol.

Caenlochan Glen.

Cornices around the edges of the plateau.

From Little Glas Maol, I continued to Monega Hill, from which I had a good view into Canness Glen…

… and Glen Isla.

I really enjoyed walking down Monega Hill, it was a dry, grassy path at an easy angle and the wind had calmed down by now, so it was nice and warm as well. Down in the glen, the path joined a good track which lead past Tulchan Lodge and back to Auchavan.

I drove to the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel and was a bit surprised to find an empty car park (shortly after 19:00). I checked in and got settled in my room. Then I tried to have a shower – but it didn’t work. I got dressed again, went to reception to let the waiter/receptionist know, and he came to my room to try it himself – it still didn’t work. Somehow I expected to be offered another room (there must have been plenty available, as the hotel has got 56 bedrooms). But no, I was informed that “I would just have to have a bath then”…!

Ok, so I had a bath – the first one in three years, actually (the last one was in Joe’s B & B in Kinloch Hourn)!

Then I went to the pub for a bar meal, I had Scampi & Chips “with tartare sauce” (according to the menu), just that there was no sauce, only the various sachets on the table.

But the (double) bed in my room was extremely comfortable, and I had a very good sleep.

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Day 2

An Socach

29 March 2012

17 km/623 m/05:45 hrs

Munro: An Socach (No. 218)

Breakfast was interesting as well, I met the only other guests in the hotel, a couple who were walking the Cateran Trail. It turned out that their shower wasn’t working either. A young chef came from the kitchen and asked us what we would like for breakfast. We got a bowl of cornflakes each (drowned in milk), and cups of tea with milk/sugar already in them, placed on the table without saucers. The cooked breakfast that followed was ok, apart from the fact that the tomatoes were chopped tomatoes from a tin. We got a few slices of toast as well, but no jam or any other spreads.

The whole experience was a bit weird, but I suppose for £ 18 + 7 I shouldn’t have expected too much. At least I knew now that I could save myself the £ 7 for the breakfast during my next visit in May…

After checking out, I drove up the A93 past the Glenshee Ski Centre, and parked beside a small plantation in Glen Clunie, near Baddoch.

View south from the bridge across the Clunie Water.

The weather was a bit dull to start with, but not quite as windy as the day before. I walked along the Baddoch Burn up to the Allt Coire Fhearneasg, and after easily fording the stream, I followed a path winding its way up the heathery slopes of Socach Mòr.

Large Cairn on Socach Mòr.

From the cairn, another clear path leads up to the ridge.

During the ascent, the clouds had lifted and I reached the broad stony ridge under blue skies.

Large shelter at the east end of An Socach’s ridge.

Loch Vrotachan.

Beinn a’ Bhuird and Ben Avon, seen across Glen Ey.

I found a path leading along the ridge and followed it all the way to the summit.

On the large flat summit area there are several cairns and a shelter, and I visited all of them to make sure I had been on the true summit, but also to get a better view in all directions.

View down to Glen Ey.

Loch nan Eun (zoomed).

While I was enjoying the views from the summit plateau, I also discovered a clear path leading up from the bealach south of An Socach. If I had known that, I might have included An Socach in my round of the Glen Ey Munros a few weeks ago – but then again, I didn’t know how difficult the descent into Glen Ey would have been.

After spending some time at the top, I walked back along the ridge, up to the slight dip from where the Allt Boruiche flows down the SE flanks of the hill.

I found a good path leading down, following the line of the stream. The only problem was a large snow patch covering the path further down.

I crossed it very carefully at its narrowest point, and made it across without breaking through.

Looking back to my descent route along the Allt Boruiche.

Just before the confluence of the stream with the Baddoch Burn, I came across a wide track that leads all the way back through the glen.

In the meantime, it had become quite warm and I had a break, sitting in the sun by the ford across the Allt Coire Fhearneasg. After that, it was only a short, pleasant stroll back to the car.

Stalkers ponies near Baddoch.

The view from the bridge again, this time a lot sunnier than in the morning.

I tried to buy some ice cream and cold drinks in Braemar, but the little supermarket in the main street was in the process of being refurbished, and the freezers had been switched off already. But at the petrol station outside Braemar I was successful and, feeling a bit refreshed, I started the long drive back home.

On the way I became very tired due to the warm weather, and when several short breaks didn’t help, I stopped for half an hour’s sleep in the car park at White Bridge. All in all, this had been a good trip, even if I missed out on the really great weather we had a few days earlier.

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