Thursday 23 July 2020

Back camping in the hills again

Four months since my last camp, my last night out in the hills. Such a long time! But shouldering my pack at the start of the walk down Glen Feshie it felt as though I’d never been away. Setting off like this was so familiar, something I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of times over the years. Four months absence could not overcome that. But to be heading deep into the Cairngorms again did feel wonderful.

The forecast was good and my plan was to wander along Glen Feshie, admiring the ancient pines, feeling inspired by all the new trees, and watching the surging silvery river, and out beyond the forest to camp, preferably somewhere breezy and midge free. The next day I’d come back over the tops, how many depending on the weather.

Glen Feshie was as lovely as ever. There were quite a few people about at first, many of them mountain bikers, but once I was past Ruigh-aiteachan bothy I only saw three others. As the last trees faded behind me the landscape opened up with heather moorland and gentle rolling hills spreading into the distance. The old path threaded a way through the bogs, intercut in places by an ugly modern vehicle track slashing muddy gashes in the terrain. 

Feeling surprisingly strong or at least attuned to the rhythm of walking I went on past two previously used camp sites, the first with a mountain biker just pitching his tent, the second with two closed tents. Both these sites are where burns come rushing down from the Moine Mhor to join the River Feshie. At these confluences patches of dry grass lie amongst the bogs.

At the River Eidart I turned away from the Feshie just as it began its curve back on itself. Beyond Eidart Bridge there are only sketchy deer tracks and the going is rough amongst deep heather, bogs and peat hags. I walked shingle banks and narrow strips of grass beside the river where possible, cutting away from the water where there were little crags or undercut deep pools. From previous visits I knew it was some four kilometres before the bogs started to fade and the land became grassier and more suitable for camping. 

I’d set off late and the sky was darkening as I walked the last few kilometres. My legs were weary now, reminding me I hadn’t done this in a while. Wanting to stop I prospected a couple of spots but knew that I wouldn’t sleep well on the bumpy boggy ground so I went on, finally stopping on a strip of grass between wet areas of cotton grass. It would do.

The night was calm and cool, the temperature falling to just 5.6°C in the few hours of darkness. There was a light breeze so I slept with the tent door open. It had been light for hours when I woke to a grey sky and rain spattering on the tent. 

Boggy heather led up to the southern edge of the vast Moine Mhor plateau. Here the wind was cold and squalls of rain blasted across the hills. Some passed me by to the south and west and I watched as they swept over distant hills. I joined a bulldozed track that should never have been built up here and followed it almost to Mullach Clach a’Bhlair. A short path led to the summit. A heavy squall caught me here, the rain icy and stinging. My hands felt chilled and I wished I’d brought gloves. With no views I didn’t linger and was soon heading down the track back to Glen Feshie. I didn’t feel like spending more time high up in this weather.

Walking back along the glen I felt content. A good trip in a familiar favourite place. I was back.


  1. It was the young trees which struck me most when I returned to Glen Lui. Last saw them in March and all the young birch have bulked out with leaves, and the pines have really spurted, with a good six to eight inches of new growth.

  2. A lovely, evocative read :)

  3. A man at one with his world. Good to see you back out there Chris.