Tuesday 27 August 2013

A Visit to Loch Avon

The head of the Loch Avon corrie

Motorbikes, leather jackets, tattoos and loud rock music are not the usual accompaniment to the start of a walk in the hills, especially at a high ski resort car park. That was the case in Coire Cas in the Cairngorms though, the reason being the annual ‘Thunder In The Glens’ Harley Davison motorbike rally, which brings thousands of bikers to Strathspey. I’d passed slowly through an Aviemore heaving with bikers and bikes, many shops draped with huge Harley Davison banners (the most incongruous being the one filling half the window of the Red Cross charity shop with a white wedding dress in the other half) but I hadn’t realised they came up into the hills.

Coire Cas, August 25, 2013

Leaving Coire Cas to the sound of revving bikes and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid I headed up to the Cairngorm Plateau. I could hear the bikes all the way up but once I dropped down slightly into shallow Coire Raibert the noise vanished, leaving just the gentle trickle of the burn the only sound. In the upper part of the corrie a work party was repairing the eroded path with big stones. Further down I could see animals grazing. Used to human beings the semi-domesticated reindeer paid little attention to me and I was able to walk right through the herd. It’s always a delight to come across these reindeer, which range widely over the Northern Cairngorms, a reminder that this is a northern sub-arctic landscape. 

At the lip of the corrie I took the steep, rocky path that follows the burn down to Loch Avon, one of the most spectacular places in the Cairngorms and my destination for the day. Situated in a deep narrow trench the long loch is surrounded by steep rocky hillsides with massive cliffs at its head. I’d looked down on the loch earlier in the year when filming the ‘Cairngorms in Winter’ but we’d not found time to descend to it. I like to do so at least once every year, often camping there at least one night. This was a day trip only but I had allowed time to sit and stare, revelling in the great rock architecture, the crashing streams and the overwhelming sense of wildness. I wandered along the lochside and then beside the stream at its head below the huge rock buttresses of Carn Etchachan and the Shelter Stone Crag. High on the latter two rock climbers were inching upwards, their tiny forms dwarfed by the massive, fractured wall.

Carn Etchachan & the Shelter Stone Crag

Leaving the Loch Avon basin I climbed steeply back up to Coire Domhain and the Cairngorm Plateau. The effort of the ascent was eased by turning back frequently to gaze over the splendid scene I was leaving. Again the roar of a tumbling burn, tearing down in cascades and water slides, accompanied me. A final walk over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and then a descent to a now quiet and almost empty Coire Cas finished a fine day out. 

Loch Avon & Beinn Mheadhoin


  1. Quite some contrast, the hairy bikers and the reindeer! What will the latter have made of the former is anybody's guess...

    Nice little jaunt in one of the most magical places, Chris, and isn't the redesigned path up Coire Domhain quite a neat way to gain height now? In some places it is a bit too landscaped perhaps, but it'll soon blend into the hillside as vegetation regrows now that it is properly drained.


  2. On Monday (Aug 26) at dawn I observed a minimum of 19 reindeer including calves in Coire Domhain – more near Feith Buidhe and 39 at the head of of Garbh Uisge Beag.

    This is far, far too many. Almost any area that was “green” i.e. montane grassland was covered in fresh reindeer dung – large and small – adult and calves.

    It is my opinion that the “reindeer people” really haven’t a clue how many reindeer they have or where they range.Many did not have ear tags suggesting that these have bred “on the hill”.

    Red deer numbers have been greatly reduced in the Cairngorms – it is about time reindeer were too.


  3. Nice photos! Loch Avon seems like a wonderful place for some fly-fishing for trout. I am going to check it out for sure!

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