Tuesday 8 April 2014

Glen Quoich & The Eastern Cairngorms

Beinn a'Bhuird

An chat on Twitter with @CairngormTreks about Ben Avon reminded me of trips to this fine mountain and it's equally fine neighbour Beinn a'Bhuird so I dug out this piece on an overnight trip to these hills that first appeared in The Great Outdoors several years ago.

The big hills of the Eastern Cairngorms, Ben Avon and Beinn a’Bhuird, form two huge plateaux between Glen Dee in the south and Glen Avon in the north. They lie far from roads and the round of the pair in a day is a long, strenuous undertaking. A two day trip with an overnight camp is a far more enjoyable way to appreciate these magnificent hills. Being in the hills early and late means experiencing the sometimes subtle, sometimes spectacular, light of dawn and dusk as well, with no worry about walking in the dark.
Double rainbow in Glen Quoich

Glen Dee gives the quickest approach to the hills via Glen Quoich or Gleann an t-Slugain. I prefer Glen Quoich, mainly due to the splendid ancient pine woods, though it is also slightly shorter, and it was up this glen that I set out from Linn of Quoich under a dark sky with heavy showers hammering on my waterproofs and pack. Underfoot the ground was sodden and the streams were all bursting with run-off.  A cold north-west wind had me cinching my jacket hood tight and striding out fast to warm up my muscles. I reassured myself that the forecast for the next day, when I would be on the summits, was for sunshine. There was little sign of the sun that first day though as evening drew on short bursts of light pierced the clouds and brought rainbows curving over the forest. 
Camp in upper Glen Quoich

Leaving the trees behind I reached the heathery slopes of the upper glen and found a grassy spot near the stream for my camp with excellent views down the glen and into Coire na Ciche on Beinn a’Bhuird. A chilly night with the temperature dipping near freezing showed that the clouds were dissipating and I woke to a calm, clear dawn and warm enough temperatures to sit outside. Off early I was soon climbing the path between the encroaching slopes of Beinn a’Bhuird and Ben Avon to the narrow neck of land between the two called The Sneck. Here the wind caught me again and I had to don my windshirt. Rough slopes led to the Ben Avon plateau where, as always, I marvelled at the vast space and the scattering of rough granite tors, the highest of which, called Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe (bed of the yellow stag), is the summit. After the short, easy scramble to the top of this tor I returned to The Sneck and headed up the slopes of Beinn a’Bhuird, a smoother, grassier plateau with no tors and just a small cairn marking the North Top, the summit of the hill. The glory of Beinn a’Bhuird lies in the great cliff-rimmed corries that cut into its eastern slopes and the best walk on the hill is along the edge of these. Here I met the only other walker I saw on the hills. Clouds were building up from the west as I turned away from the cliffs for the path down the spur of An Diollaid back to Glen Quoich, a path that has replaced the old bulldozed road that once scarred the hillside here but which has been removed by the National Trust for Scotland. 

The Eastern Corries of Beinn a'Bhuird

After fording the Allt an Dubh-ghlinne at the base of the hill, a stone-hopping exercise during which I just kept my feet dry, I followed the track on the west side of Quoich Water down through the pines to Linn of Quoich. The first rain was just starting to fall as I finished the walk.


  1. A wonderful part of the Cairngorms Chris. One so often overlooked. A memory lane recall read that. For you looking back to Akto's and Karrimor packs it looks like too? I really enjoy your digging old, and excellent material up to share with us. That Rum one you shared when I asked a while back sticks long in the memory. Fine writing, fine photos as always. Really enjoyed that Chris and this as much.

    1. Thanks Martin. The piece dates from 2007. I still use the Akto occasionally - most recently with Terry Abraham in the Lakes last May. I can't remember which Karrimor pack it was - definitely one I was testing.