Tuesday, 20 September 2022

The other Huntly's Cave

Uaigh Mhor & Huntly's Cave

Huntly’s Cave is a popular rock-climbing crag set in a deep ravine with the Allt an Fhithich (Raven’s Burn) running through it. The crag lies a few miles from Grantown-on-Spey just off the A939, known locally as the Dava Road as it crosses Dave Moor. The Dava Way, which follows the old railway line from Grantown to Forres, passes close by. UKclimbing.com lists 31 climbs on the crag.

The cave that gives its name to the crag is named after George Gordon, 2nd Marquis of Huntly, who is said to have hidden here after his Royalist force was defeated in the early 1640s. His son is also said to have hidden here not long afterwards. (Information from Place-Names Around Grantown-on-Spey by C.J.Halliday).

However, there is another Huntly’s Cave just four kilometres to the north-east that’s far less well-known. Not much information is available on this cave. Halliday just comments that “it’s said one of the lords of Huntly found refuge here while proscribed by the government”. It lies in a little ravine, the Uaigh Mhor (Large Grave), in an attractive small rocky area on the boggy moorland west of Carn na Loine (Hill of the Marsh) on the northern border of the Cairngorms National Park.

After passing close by many times over the years – as with so many local places I’ve been meaning to “get round to” - I finally decided to go and have a look at it on a day of low cloud and drizzle when the high hills didn’t seem attractive. 

Starting out from home through the local woods I discovered recent storm-felled trees on top of the not-quite-so-recent ones, making the going interesting in places. The woods were damp and autumnal. There were many fungi. 


Once through the trees I was soon on the estate track that runs through the open moorland around the head of the Allt Breac (Speckled Burn). The rocky area holding Huntly’s Cave stands out amongst the bleak expanse of sheep-cropped and muir burned heather. It makes up the eastern side of 420-metre Carn a’ Ghille Chearr (Hill of the Left-Handed Lad) and the little crags are dotted with small pines and birches. The Uaigh Mhor lies at the northern end of the crags and runs down to the track.

The Uaigh Mhor

Whilst only some 150 metres in length the Uaigh Mhor makes up for this with its roughness. A tangle of dense juniper bushes, deep heather, rocks, and boulders makes for slow progress. There’s no path. Why it’s meant to resemble a grave I couldn’t work out – maybe with less vegetation it would be clearer. 


The cave lies near the top end of the ravine, a narrow damp cleft under a boulder. It’s around three metres deep with enough space for two or three people to sit uncomfortably. The floor is sloping and rocky. You would have to be desperate to spend a night here.


From the cave I clambered out of the top end of the ravine and then followed the narrow ridge above back to the track. Another rocky ravine lay on the other side of this. There are many pines. This is a delightful little wild area in complete contrast to the moors just below. I enjoyed my mini expedition and I’ll be returning to explore more thoroughly.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris, we spent time in this area in July, birdwatching and off-road cycling over the estate tracks. Like you we found it a challenge to move about the ravines due to vegetation and boulders, the juniper was prolific and very spikey! We weren’t sure that we had found the correct hidey-hole as we thought it grim, interesting to visit but wouldn’t like to spend a night there, even if desperate. Looks the same cave that you visited. Agree the surrounding area is heavily grazed by sheep and once on the moor it’s low on wildlife as it’s heavily managed for grouse. What we loved were the big skies and no other visitors, well off the beaten track. Look forward to your reports of future visits to this area.

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