Sunday 16 October 2022

Autumn Colours, A Wild Camp & Carn Dearg Mor: A Glen Feshie Walk

An autumn visit to Glen Feshie is an essential part of my outdoor year. The autumn colours are spectacular, the air is crisp, the haze of summer is over, the midges gone.

This year I decided, unusually, to walk down the west side of the glen and back over the little-visited Corbett Carn Dearg Mor, with a camp along the way. This is not a time or place to hurry.

Sitting in a café in Aviemore I stared at the rain hammering down and wondered if I really wanted to go. By the time I left the car in Glen Feshie the sun was breaking through the clouds, and I was glad I’d resisted the urge to return home. Just a brief shower fell as I walked down the glen, and that ended with a rainbow curving over hills that glowed in the late sunshine.

Birches shone bright yellow amongst the dark pines. I turned out of the main glen into the mouth of the ravine of the Slochd Mor and camped out in the open away from the forest. 

The night began dark and cloudy. Then the moon, just a few days off full, rose and the skies cleared. Jupiter shone brightly but the moonlight was too bright for many stars to be visible. Thoughts of an early night vanished, and I was outside for several hours, relishing the beauty of the sky and the peace and quiet of the silent glen, the silence broken just once when a skein of geese called loudly as they raced overhead.

Dawn came with a heavy dew and a temperature just above freezing. A gently breeze rustled the long grasses. I’d woken once in the night when a gust of wind was strong enough to shake a few drops of cold condensation onto my face. I lingered over breakfast, reluctant to leave. It was so calm here. But leave I did, eventually, of course, heading up the vehicle track into the enclosing steep walls of the narrow Slochd Mor and past the little Lochan an t-Sluic to a pinewood on the watershed between Glen Feshie and Glen Tromie.

A strong cold wind blasted down the Slochd Mor and I was glad to take shelter on the edge of the wood for a rest. The maps show tracks and paths running up the slopes east of the trees to the broad ridge leading to Carn Dearg Mor. However they’ve just about disappeared on the ground. (The Walk Highlands website does have an up-to-date description).

The hillside is changing fast here as it’s been planted with masses of saplings as part of Wildland’s project to restore the Caledonian Forest. One reason I had come this way was to see this work. At present the little trees barely poke above the heather and from a distance this appears to be heather moorland. In a decade it should look like a young forest.

The walk up the hillside isn’t difficult, and I didn’t miss the path. I came across traces in places, but these were so overgrown there was no advantage in trying to follow them. On the ridge I joined a rough vehicle track that led to the little pile of stones marking the summit of Carn Mor Dearg, the now fierce wind driving me along. The views are extensive from this isolated hill. To the west clouds shrouded the summits. Across Glen Feshie the Western Cairngorms were dark and sombre. A flock of birds flew low over the ground. Fieldfares I thought from the shape. High above a golden eagle drifted in the wind. Later two ravens croaked noisily. A few grouse exploded from the heather.

The slowly descending ridge from Carn Dearg Mor to Carn Dearg Beag is a delight. The walking is easy and the views into Glen Feshie superb. Clumps of green and orange deer grass were startling in their autumn brightness, a last glorious burst before fading into brittle winter grey.

Beyond Carn Dearg Beag the track faded away, but the way ahead is obvious, at least on a clear day, with an estate track cutting across the hillside visible ahead. This can be taken south-east down into Glen Feshie, but I decided on a direct descent. I wanted to walk through the glorious birches I could see below me.

The terrain was much tougher now with many tussocks and deep heather. I stumbled in hidden holes a few times. But the rewards for the effort were immense. The forest was a blaze of gold and yellow. Some of the big old birches were breathtakingly magnificent. And amongst them were equally bright youngsters, the living forest continuing into the future.

Once back on the road in the glen I soon reached my car as the first raindrops fell. I drove back to Aviemore and sat in the same café watching rain hammering down.



  1. Stunning scenery well-captured Chris. One for a winter camp on the top methinks. Another wee donation on the way Chris

  2. Beautifully written once again Chris

  3. Thank you Chris,very pleased that you got your Glen Feshie fix this winter.Photos excellent as always.That sounds like some magic cafe you where in in Aviemore,sure could do with one of those here in Galloway! I enjoyed your writing and look forward to your next outdoors adventure!