The missus and I have been going on holiday to Blair Atholl for over 20 years and every time we go up the Killiecrankie by-pass we see Carn Liath towering ahead of us and I say “I really must do that someday” and then never do. Well, a bit of heavy rain gave me the chance. The original plan was to walk from Blair Atholl through Glen Tilt to Deeside. This was abandoned after I read I’d have to cross a ford that was dangerous with the river in spate: Carn Liath became the back-up plan.
As I had my trusty Spot, Cathy allowed Jazz and I to head off on our own and kindly dumped us at the road-end at Loch Moraig. The walk along the track was through a sheep field so Jazz was on a tight lead which annoyed her no-end because the adjoining moor was just heaving with Red Grouse and she was desperate to go play. The place was jumping with birds including Curlew doing display flights and Wheatears bobbing about along the wall. We then break off and follow the track to the hill. We’d broken the ascent into five phases: trudge over boggy ground, heathery bit, first rocky part (“jeez that was hard”), second rocky part (“really not enjoying this”) and the final stroll to the summit (“this is more like it”). The rocky part of the path is probably visible from space: the grey rock stands out against the heather and is pretty wide because it’s got hair-pins to deal with the gradient. The wind was pretty bad, and the top and views were obscured by cloud. However, by the time we got to the summit they had started to break up and we got our reward.
Jazz celebrated getting to the summit of her first Munro by racing passed me downhill chasing a couple of Ptarmigan she had spotted right at the summit. This was the last game-bird species she needed for her list 1 and wasn’t going to let this pass without a chase. There were a lot of them up here in a variety of different plumages: the ones that got her attention were pure white.
Despite this being a Thursday there were five of us on the summit (plus a mad Spaniel keen to check out the lunch arrangements with everyone) – it must be awful on a bank holiday weekend. Luckily after lunch we all split up (well, the Spaniel came with me). We were heading for the next Munro with the fantastic name Bràigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain which involved a lovely walk along a broad ridge called Beinn Mhaol and then a reasonable climb to the summit. We had a look over to the Beinn A’Ghlo ridge as it looked enticingly close, but we decided we’d be pushing our time and so decided to head north-east towards Glen Tilt – we’ll be back for the ridge though – it looked stunning.
The new plan was to head along one of the arms of Bràigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain and head to Carn Toraidh to get a view of upper Glen Tilt where we had planned to walk. The views certainly were stunning but I didn’t realise the translation of the hill’s name was “So steep that only a moron would go down here“. It’s a grassy bank that drops 800m in 1km: I felt that if I put a wrong foot I’d drop straight into the garden of Forest Lodge. As I zigzagged down the slope my canine companion was running up, down and across wondering why her team-mate was making such a meal of it. We came down the side of the waterfall on the Allt Toraidh and despite it being lovely with its three separate drops I realised that I would never be coming this way again in this life.
Finally we reached the relatively flat path on glen floor just across from Forest Lodge. As we did an RAF Tornado screamed down the glen. I’m not saying this guy was too low, but I waved down at the back-seater. Clearly Glen Tilt makes ideal training for crews heading out to Libya.
The Tilt was in no mood to be crossed so we headed along the sheep track to where a foot bridge was marked on the OS map (NN918727). I know another footbridge further down the Tilt that is marked on the most recent OS map (NN878673) hasn’t been there for over a decade, so I wasn’t hopeful we’d find one here. But we were in luck. With an Indiana Jones feeling we headed over: not all the planks were secured and would spring up as you put weight on them, and the gaps gave a great view of the rotting central support beam. But we got to the other side and a celebratory apple. All that was left was the 7 mile trek back down the forest track to Blair Atholl…
This was a cracker of a walk: Jazz’s first two Munros, great scenery, a lovely day to be out, and finally ticking off a goal that has been taunting me for years. The only negative bit was the decent down from Carn Toraidh that left my legs with rigor mortis for the next couple of days – but you probably have enough torment in your life without thinking about my legs.
- She’s now got: Red and Black Grouse, Grey and Red-legged Partridge, Woodcock, Pheasant, Common and Jack Snipe, Capercaillie and Ptarmigan – not bad for a two-year old! ↩
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