I’ve been wanting to do this classic route through Glen Tilt for years and today the planets aligned. It isn’t a difficult walk but there is one obstacle that can seriously ruin your day if the conditions are wrong: you have to ford the Geldie Burn. If it’s in spate you have to retrace your steps as it would be too dangerous. The reason I managed to persuade the Missus to let me go (and on a work day too) was that it was being organised and led by the rangers of Atholl Estates: yes, Jazz and I would have to be sociable.
We got dropped off at the Linn of Dee where we were joined by the ranger from NTS’s Mar Estate who would take us as far as the Atholl border. Having all these rangers with us made the whole experience hugely enjoyable as they gave us the benefit of their knowledge of the estates, the history, geography, and natural history. It was like having David Attenborough along for a private lesson.
We started from the car park (full on a Tuesday morning!) and headed up an estate track beside the Dee. Very soon we realised that the forecast overcast sky with later rain was yet another burp in the MetOffice computer: we had blue skies and cumulus clouds – off come the layers. Deeside here is a wide glen with remnants of the Caledonian Forest along the sides and the remnants of old townships dotted all the way along: the sign that this was once heavily populated and a major route through the hills.
The track crosses the Dee at the White Bridge: the point where the path splits – the right heading for the Lairig Ghru, the left for Atholl. The views here were lovely. It’s then a short path to the Geldie Burn and the first chance to see what all the fuss is about. Today it was benign but a view of the river bed shows that this can get nasty, quickly. So it’s sandals on: a refreshing paddle and stroll later we were at our lunch spot at the ruined Bynack Lodge.
After lunch we have a couple of km until we reach the watershed where the Allt Garve Buidhe (the yellow burn) starts heading south-west for Glen Tilt. Just beside the path we spotted an Adder sun-bathing but it didn’t like the paparazzi and quickly disappeared into the heather. The scenery starts to change and become more dramatic as the path follows a narrow gorge down to the Bedford Bridge beside the Falls of Tarf which is an ideal spot for an afternoon snack. It is here that the Allt Garve Buidhe joins the Tarf Water to become the River Tilt – my favourite river.
It’s literally downhill all the way from here to Forest Lodge. But that didn’t mean things were dull: the wildlife and scenery were superb. There was a brief glimpse of a Golden Eagle, an almost black Mountain Hare, and lots of Ring Ouzels flitting about. And then very close to Forest Lodge we pass Hutton’s famous rock formations where the granite has been squirted into existing rock. With the evening sun catching the steep side of the glen it was a lovely way to end the walk. One of the other advantages of the rangers organising it was that we have 4x4s waiting to take us the last 7 miles down the glen: Jazz and I did it last year and although lovely, it would have been a bit of a trudge at the end of long day. So a long-held goal completed in beautiful weather with lots learned and enjoyed: I’d thoroughly recommend it and it goes onto our Essentials collection.
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