by David Battle
I don’t know how many times I have hiked up the mountain Lochnagar; I have lost count. It was the first Munro I attempted as an 8-year-old (I think) with my dad and my sister, and I have returned many times since. I have been on top of Lochnagar on cold winter’s days and in whiteout. I have been at the top in beautiful summer sunshine and damp foggy drizzle. I have raced up on a summer’s evening and also included it in much longer days of Munro bagging. We even celebrated my Dad’s 60th birthday on Lochnagar, on an extremely cold February a couple of years ago.
Lochnagar stands some 30 miles south-west of where I grew up. A local viewpoint (named Queen’s View) only minutes from our home, gave a perfect view the sheer face of the Lochnagar coire itself. As the most visible and dramatic mountain of our childhood it always held an allure.
As a walk it is most easily accessed from the Spittal of Glenmuick car park. The 8-mile walk around Loch Muick is also well worth the trip and a family favourite before the mountain itself became more appealing. Red Deer in large herds are nearly always to be found grazing near the Spittal. There is a small open visitor centre and a picnic site. Walk away from here on the Allt na-giubhsaich track and you soon leave the softer comforts of the valley behind.
The main track is then left for a well-built footpath heading for the coll between Meikle Pap and Cuidhe Crom. Once here, and already above Munro height (3000ft/914m), you climb south-west onto something akin to the Cairngorm Plateau in miniature. Care is needed in poor visibility, especially under snow, to avoid the curving cliff edge and the in-cut gullies.
The first top with its large cairn, is not to be confused with the summit proper, which is in fact the mound of large granite blocks and folds of Cac Carn Beag roughly 400m further north. Cac Carn Beag translates from the gaelic as the rather unappealing “small cairn of faeces”. The top provides a panorama (in the right weather) and sitting on the edge of the Cairngorms you can pick out many of its peaks and mountains. There’s a compass plaque on the summit giving the names, distances and heights of the significant tops within a clear line of sight. From here it is also easy to identify the small hills near home, reversing the Queen’s View.
“England! Thy beauties are tame and domestic
To one who has roved on the mountains afar
Oh! For the crags that are wild and magestic
The steep frowning glories of dark Loch na Garr.”
Dark Lochnagar by Lord Byron
Despite repeated visits Lochnagar doesn’t lose its appeal. There are summer and winter climbs on the face, a summer solstice bivvy, and as part of a round of the hills starting from my family home. There are still so many reasons to go back.
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