Explore Britain's biggest mountain range with a Cicerone guide

Cover of Walking in the Cairngorms
28 Jan 2015
17.2 x 11.6 x 2.1cm
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1st Published
30 Jun 2005
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Walking in the Cairngorms

Walks, trails and scrambles

by Ronald Turnbull
Book published by Cicerone Press

Walking in the Cairngorms is a handy pocket-sized guidebook that describes over 100 routes consisting of both day and multi-day walks set in stunning scenery. The routes cover low-lying, mid-height and mountain trails along with 23 Munro summits. The terrain ranges from sandy trails to rocky scrambles and wilder ground full of plant life.

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In over 100 walks, this Walking in the Cairngorms guidebook explores the Munro summits of the Cairngorm region and the smaller hills outside the main range. For the adventurous, it offers the best of the area’s rocky scrambles and the classic through routes. For those who aren’t quite as adventurous, there are easy, sandy trails along the banks of the great rivers Spey, Nethy and Dee. Each walk in this guidebook ranges between 1 and 23 miles in length, and is graded for difficulty.

For low-level walking, the Speyside has the best network in Scotland, and it’s improving all the time. These paths are sandy, well drained and sheltered by the pines. Some are waymarked and signposted, some not; it’s a good idea to carry a compass and keep a general idea of which way is road and which way is vast and pathless wilderness.

The mid-level hills are more demanding. Apart from one or two favourites such as Meall a’ Bhuachaille and Morrone, they are little visited, so there will usually be no path. The hillsides here have heather that’s knee-high, or else a wood of pine’s juniper. Adventuring through this wilder ground is rewarding in itself; but then you emerge to the deliciously easy walking across their tops, where nature and the weather ensure low vegetation.

The mountains of 900m and upwards offer, oddly, easier going than mid-height. Across the plateau there’s no plant life to twine around your ankles; there are boulderfields, but mostly you’re on moss, gravel, or patches of old snow. The ground may be comparatively easy, but it is also serious. On the Braeriach plateau you’re several hours walk away from any shelter, and that walk may be down between crags.

Each of the Munros (3000ft/914m mountains) has its well-worn ‘standard route’. The will be the quickest and most convenient – and fairly straight-forward – route, but usually not the most interesting. However, this guide concentrates on what the author considers to be the most rewarding routes for each hill. These may also be a little bit more demanding, as they seek out the steeper scenery and avoid the flat landrover track.

But for the five finest hills the choice is up to you. Macdui, Cairn Gorm, Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Lochnagar: these are hills you will want to ascend lots of times by many different routes. For each there is a ‘summit summary’ with the standard route and the adventure around the back, the rocky scramble and the long, long walk in from somewhere else altogether. Many of the mountain routes start off along one of the low- or mid-level ones.

  • Seasons
    Snow on tops December – April. May/June best for all routes. July/August bring midges and heat.
  • Centres
    Aviemore, Glenmore village, Kingussie, Newtonmore, Tomintoul, Cock Bridge, Ballatar, Braemar
  • Difficulty
    Walks on mountains (900m+), mid-level hills and low-level routes. Some scrambling. All routes graded for height and difficulty.
  • Must See
    Macdui, Cairn Gorm, Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Lochnagar; river walks along the Spey, Nethy, Avon and Dee; scrambles
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Cairngorms: the highs and the lows
Walking conditions
When to go
Safety in the mountains
How to use this book
Part 1 Aviemore and the Spey
1 Grantown and Spey
2 Spey at Boat of Garten
3 Craigellachie Birches
4 Geal-charn Mor
5 Around Loch an Eilein
6 Ord Ban
7 Argyll Stone
Part 2 Glen More
8 Gleann Einich and the Sgorans
9 Creag a' Chalamain and the Cat Notch
10 Down Cairn Gorm
11 Lochan Uaine
12 Meall a' Bhuachaille
13 Creag Mhor and Bynack More
14 Beinn Mheadhoin
Summit Summary: Cairn Gorm
15 Bynack More and the Saddle
16 Strath Nethy and the Saddle
17 Lairig an Lui, Loch Avon, Coire Raibert
18 Lochan na Beinne and Cnap Coire na Spreidhe
19 Coire Cas (descent)
20 Coire an t-Sneachda: Headwall (scramble Grade 1)
21 Coire an t-Sneachda: Pygmy Ridge (scramble Grade 3)
22 Coire an t-Sneachda: Goat Path
23 Fiacaill Ridge of Coire an t-Sneachda (scramble Grade 1)
24 Lurcher's Crag
25 Plateau route from Macdui
Shelter Stone Summary
26 Strath Nethy and the Saddle
27 Lairig an Lui, Loch Avon
28 To Coire Cas or Cairn Gorm by Coire Raibert
29 From Coire Cas by Coire Domhain
30 From Linn of Dee by Loch Etchachan
31 To Ben Macdui by Loch Etchachan
32 To Carn Etchachan by Pinnacle Gully (scramble Grade 1)
33 Forefinger Pinnacle (scramble Grade 3)
34 To Ben Macdui by Avon Slabs (scramble Grade 1 or 2)
Summit Summary: Ben Macdui
35 From Lairig Ghru by Tailor Burn
36 From Derry Lodge by Carn a' Mhaim
37 Sron Riach
38 Via Derry Cairngorm
39 Coire Etchachan
40 From Coire Cas
41 Plateau route from Cairn Gorm
Part 3 Badenoch
42 Badenoch Way
43 Insh to Aviemore
44 Druid Circle at Dalraddy
45 Take an Insh
46 Carn Dearg Mor
47 Mullach Clach a' Bhlair by Coire Garbhlach
48 Badan Mosach waterfall
49 Summer Road to Ruthven
50 Glen Tromie: Croidh-la
51 Creag Bheag
Summit Summary: Braeriach
52 From Glenmore by Chalamain Gap and Sron na Lairige
53 From Rothiemurchus by Sron na Lairige
54 Gleann Einich and Coire Ruadh
55 Gleann Einich and Coire Dhondail
56 Coire Dhondail scramble (scramble Grade 1)
57 South Ridge of Coire Bhrochain
58 Ridge route from Cairn Toul
Summit Summary: Cairn Toul
59 Coire Odhar
60 Great Moss
61 East Ridge (scramble Grade 1)
62 Northeast Ridge of Angel's Peak (scramble Grade 1)
63 Corrie of the Chokestone Gully
64 Ridge route from Braeriach
Part 4 Glenlivet and Tomintoul
65 Hills of Cromdale
66 Carn Daimh
67 Around the Brown
68 Glen Brown and Ailnack Ravine
69 Ben Avon by its River
70 Tors of Ben Avon
71 Cnap Chaochan Aitinn
72 Ailnack Upper Ravine
Part 5 Donside
73 Carn Ealasaid
74 Brown Cow Hill
75 Don to Ben Avon
Part 6 Deeside Braemar
76 Clais Fhearnaig
77 Derry Cairngorm by Lochan Uaine
78 The Happy Face of Beinn a' Chaorainn
79 Dee and Derry
80 Around Glen Geusachan
81 The Devil's Back Side
82 Glen Quoich
83 Beinn a' Bhuird
84 Carn na Drochaide and the Fairy Glen
85 Morrone Birkwood and the Dee
86 Morrone and Glen Ey
87 Creag nan Gabhar
88 White Mounth and Jock's Road
Part 7 Balmoral and Lochnagar
89 Balmoral Castle
90 Craigendarroch and the Dee
91 Around Loch Muick
92 Dubh Loch and Broad Cairn
93 Creag an Dubh-loch
Summit Summary: Lochnagar
94 Queen Victoria's Ballochbuie Route
95 Byron's scramble by the Stuic (scramble Grade 1)
96 Tracks from Balmoral
97 Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe
98 Tourist path from Spittal of Glenmuick
99 Conachcraig
100 Loch na Gaire
101 Falls of Glas Allt (descent)
102 From Loch Callater
The Long Routes
The Cairngorms 4000s
The Lairig Ghru
Appendix I Route summary
Appendix II Access (in particular during the deer-stalking season)
Appendix III Mountain bothies
Appendix IV Gaelic place names
Appendix V Lists of hills
Appendix VI Scrambles summary and grading
Appendix VII Accommodation and information
Appendix VIII Further reading
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