Fancy a beautiful hike in the Scottish Cairngorms?
Want to know how to go to Blair Attholl? Where to stay during your hike? What to do in the surroundings of Glenmore? And where to stay in Edinburgh for combining your hike with a visit to this gorgeous city?
Where to start?
You can start from the train station in Blair Atholl and it is possible to stay at the campsite the night before. You don’t need to do this; I prefered to stay another night in Edinburgh and take the morning train to Blair Atholl (and my hostel was even cheaper than the campsite would be). Off course, you can also start in Aviemore or Glenmore and walk in the opposite position, but in my perspective, the landscape gets more impressive the more you approach Glenmore, so I think it is more rewarding to start in Blair Atholl and walk to Glenmore/Aviemore.
Edinburgh is just awesome and I would really recommend you to go there and spend some days exploring the city and enjoying the scottish pub food (I liked Greyfriars at George IV Bridge). Don’t forget to try a fried Mars bar before you start your hike: it’s a typical Scottish snack which you can get at Clam Shell shop at de Royal Mile if you specifically ask for it. To be honest: I love mars bars, but I didn’t like the fried mars bar so much, while my friend who doesn’t like chocolate at all could actually enjoy it. Anyway, it’s a must try, so go for it!
Where to stay in Edinburgh
I can definitely recommend the Budget Backpackers hostel at Cowgate/Grassmarket: it’s near to the trainstation and near to both old& new town; it’s cheap, but very clean and it has good facilities (e.g. free linen, free wifi, no kitchen but a big bar, spacy rooms with a locker for every bed and luggage rooms), the staff is friendly and the atmosphere is just great.
How to go to Blair Atholl?
Take the train or bus, but be aware that you need to book in advance to get the cheapest tickets.
What to bring
Navigating is not difficult, but there are no signs, so you need to bring maps and compass. I used the 1:50,000 ordnance survey maps 36 and 43. Pack your hiking& camping gear (don’t go to heavy!) and take food with you for at least 3 days. I got the advice not to drink the water straight from the river at the beginning (as it might be polluted) so I took enough drinking water with me. For cooking, I used the water from the river and boiled it. Higher up in the mountains, I dronk the water from the streams.
Arriving at Blair Atholl trainstation, what next?
You walk out the trainstation and go to the right. Cross the brigde and the path starts close after the brigde. Keep having a close look at your map as you can take different routes in the beginning. You could go through the forest or take a path a bit higher up. Both paths eventually reach the river Tilt which you’ll follow for a long time.
Don’t be scared, if I managed to arrive savely and easily in Glenmore, routefinding will probably be peace of cake for you 😉
At the last day, after Lairig Ghru, you can either go to the right and take the shorter and steaper path (be aware that this involves scrambling and I wouldn’t do this in bad weather) or continu walking straithforward to the forest and from there to the right to approach the road nearby Glenmore (a longer but flatter path).
Where to stay?
There are no campsites on this trail, but wildcamping is easy and legal in Scotland. To have an idea where I could pitch my tent, I carefully looked to the contour lines on the map. Look out for places with space between the trail and the lines. For example, check the contour lines at your map around White Brigde (see picture): you’ll see a lot of space between the bridge/trail and the first contour line. This area indeed turned out to be a perfect place for camping. Lines that are close to each other and close to the trail indicate that you’ll be surrounded by steep mountains and finding a good spot for your tent can be challenging.
Alternatively – if you don’t like to camp (wild) – you could spend the first night in Forest Lodgde (available place: 20 persons; you can book online), after 8mile/12km from Blair Atholl. The next day, you have to walk at least to Linn of Dee and then try hitchhike to Braemar that offers both a campsite and a hotel. The third day, you could hitchhike back to Linn of Dee or walk from Braemar to the Corrour Bothy. You can sleep in the Corrour Bothy; but be aware that you might have to share the place with other people and you still need to bring a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, dinner, and cooking stuff (stove, pot, cuttlery). The Corrour Bothy only offers a shelter for the night and toilet. If you’re an experienced hiker and in good condition, you could also walk from Linn of Dee to Glenmore in one day. If you’re doing this, I definitely recommend to start early and arrange a lift to Linn of Dee; don’t start from Braemar; it’s already going to be a long day. If the weather conditions turn out to be bad; be wise and stay in the Corrour Bothy after all. After the Corrour bothy, there will be NO shelter untill Glenmore. So even if you’re not planning to camp, take at least a sleeping mat and sleeping bag with you and cooking stuff & dinner for one day. The last day, you can walk to the road nearby Glenmore and hitchhike to the village that host a campiste and lodge with bed & breakfast. It’s also possible to hitchhike or take the bus if you’re early (I think the last bus is leaving at 6pm from the ski centre but might stop further on the road as well) to Aviemore which has hotels and hostels but no campsite. Another possibility is to walk to Aviemore instead of Glenmore, but this will extend your walk quite a lot with mainly walking through forest on flat terrain which didn’t sound appealing to me.
So where did I stay?
The first day, I walked through glen tilt, passing Forest Lodge, continuing the road track untill it turned into a footpath and eventually camped near to the river crossing at Old Shielings with on the left the hill ‘Dun Beag’ (573m). I could easily pitch my tent on a flat grass field and I was able to reach the river for shower & water supply. Be aware: after this point, it will take quite a well before the next suitable camping place.
The second day, I walked to White Bridge which is a great place for camping if you do the trail in 4 days, but I was still in for more walking that day so I continued to Corrour Bothy. Between White Bridge and Corrour Bothy, I didn’t see many good places for camping. As said before, you can sleep in the bothy or pitch your tent near to it.
The last day, I walked to the road nearby Glenmore and hithhiked to the campsite where I was welcomed by the very friendly campstaff. Attached to the campsite (see picture), you’ll find a beautiful lake and ‘beach’ which is the perfect place to eat your cooked dinner 😀
What to do in Glenmore and surroundings?
First of all, treat yourself to a good Scottish breakfast at Cobbs Cafe at Glenmore Visiting Center. The food is good, the owner and staff are very friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed, and there is free Wi-Fi, so I could text my concerned father that I was still alive 😉
You can make lots of dayhikes in the area. For instance, I heard that the hikes to Loch Eanaich and the hike to Ben Macdui (1309m) are very beautiful. However, I didn’t do these hikes and I will only give recommendations based on my personal experiences, so I would recommend you to walk up to Cairn Gorm Mountain (1245m). You can take the bus or hitchhike from Aviemore or Glenmore to the Ski Centre. From there, you can take either a right or left path up. I took the left path, which I enjoyed more than the right path (which is took on the way back). The hike is steap, but not long and you will be rewarded by the amazing views at the summit.