Wednesday, 28 August 2013
Mona Gowan - a view fit for a Queen (or a goat)
On a warm late summer day I decided on short round on some of the local hills. Just 15 minutes drive from home and I set off from Culfork near the village of Strathdon on a forest track. Some forestry tracks can be dark and shaded, but this one had vibrant colour among the trees and heather.
The colourful scenery continued as the track emerged from the forestry and began to climb across the open moorland above. This view is looking north to Strathdon and Glen Nochty.
Looking back as the track began to zigzag up a steep section, the patches of "muirburn" were very obvious. This is a managed grouse moor and patches are burned in early Spring to promote regeneration of young heather shoots which the Grouse feed on. Regrowth of heather takes several years and the striped appearance of open heather moorland is a feature of the eastern Highlands. The Grouse have clearly had a good breeding year; I saw lots of birds and also (this being August and the beginning of the Grouse season), several shooting parties.
Grouse shooting is an important part of the economy locally and "guns" travel from all over the world to shoot. I do wish they'd learn to pick up after themselves though, the tracks and open hill are littered with cartridges.
After just an hour and a half's steady climb on a good track I reached the 749m/2457ft summit of Mona Gowan. This hill is a "Graham" - a Scottish hill between 2000 and 2500ft; of which there are 224. The name is a corrupted spelling of the Gaelic Monadh Gobhar - "Goat Moor". The big cairn of stones was originally erected in 1887 for Queen Victoria's Jubilee.
The view from the summit is very expansive. Mona Gowan is the eastern end and high point of a broad east-west ridge, and apart from nearby Morven it stands apart from any other high ground. There's a huge feeling of space here, the rolling heather moors stretching in all directions to the Cairngorm giants in the south and west and to the Ladder and Cromdale hills in the north east - a patchwork of purple heather and bright green fields and forests. Any Queen or indeed goat would be pleased enough with this view!
Despite all the colour, it was this hazy view towards Lochnagar which caught my eye. I love these long views of successive ridgelines receding to the horizon. Space, warm sun and enough of a breeze to keep away the insects kept me on the summit to eat lunch and enjoy the place.