Friday, 14 December 2018

Old friends above the valley of the deer

This is the first of two "catch-up" posts from the end of October.  A bright and breezy day looked good for a hillwalk, and looking at the map I realised that it had been a while since I'd been over the hill to Speyside. I decided to climb Corryhabbie Hill, but not via the usual route.

My route from Donside to Speyside climbs up through high farmland and across the Cabrach, an area of moorland studded with mostly abandoned buildings.  It wasn't always so and there's a good history of the Cabrach on "Lenathehyena's" blog.  The play of light was marvellous on this October morning, rainbows appearing and disappearing as showers passed through.

I started my walk at Bridgehaugh where there's space to park a couple of cars clear of the estate road and entrance.  A steep slope covered with bracken was virtually glowing against a blue sky.

A look at the map in the link above will show that the track leading southwest from Bridgehaugh goes upstream alongside a river which is by no means large, but has a name known throughout the world.  This is the River Fiddich, and this view looks along part of Glen Fiddich.  Downstream the river runs through Speyside's "whisky capital", the village of Dufftown.  Along the banks of the river are some of the best known of Scotland's distilleries; Mortlach, Balvenie and, of course, Glenfiddich among them. Nowhere else in Scotland (or indeed the world) has a higher concentration of distilleries than this corner of Speyside.

I walked alongside the river past the now delapidated Glenfiddich Lodge, a former shooting lodge, and took a track climbing above a bend in the river up into a landscape of rounded hills covered in wind-clipped heather.  the track made for fast walking and I was soon swinging around between two hills and beginning the climb to the broad ridge which forms Corryhabbie Hill's summit.

From the higher ground the views open up to be really expansive.  To the north west, the most distinctive hill in the area, Ben Rinnes, is prominent.  It's a hill which has given some great days.  The "normal" route to climb Corryhabbie Hill from Glen Rinnes comes up the track in this image - my route would only coincide with that one on the summit ridge itself.

To the north, the slopes of the wonderfully named Thunderslap Hill fall to the Dullan water, and rising beyond is the Dufftown "double" of Meikle and Little Conval.  Looking to familiar hills - old friends-  is one of the small joys of hillwalking, and the more hills one climbs, the more joy there is to be had!

On the upper ridge of Corryhabbie Hill I was exposed to a biting north wind - to the north there's no higher ground between these hills and the north pole....and today it felt like it.  I stopped to put on another layer, gloves and a hat. 

Crouching down to sort out my kit I noticed the stunning colour on tufts of Deer Grass (Trichophorum cespitosum).  The name is misleading, it's neither a grass (actually a member of the sedge family) or particularly favoured by grazing deer.  The name derives from the wonderful shade of the plant in autumn, reminiscent of the coats of Red Deer.  There was a theme here too, because "Glenfiddich" is valley of the deer in Gaelic. 

Wrapped up against the chill of the wind, I walked on along the ridge.


  1. It's a lovely part of the country that and very dry compared to most of Highland Scotland. Nice colours.

    1. Thanks Bob, it really is a good area for walking - and for enjoying a dram!