Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Hidden treasure in Strathdon

For a winter day with a cold wind and weather which was due to briefly brighten into early afternoon sunshine I looked for a walk close to home so that it would be in line with Covid restrictions whilst being a route I hadn't previously explored.  A circular walk in Strathdon taking in some forest and open country above the River Don looked to fit the bill perfectly.

The first part of the route used forest roads which were icy but sheltered from the chilly wind.  After a steady climb things levelled off and ahead a dazzling snowy and sunlit hillside promised views opening up.

And open up they did.  The Don in it's upper reaches is a comparatively small river and with temperatures in the hills which form the catchment well below freezing it was quite shallow.

As the forest was left behind, the views went widescreen - and what views!

Rounded heather hills can look somewhat dull until either the heather comes into bloom, or the snow comes.  Under snow this landscape is transformed, every feature accentuated by the hard, low winter light.  2020's lockdown restrictions had been a revelation in helping find wild country, beauty and interest close at hand - and 2021 has started on the same theme.  I never take for granted what we have on the doorstep, but have certainly come to appreciate things more fully during this dreadful pandemic.

The ridges reaching northwards from the hills of the Mona Gowan ridge looked utterly majestic under full snow cover and alternating light and shade. A pair of distant Golden Eagles working across a ridge, hanging on the wind as they looked for unwary hares was an absolute bonus. To this point the going underfoot had been really good with hard, icy snow which was wind scoured.  From the summit of Tom a Bhuraich back to the forest was a different story, a slog downhill in deep powder overlying even deeper heather - sadly no chance of finding any 13th century silver coins today, but never mind - this walk was treasure enough!

The downhill "plowter" through the snow was accompanied by a complete change in conditions.  To the north east, clear air took on an almost lemon shade as a frost haze set in.

A glance over the shoulder showed much more hostile conditions beginning to arrive.  The snow and wind held off long enough to get back to the car, which hadn't seemed likely.  

Once again a local route had given a terrific day's walk and some great views.  At 12km/8 miles, with modest ascent and a high point of just 561m/1840ft it packs a lot of variety and interest.  The whole route is on OS Landranger Sheet 37 (Strathdon and Alford), there is space for a couple of considerately parked cars at the side of the minor road at NJ 334 103


  1. Looks wonderful - will try out your route soon !

  2. I hope you'll enjoy it Linda - another gem on the doorstep :o)