Scottish tour advice- Glen Doll, Lairig Ghru, Lochnagar

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  • Scottish tour advice- Glen Doll, Lairig Ghru, Lochnagar
  • munrobiker
    Member

    I’m planning a three day tour with some friends in May and need some route advice to link it all together.

    The aim is quality riding with big hills rather than massive distance and the emphasis on technical rather than fireroad pootling taking in views (which is very nice in its own right). We’ll be riding in a group, splitting a tent or two between us and travelling just with backpacks and lightweight kit. The current plan is-

    Day 1, around 35-40 miles-

    A big day starting in Glen Doll car park, over Jock’s Road to Braemar, follow the River Dee west then up up Glen Lui and over Lairig Ghru to camp in Rothiemurcus. I appreciate the eastern end of Lairig Ghru will be a bit of a bog but it’s Scotland…

    Day 2-

    Now where? There’s a few options. Glen Feshie, possibly via Carn Ban Mor. However, this looks boggy too. Or, and I like this one because it’s a hill I’ve not done before, is up to Ben Macdui and then down the Braemar via Glen Derry. Has anyone got any experience of this route? Any tips for Ben Macdui?

    Provided it ends in Braemar it’s fine.

    Day 3, 20-25 miles-

    From Braemar, up Glen Callater then over to Lochnagar and down to Loch Muick. I’m assuming that the Glen Allt descent is the way to do this- correct?

    At the moment I like the look of Capel Road then down Capel Mounth back to the car. I’ve not done this before, but are there any decent alternatives? A longer one looks like up and over to Glittering Skellies then push up to the descent down Jock’s Road, which I know to be phenomenal. Capel Mounth is unknown to me (other than I have it and the whole Lochnagar area on an OS placemat that I eat my tea off).

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    mcmoonter
    Member

    Jock’s Road is a better descent than Capelmounth.

    munrobiker
    Member

    How much better though? We have all done Jock’s Road before (and absolutely love it) but the choice of the push over Glittering Skellies at the end of a three day tour versus the fire road up to Capel Mounth is tempting.

    Ending on Jock’s Road would be a wonderful way to round it out…

    mcmoonter
    Member

    The climb up from Loch Muick on the LRT is a grind of rolling false summits. The descent is a couple of steep zig zag grassy switchbacks, you lose the height quickly. The last time I was there the forest at the bottom had been clear felled and a bit of a mess. That may have improved since then.

    A slightly easier first day would be to follow the South Esk up Glen Doll, cross it at the bridge and get up onto the plateau and over to Loch Muick and down the streak of lightning, scoot around the west side of Loch Muick and up the LRT over to Birkhall. Its only eight miles from there to Braemar. There may even be an off road track through Balmoral which pops you out at the Invercauld Bridge.

    ‘We quizzed our hostess on bike paths to Ballater. She suggested riding through the Balmoral Estate. If stopped she said our get out of jail card (more probably a get out of the Tower card) was to say Pat said it was cool. As Session Clerk at Crathie Kirk she clearly has some influence.’

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1&page_id=329950&v=3U

    Premier Icon stevenmenmuir
    Subscriber

    That looks like a great trail and don’t think I know it.

    munrobiker
    Member

    OK, Jock’s Road it is.

    The idea behind the first day is to try out the western descent of Jock’s Road, which is an unknown for me. Photos on Walk Highlands suggest it’ll be a nice way to ease into it without depending too much on the dreaded landrover tracks.

    Steven- it’s well worth a look into, it’s not far from Dundee, you can do a full loop over Glittering Skellies and down Jock’s Road in about 3 hours if you’re quick. It’s a brilliant, brilliant piece of trail- reasonaby techy at the top before opening out and becoming fast and flowy. It’s a trail that’s fun rather than hard work from start to finish.

    Day 1 looks like a biggie! Lots of hike a bike esp thru Lairig Ghru (I haven’t done it admittedly but been put off by various accounts on forums.

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    Ooooh, pics of me! 😀

    Jocks Road…..hmm. I only know it as either a loop round Glittering Skellies or an out and back from the Clova side. I gather that after the section where I’m shown riding back to Clova, it gets very vague. Going west. An alternative might be to head up onto the Lochnagar Plateau and drop down to Glen Callater. Look at walk highlands for path beta.

    The Lairig Ghru would be tough. Much more rideable would be to do the Lairig an Laogh then go over the shoulder of Bynack Mor to drop into Glenmore. One river crossing of note. Definitely worth nipping up to the summit of Bynack Mor.

    Day 2. – ride up the main track onto Cairngorm then head across the plateau to MacDui. The connoisseurs descent is the one down to Loch Etchecan then head down via the Hutcheson Hut into Braemar. Personally, I would keep riding until Ballater……much nicer place IMHO! Carn ban mor wouldn’t really be on your way unless you plan to do it then head up Feshie and then Geldie. Definitely doable in a day without too much effort.

    Day 3 – Lochnagar , Glas Alt then the big Land Rover climb on the south side of Loch Muick to get back to Glen Doll. Two thumbs up for that one!

    Oh and to save weight, how about the Aviemore Bunkhouse and Habitat in Ballater? There is also a decent bunkhouse in Glen Clova at the hotel.

    Anymore info, just ask or e mail me. Address in profile!

    Cheers

    Sanny

    trail_rat
    Member

    What sanny said – riding that even lightly loaded would ruin it.

    And what mcmoonter said, whip through balmoral. We were stopped by burly guards in a rangey v8 with dirty great big brembos and big ass gun cabinet in the back. packing heat in their men in black style suits.

    They asked questions and went on their way once they were satisfied we were just out cycling.

    Premier Icon chickenman
    Subscriber

    My take on routes in the area is:
    -Geldie/Feshie through route: Lower Feshie is stunning, Upper Feshie through to Linn of Dee is disappointing IMO.
    -Lairig an Loaigh has some great scenery but hard work; Lairig Ghru will be harder still.
    -There are 3 great descents off Lochnager; Glas Allt Sheil (not done, it looks mental!), Carn an t-Aigart Mor to Loch Callater and the descent north from Carn an t-Aigart Beag. There is a map of a circuit from Braemar from Stuatie C on here if you google it.
    -Beinn a Bhuird is a cracker.
    -I’ve done a circuit from the Glen Callater carpark which rides the high plateau east of Glen Shee, taking in six Munro summits (Turc, Claise, Tolmont, Tom Buidhe, Mayer and Driesh) before taking the cracking Kilbo descent to Clova. The riding up on the plateau is on tiny trails; good visibility and dry conditions essential (path between Tom Buide and mayer JUST visible on google earth!). Return was via Bachnagairn and the 2 Munros of Broad Cairn and Bhannoch to join the Carn an t-Airgart Mor (add this for tick number 9!). This was a pretty big day out with only about an hour of pushing (the climb to Broad Cairn is a real kick in the goolies..)

    marty
    Member

    Jocks Road – get’s pretty unpleasant after Davy’s Bourach until you’re right down into Callater. As Sanny says maybe Broad Cairn, etc and drop into Callater that way.

    Lairig Ghru – it’s not boggy, but almost total rock **** from near Corrour Bothy right into Rothie. Lairig an Loaigh much easier (but still not easy).

    Streak of Pish makes for a quick push back up from Muick to the pony hut.

    p.s. Sanny said “beta”!

    messiah
    Member

    Some great advice above.

    Make use of bunkhouses to travel light; having ridden the Capel Mounth with a tent and sleeping bag in a pack many years I would never again take such kit onto the high fun trails… it removed all the fun.

    Jocks Road into Callater beyond the shelter is push/carry in either direction – not a route I would choose to do, especially carrying anything more than a rucksack!

    Here is my suggestion

    1. Clova to Braemar via Bachnagairn, Broad Cairn, drop to Callater – stay in bunkhouse

    2. Braemar to Aviemore via Lairig an Laogh. As Sanny suggests take in the summit of Bynack Mor, or take a walk/carry/ride from the Ford of Avon up to Loch Avon simply because its stunning and it is incredibly hard to get to any other way. Stay in Glenmore Lodge

    3. Back to Braemar over Ben Macdui – As Sanny suggests descend via Loch Etchachan – stay in Braemar (cycle onto Ballater would make for a long day and mess up the next bit)

    4. Braemar to Glen Clova – I would go up onto the Lochnagar/Stuic Platou by going up between Carn Sugart mor/Beag, then go to Lochnagar top and take in Glas-Allt-Sheill, but this really is not for the feint hearted. Could involve a lot of down walking for the less technically able.

    Then over the Capel Mounth to end up on the grassy switchbacks and ex-forest into Glen Clova. Not as much fun as when forrested but its still a good track.

    Quite a mission.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Thanks everyone, I like the sound of Sanny’s plan a lot (I knew his munro nose would sniff this out).

    Sanny, have you any idea which route over the Plateau would be best? There’s nothing obvious that goes down to Glen Callater (although I’m at a disadvantage in that I don’t own the maps, I’m just pottering about on the walkhighlands planner).

    Other than that I’ve had a look and like the idea of finishing at Glenmore (we have a friend coming who works there) on day 1, riding up onto the Cairngorm plateau then on to Ben Macdui, down to the memorial hut and on to Glen Derry and up to Balmoral castle (there’s a bunkhouse on the northern bank of the Dee nearby from what I remember).

    Then end by going up the landrover track from Easter Balmoral to Lochnagar, down Allt Shiel and back whichever way we feel up to.

    Sort of agree about staying in hostels actually, the last time I did something like this in the lakes we stayed in hostels and it was much easier. I’ve done wild camping without the tent and just a sleeping bag but even then I was packing a fair weight.

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    While we are on the subject, has anyone ridden Ben Avon from the north? I’m doing some planning and it’s on the radar.

    Also, has anyone crossed the plateau from Carn Ban Mor to Braeriach?

    Finally, has anyone ridden down the improved path to Corrour off of Cairn Toul? I’m trying to create a 4000 foot circuit in the Gorms as a day ride. I meant to do it last year but the weather crapped out the week I was up. I’m thinking Carn Ban Mor, Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Macdui, Cairngorm and finishing with the descent down Eagles Coire. It’s a fairly huge day! The alternative is to do it in reverse but up the main Cairngorm access track, across to Macdhui and down to Loch Etchechan before the humf up from Corrour.

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    Hi Munrobiker

    I reckon Messiah’s 1st day would be your plateau route of choice to get across. He knows his onions up there. I did the Tour De Mont Blanc with just my 20 litre Alpkit bag. I would say go for one of them to minimise the weight. I rode that with my mate Grum in 3 days and it was ace.

    Lightweight is the way forward for your trip. With careful packing, I use full waterproof gear, evening clothes, change of shorts and a couple of riding tops, insulated jacket, spare socks and gloves, a hat, spare buff, gilet, arm, leg and knee warmers, all my tools, camera, phone, camera charger, first aid, survival bag, whistle, map, compass, toiletries and some spare food. The only thing I would add to the list would be a pair of crocs for river crossings and for not having to wear sopping wet riding shoes at night! It sound like a shed load but 20 litres covers it. I could go lighter but there’s something great about knowing you have a bit of leeway if the weather goes to pot.

    My gear is light but not stupidly so. I really rate Rab kit for jackets and Gore for leg wear. Their Alp X shorts and waterproof trousers pack very small indeed but work brilliantly. You’ll no doubt have your own honed list of gear too but thought this might help.

    Your trip sounds ace! 😀

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    Bump – one of you chaps must have ridden Ben Avon from the north or headed across from Carn Ban Mor to MacDui? 😀

    Marty

    Have you got a wee munro bagging by bike thing going on? How did you like the MacDui route? Nice pics BTW.

    Cheers

    Sanny

    marty
    Member

    Given the current snow levels, you might find the higher stuff still has a fair covering in May…
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-26339994

    > Also, has anyone crossed the plateau from Carn Ban Mor to Braeriach?
    Ground from end of the LR track across the area north of Tom Dubh is very boggy. It’s not horrific, but almost zero riding.

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    Hi Marty

    Thought that might be the case. I’d heard it said before….still, there’s always the fat bike for such things…….

    The snow level is mental but then given how mild it is during the day, I wonder how long it will last. 😉

    So far, I’ve seen daffodils, heather, rhodedendrons and a cherry tree in bloom this week. Oh and my first nettle! Garrr! Spring is scarily early this year.

    marty
    Member

    Terrain is such that I don’t think a fat bike would make that much of a difference. A hover bike would be good…

    The big hairdryer will need to be turned up to 11 to shift that amount of snow quickly. Was up at Glencoe last Monday and there are metres of it higher up – can’t remember seeing so much in 25yrs+ of Scottish skiing.

    Not sure if Cairngorms have caught quite the quantity.

    Premier Icon scotroutes
    Subscriber

    marty wrote:

    > Also, has anyone crossed the plateau from Carn Ban Mor to Braeriach?

    Not on a bike. TBF, if you got the right snow level and consistency (plus weather and visibility) a fatbike would make a good option! Do be warned though – it’s A LOT further than it looks. Those little bumps in the distance are mountains – it’s just that they are very far away!!!

    marty
    Member

    Sanny – sorry missed the other bit of your post this morning. Thanks – like shooting fish in a barrel given weather. Been doing more “proper” rides again and hitting a few more hill. Gears and suspension eh, whoulda thunk it. Cairngorm>MacDui>Derry Cairngorm>LG was a humdinger, still got the tan lines… Hopefully spring/summer will deliver again.

    portydave
    Member

    Agreed, go from macdui, to Derry cairngorm. The descent to Derry lodge is bosker

    Premier Icon chickenman
    Subscriber

    Just a wee caution; if you are going to ride the Lairig an Loaigh south to north do bear in mind you will be pushing more than riding for 9km over the pass(Sanny will disagree; he may be superhuman..), the Fords of A’an can be impassable and the descent to the Ryvoan Bothy is a pinch flat horror show.
    An alternative to Jocks road north to south is to head up the LRT south from Loch Callater to Carn an Claise, head east on the Munro baggers paths to Tolmont and descent to the highest point of the Jock’s Road path. You can continue south from Tolmont to pick up the awesome Kilbo descent into Glen Doll; pretty much ridable the whole way.
    The descent off the Lochnager plateau down to Loch callater (at Carn an t-Sagairt Mor) is a blinder BTW.

    munrobiker
    Member

    In that case is it best to go through glen feshie, or just suck it up and go over lairig guru?

    Premier Icon scotroutes
    Subscriber
    messiah
    Member

    Getting up to the Lairig an Loaigh from Braemar side is tough.

    The descent from the saddle into Glen Avon is not all sweetness and light either with a tricky and rocky path that will require walking.

    River Avon crossings are good fun, there are two and the first is easy.

    Second can be ridden with care if your know where to look and give it a try, you will get cold feet and probably more 😈

    Optional Ride/Walk/Push up to Loch Avon for the stunning view.

    Back on the Lairig an Loaigh past the Barns of Bynack.

    Still not over yet, you have another climb to do before its all downhill into Glenmore.

    Path from here to Ryvoan Bothy has been rebuilt since I rode it so no point showing my photo’s. This is the path I have heard is a now a horror show of pinch flat friendly water bars; but one riders horror-show is another riders playground so who knows 😉

    The Lairig an Loaigh route is no stroll in the park outing; its proper Scottish mountain pass terrain with big commitment and consequences. The Lairig Ghru is a different kind of tough with more carrying required rather than pushing, either option will be rewarding but they require some serious effort .

    Premier Icon chickenman
    Subscriber

    Call that a river crossing Messiah? I had the melt water in May 2012; water was above the knees and about 12 knots, when I had my forks serviced a few months later a whole lot of the river emptied out!
    Lairig an Loaigh is an adventure, just don’t expect too much riding!
    Geldie/Feshie watershed has about 4km of on off the bike; the scenery does little to take your mind off it. Once you turn north up Feshie things look up on all fronts!

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    I really like Lairig an Laogh. A mix of tech riding and pushing. The week before I rode it, I did Strath Nethy……..<shudders> it truly sucked.

    The barns of Bynack are ENORMOUS! Not small in Messiah’s pics, just far away.

    Planning my own big day out for when the snow goes – all the 4000 feet peaks in the Cairngorms. It’ll be tough but if you don’t try, you ‘ll never know! I like the idea of finishing with Eagles Coire but it would mean no Hutchie Hut descent…..decisions, decisions.

    Great pics btw!

    Sanny

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