Big space

East of Glen Shee ....a lot of open space

East of Glen Shee ….a lot of open space

Last July Nita and I drove up to Glen Shee with the intention of walking four of the big grassy Munros to the north east of the ski centre. It’s quite a big walk but the hills are mainly grassy and it’s easy underfoot, so it should have been a very pleasant day. As it turned out it was a little too pleasant…….. we’d gone in the middle of the hottest part of the summer. When we reached Glen Shee at about half past eight in the morning it was already baking hot and we quickly decided to do a shorter walk to match the conditions. Instead of walking all four hills we did a more leisurely circuit over the nearest two tops.

So, after a busy week for both Nita and I last week, we decided at the last minute to make the most of a good forecast for Saturday and headed back to Glen Shee ….this time with the aim of walking the two more distant hills we’d missed in the heat last year. This time when we reached the ski centre at the top of Glen Shee it was perfect conditions for a walk ….high cloud with patchy sun and a gentle breeze……so good in fact that we just had to stop at the ski centre cafe for coffee and biscuits first!

From the broad ridge near Cairn of Claiss

From the broad ridge near Cairn of Claiss

The hills were looking great as we made our way uphill from the starting point about a kilometre below the ski centre, with big patches of snow picking out the edges of corries and filling hollows. There were particularly big areas of snow on the north slopes of Glas Meol and at one point Nita spotted a big herd of deer running across one of them. I have to say, that we were amazed at just how dry everywhere was…..it certainly didn’t look like there had been anywhere near as much rain there as we’d had up in Assynt the previous two weeks. Large areas of peat were starting to dry out and crack and it made for very pleasant walking.

Our route took us out past Cairn of Claiss, one of the two hills we’d walked back in the heat last summer. This high boulder strewn top makes a very good view point but we decided to keep going rather than making the short detour up the boulders and stones to the summit. Even so, the feeling of space here is really strong. The high, open and wild grass and heather covered hills stretch away in all directions ……you seem very small indeed in this magnificent setting. It had taken us about two and a half hours to reach Cairn of Claiss and, as we’d been walking the reverse of the route suggested in the Munro guide, we’d seen no one at all ….despite there being half a dozen vehicles parked in the car park.

A view from Tom Buidhe

A view from Tom Buidhe

Our walk then took us out across the open slopes towards Tom Buidhe…our first top of the day. Still classified as a Munro, (it’s a very strange business!) but being of less height than its neighbours beyond, Tom Buidhe rather merges into the landscape when seen from Cairn of Claiss but still makes a good view point from it’s lonely little summit cairn. It’s neighbour and our second top of the day, Tolmount, lay just a kilometre or so away and by this time we were meeting many of the occupants of the parked cars …for an hour or so the hills seemed quite busy …although in all honesty we probably only saw about 20 other folks the whole day.

Approaching the top of Tolmount

Approaching the top of Tolmount

It’s just a small descent and rise from Tom Buidhe to Tolmount and from the second hill you get a great view down the steep sided glen to Loch Callater . For us, it had just been a gentle wander up grassy slopes to reach the summit of Tolmount but from Jock’s Road down in the glen it must look quite an imposing sight.

We wandered our way back in increasingly bright and warm sunshine and this time made the detour up to the top of Cairn of Claiss ……the views by this time in the early evening were taking on a strangely blue hue and with everyone else back in their cars by this stage, Nita and I had a very quiet descent, enjoying the lengthening shadows and rich evening colours.

We’re off back to Glen Rosa on Friday in order for me to do some more preliminary drawings as preparation for the big drawing project in November and December. It’s going to be a working walk I guess….. it’s much better than being in an office though!!

Photos by Anita Groves

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