Image above: The southern end of the Lairig Ghru with the Devils Point in profile.
Unsure about going up high in the winter but still want to get out into the mountains?
Wilderness Guide Alex Kendall will be sharing his Top 5 Scottish Winter Walks. These routes keep low but should still be on any mountain walker’s dream list. After all, you’ll see more from the valley than up top in a white-out. We start with the Lairig Ghru in the heart of the Cairngorms.
For any excursion out into the hills during a Scottish winter you need to be fully prepared in terms of the possible weather and equipment needed.
Top 5 Scottish Winter Walks: 1. Lairig Ghru.
Our other walks in this series:
Cutting the Cairngorms in two, this famous pass is one of several running through these mountains. This route is the most dramatic. Ben MacDui borders the pass on one side and Braeriach on the other. These are the second and third highest mountains in the UK, so the perspective is staggering.
Start your walk at Coylumbridge where a track leads straight ahead south into the forest of Rothiemurchus. Take two left turns shortly after leaving the road to continue along the path. This roughly follows the Am Beanaigh to the Cairngorm Club Footbridge. Cross the footbridge and continue following the path on the other side. Soon it will swing away from the stream.
At the path junction, turn right to head uphill. This is the path which heads into the Lairig Ghru and is sometimes narrow but easy to follow. The slope on the right will steepen as the gorge deepens down to the Allt Druidh below. This area is one of the most natural of the forest. Trees and other vegetation are at the upper limit of their existence here. They eventually become stuntier and peter out onto the open mountain.
Head up into the pass beneath the steep slopes of Lurcher’s Crag and continue following the path to the top of the pass at 835m. If the snow is too deep or the weather bad there’s no shame in turning around sooner. From the pass summit the southern side of the Lairig Ghru can be seen. If you’re keen it’s worth walking the extra few hundred metres down the other side to visit the Pools of Dee. The Pools are one of the two sources of the River Dee, which reaches the sea at Aberdeen. They may well be frozen but are well worth a visit.
It would be a long winter walk to continue all the way through the pass to reach the road on the other side near Braemar. But the return journey doesn’t have to go back exactly the same way.
Retrace your steps from the top of the Lairig Ghru down to the edge of Rothiemurchus. Here a path branches off right from the one taken on ascent. This leads to Rothiemurchus Lodge, and passes it by to head down to Loch Morlich after joining a wider path. Buses can be picked up from next to the Loch at the many centres on the eastern side. Treat yourself to a well-earned dinner at one of the great local restaurants featuring in our Best Restaurants of Scotland guide.
Total Distance: 23.8 Km
Important to remember: All walks are undertaken at your own risk, as walking can be a dangerous activity if the appropriate precautions are not taken. Wilderness Scotland does not guarantee full-accuracy of the information given and does not accept responsibility or liability. Winter walking is incredibly rewarding, but attention must be paid to your equipment even if staying at a low level, as even low level walks can be remote. It is your own responsibility to check the information with other resources, to know your own capability and to check weather conditions. Attention must be paid to your equipment; plan for the worst weather, carry a detailed map, compass, warm clothing, waterproofs, plenty of food and drink to last you the day and a head torch. If heading up high, take an ice axe and crampons and know how to use them, and always be prepared to turn back. Remember that a route description and a map are no use unless you can navigate with a map and compass. A GPS unit and the GPX route are a good back up but should be used as a guide rather than as a main navigational tool.