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Loch an Eilein and Creag Dubh: Top 5 Walking Routes in the Cairngorms

Posted on Sep 21, 2015 by Peter Grant

Loch an Eilein is often regarded as one of Britain’s most beautiful walking spots.

The second in our series of Top Cairngorms Walking Routes. Wilderness Guide, Peter Grant describes another of his favourites. From the shores of Loch an Eilein to the summit of Creag Dhubh.

Loch an Eilein and Creag Dhubh Walking Route

One of the great things about the Loch an Eilein route is its sheer accessibility. If you’re staying in Aviemore, you can walk straight out of your accommodation and cross the Spey by the Old Bridge Inn. Follow the Ski Road to Inverdruie, where you’re into the woods and off. Alternatively, you can park at Loch an Eilein, and feel right up close to the lochs and hills from the start of your walk. Starting from here you’ll cover 14km and climb 680m.

The summit of Creag Dhubh is the northern end of the great horseshoe of mountains that forms Glen Einich. Although there are  good views of the Cairngorm plateau, much of the interest lies near the summit. This takes you through beautiful mature pine woods and alongside delightful lochs. The overgrown castle in Loch an Eilein once the lair of the Wolf of Badenoch provides a hint of more turbulent times. Near the loch outlet there’s a kiln where the lime stone was collected from a rockface looking over the loch.

On the return from Creag Dhubh, descend down the ridge north from Cadha Mor towards Strathspey. Here you pass through a shelf of twisted, stunted pines, sculpted by the mountain winds.

Click below for more of our Top 5 Walks Series.

  1. Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoithe
  2. Loch an Eilein and Creag Dhubh
  3. Bynack More and Stac na h-Iolaire
  4. Fiacaill of Coire an Lochain and Feith Buidhe
  5. Ben Macdui

Walking Routes in the Cairngorms: 5 of the Best

Route description:

  • From the car park at Loch an Eilein head south along the west shore of the loch. Here you pass the unusually large and well-preserved lime kiln before you enter the pine woods. Grab your first glimpse of the castle on an island close to the shore. Your route follows the lochside, and crosses a hilly isthmus between it and Lochan Gamhna. From here after 2.6km, at NH893071 you take a path to the right.
  • Contour along through open regenerating pine and birch woods to reach the Allt Coire Follais, which is usually easily forded. 2km from the path junction, stop for a breather at Dukes Bothy, a well-maintained shelter. Then turn south east (NE) towards the hill, and follow a path that climbs steeply to converge with the Allt Coire Follais. This you recross and follow up the right bank through mature pine wood.
  • You emerge on to the open hill at around 600m altitude and continue south east (SE) to reach the Argyll Stone. This glacial tor dominates the skyline 2.8km after leaving the bothy. From here you turn north-north east (NNE) and head 300m to reach the high point of the walk, the flat summit of Creag Dhubh, at 848m altitude. Follow the broad ridge north (N) for 500m, then 1.25km north-east (NE) again before heading due north (N) to pick your way down over rough, rocky ground covered with rank heather. (There is a longer, easier route east (E) off the ridge to pick up the track from Glen Einich. But I prefer this descent of 1.5km north (N) through old pine and juniper that feels wild and remote.)
  • Emerge on to open moor and pick up an overgrown hill road heading north-west (NW) until you reach the forest margin. Turn left on to the good hill road that skirts the woodland. Then, 600m after turning left, rejoin the unsurfaced road that takes you back along the east bank of the loch to the finish.
  • 14km, 683m ascent.

I’ve attached a GPX file from the route map above. You can install this file on your GPS or smartphone to guide you when you’re out there!

Download GPX file Walking Routes in the Cairngorms: 5 of the Best

 

 

 

Images of Loch an Eilein

We’ve gathered some beautiful images of Loch an Eilein which range from calm reflections to winter aerial photos. We’d love to know which you like best and you can share your thoughts on with us over on Twitter @teamwilderness.

Loch an Eilein with flat calm reflections of the 13th Century castle and ancient Caledonian pine trees on the loch.

Loch an Eilein with flat calm reflections of the 13th Century castle and ancient Caledonian pine trees on the loch. Creag Dudh covered in Autumn foliage in the background.

Loch an Eilein Castle from the air in winter with ice on the loch and snow on Creag Dubh in the background.

Loch an Eilein Castle from the air in winter with ice on the loch and snow on Creag Dubh in the background.

An ariel image of Loch an Eilein during winter. You see the 13th Century island castle with snow in the ancient pine trees and Creag Dubh behind.

An aerial image of Loch an Eilein during winter. You see the 13th Century island castle with snow in the ancient pine trees and Creag Dubh behind.

Canoeists enjoy a relaxed paddle with a guided group on Loch an Eilein.

Canoeists enjoy a relaxed paddle with a guided group on Loch an Eilein.

The Loch an Eilein path. The path undulates 5km round the loch on relatively even ground through the Rothiemurchus Forest.

The Loch an Eilein path. The circular path undulates 5km round the loch on relatively even ground through the Rothiemurchus Forest.

Beautiful video of Loch an Eilein and the Cairngorms in Winter.

What’s in the video? Well sit back and enjoy two and a half minutes of winter beauty with drone footage from Loch an Eilein and stunning timelapses of the Cairngorms. This features snowfall in the Rothiemurchus Forest, Loch Morlich completely frozen over with ice, Loch Mallachie at sunset and mesmerising star trails. Enjoy.

 

Map of Loch an Eilein

Here’s a simple map of Loch an Eilein which shows the bast place to park, a circular walking route around the loch and other points of interest.

Disclaimer: 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. 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. 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.

Have you walked this route before?

Loch an Eilein is a favourite with the office team as we’re based only a short walk away from this outstanding place, that’s why we love to hear about your on fun in our backyard.

Interested in some Wilderness Walking in the Cairngorms?  Have a look at some of the holidays we have on offer in the Cairngorms area.

About the author

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Peter Grant

A native Highlander who learned to love the outdoors through his father’s footsteps in Strathspey where his forebears lived and worked the land. He gets a real buzz from sharing this fantastic part of the world with other folk. The bulk of Peter's working life has been spent as a family doctor in Grantown on Spey, and in addition he's enjoyed shorter spells working throughout the Highlands and Islands, and in Africa, India, and Australasia.

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