5 Great Walking Routes that Capture the Essence of the Northern Cairngorms.
Wilderness Guide, Peter Grant shares his Top 5 Walking Routes in the Cairngorms and we start with Sgoran Dubh Mor and Sgor Gaoithe.
I love the Cairngorms. I particularly love these 5 walking routes as they highlight the relationship of the mountains with the strath of the River Spey. In this post I’m covering a fantastic Cairngorms walk, starting in the forest of Glen Feshie.
With reasonable fitness and the right conditions, each of these five walks is easily accomplished at any time of year. Each walk takes you into remote country so you’ll need a good working knowledge of navigation. If you’re trying these in winter, you’ll also need an understanding of avalanche risk assessment. To keep safe, use up to date weather and avalanche forecasts.
Approaching the Cairngorms from the south you see the broad expanse of the Great Moss in the east. The great gouge of Coire Garblach and the scree-covered flanks of Craig Mhigeachaidh loom ahead.
This walk of 15km and 1,000m ascent leaves the wooded floor of Glen Feshie and up western approaches to the massive Cairngorm plateau. Expect great views to the north across the ‘drowned lands’ of Badenoch and the emptiness of the Monadliath. To the southeast you can gaze across the wild Cairngorm plateau.
I like this walk because you can see nature at work. The effect of altitude and exposure to the prevailing westerly winds on the vegetation and wildlife is remarkable.
This is a walk where, if you are lucky, you could see all four species of upland grouse in a day. Make an early morning start. Look out for black grouse and the rare capercaillie at the forest edges. Then climb through open moorland where red grouse are common. As you enter the heights you’re likely to encounter ptarmigan.
Start in the car park in the woods beyond the Glen Feshie gliding strip at Grid Ref NH 853013. The walk starts with 500m of linear march through ranks of pine plantation. Soon you reach a beautiful path that winds up through old pine and young regenerating woodland along the Allt Ruadh to reach the open hill. At 1.7 km a path to the left leads you up to the bealach (pass) between Craig Mhigeachaidh and Geal Charn.
Here you have a great view down Strathspey over Loch an Eilean and Loch Pityoulish. A steep 200m bouldery ascent takes you up to the summit of Geal Charn ‘The White Hill’, the first of your route. From here onwards, the walking is easy as you head south-west (SW) towards the line of tops that overlook the west wall of Glen Einich.
At 6.8 km from the start, as you reach the mound at NN897998, strike north-east (NE) for 800m to reach the summit of Sgoran Dubh Mor ‘The Big Black Peak’. Here you you’re met with a stunning view into a great glacial trench cradling Loch Einich. Head south, following this west wall to reach the dramatic summit of Sgor Gaoith, ‘The Windy Peak’ jutting out in a great prow over Glen Einich. You must take care all along this western flank of Glen Einich, especially in winter, when huge cornices invariably develop.
Having enjoyed the superb views across to Braeriach and Carn Toul, head west down the Allt an Crom Alltan. Enjoy the views over the Spey to the village of Kingussie and Carn Dearg. Then pick up the path again at NN881994, to follow it for the last 3.9km back to your starting point.
15km, 1,011m ascent.
Check below to see the stunning view of Sgor Gaoith – click and hold your mouse button to look around and click the square icon on the top right of the photo to see this incredible scenery in full screen.
I’ve attached the GPX file from the route map above. You can download this file and then upload it to your GPS or smartphone to guide you when you’re out there.
Important: Make sure to read our disclaimer below before downloading our GPX file:
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.
“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.”