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The Cairn on Craig Vallich

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The Cairn on Craig Vallich
Author: Deeside Walks, Published: 26 Oct 2018 Walk Rating:star0 The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshirestar0 The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshirestar0 The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshirestar0 The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshirestar0 The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire
Aberdeenshire, Ballater
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales
The Cairn on Craig Vallich
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty: boot The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire boot The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire boot The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire
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0002_sunny_intervals The Cairn on Craig Vallich, AberdeenshireToday's weather
7 °C, Partly cloudy, Wind: 4 mph SE
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0006_mist The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire 0004_black_low_cloud The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire 0004_black_low_cloud The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire 0004_black_low_cloud The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire 0007_fog The Cairn on Craig Vallich, Aberdeenshire

A 4.5 mile ‘there and back’ walk from the village of Ballater in Aberdeenshire. The walk climbs up to reach the cairn on the slopes of Craig Vallich where you will be rewarded with some stunning views. If you have stayed in Ballater for any length of time the chances are you will have seen the solitary, lonely-looking cairn on the hills to the south west of the village, that looks like a sentinel keeping watch on everything that goes on down below. But, how do you get up to it? Well, this guide will teach you how. There are a couple of downsides to this walk: you have to walk a fair way along the edge of the south Deeside road (the B976); also there is a straight steep access road up towards the cairn and back again which can be hard going. However, I think the view from the cairn is worth it.

The initial (and final) stretch of this walk follows the edge of the B976 road for about 1km without pavements, so please take extra care of the traffic here. The remainder of the walk follows an access lane and tracks leading up the hill, plus a final stretch of 200 metres through the heather to reach the cairn. The total climb is about 220 metres and some sections are quite steep. You will need to negotiate gates, but there are no stiles or livestock on route. Walkers are welcome on the woodland estate that holds the cairn, but workers undertake culling to manage the deer population year-round. The main shooting season is from 12 August to 20 October and during this period you must be especially careful. Follow the guidance of local signage by sticking to the paths and, if you hear the sound of gun-fire, do not approach it. Allow 2 hours.

Ballater is located on the River Dee, within the Cairngorms National Park and about 15 miles east of Braemar. The walk starts and finishes from the Church Square free car park in the village, behind Glenmuik Church. Approximate post code AB35 5NE.

Walk Sections

Start to Ballater Bridge
Start to Ballater Bridge

Start point: 57.0484 lat, -3.0407 long
End point: 57.0468 lat, -3.0359 long

Leave the car park via the vehicle entrance and walk straight ahead, passing Glenmuik Church on your left. The foundation stone for the original village church (which had a wooden spire) was laid in 1798. As the village grew in stature during Queen Victoria's frequent visits from Balmoral in the 1850s and after the railway arrived in Ballater in 1866, the church was deemed too small and plain. The replacement church was built by Aberdeen architect J. Russell Mackenzie and opened in 1874.

At the front of the church, you will emerge to a T-junction with Bridge Street. Turn right along the pavement and follow Bridge Street leading you out of the village. Keep ahead to cross the River Dee via Ballater road bridge (taking care as there is no pavement on this stretch). At the far side of the bridge you will reach a T-junction with the B976.

Ballater Bridge to Bridge of Muick
Ballater Bridge to Bridge of Muick

Start point: 57.0468 lat, -3.0359 long
End point: 57.0397 lat, -3.0454 long

This next stretch of the walk follows the edge of this road which can have fast-moving traffic so take extra care, walking on the right-hand side so that you can see the oncoming traffic. Turn right (towards Braemar) and follow the road for about a kilometre. You will now be approaching the Bridge of Muick (pronounced Mick). There are two roads leading off to the left.

You should take the second one, that is to say, the left turning just before the bridge. Just before you reach this left turn, you will see a bench and a memorial stone by the side of the road. It commemorates a chance meeting between Queen Victoria and the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders in 1899. Sir Allan MacKenzie, the Baronet of Glen Muick, was with the Queen and he presented the commanding officer, Lt Colonel Downman. Upon the Queen's request the 1st Battalion marched past her carriage.

In February 1900, five months after their meeting with the Queen, the 1st Battalion was involved in fighting at Magersfontein as part of the 2nd Boer War in South Africa. The Boer soldiers were using one of the earliest examples of trenches. Despite the British having shelled the Boer trenches for hours, when The Gordon Highlanders advanced on foot they came under sustained fire from their right flank from the Boer soldiers. When Colonel Downman realised his men were exposed to the lethal flanking fire, he rose up, to try to signal to his men to swing the battalion around to meet the threat head-on. Colonel Downman was hit and mortally wounded. Six other men were killed and 35 were wounded. Captain Towse was awarded a VC and two other men were mentioned in despatches for gallantry.

Bridge of Muick to Cottage
Bridge of Muick to Cottage

Start point: 57.0397 lat, -3.0454 long
End point: 57.035 lat, -3.0487 long

Once you have taken the left, just before the bridge follow this narrow road along the side of a field. The narrow road now leads through some trees. It passes a crossroads. Continue straight ahead. The road passes a cottage on the left and then swings around to the left beyond it.

Cottage to Estate Gate
Cottage to Estate Gate

Start point: 57.035 lat, -3.0487 long
End point: 57.0342 lat, -3.0474 long

By now the access road has become more of a Land Rover track. Where the Land Rover track continues to turn around to the left again, there is a junction with a side track to the right. Take the track to the right. A few metres up this new Land Rover track is a high wooden gate.

A sign on it says that walkers are welcome but that the staff of the estate are at work all year round managing the deer population. The main shooting season is from 12th August to 20th October and during this period you must be especially careful. As the sign says, stick to the paths and if you hear the sound of gun-fire do not approach it. With that proviso in mind, go through the smaller gate to the side of the main vehicle gate.

Estate Gate to Open Moorland
Estate Gate to Open Moorland

Start point: 57.0342 lat, -3.0474 long
End point: 57.0297 lat, -3.0518 long

The Land Rover track leads uphill gaining height rapidly. Soon the track turns away from the trees on your right and leads almost directly uphill onto the open moorland.

Open Moorland to Heather Trail Guide
Open Moorland to Heather Trail Guide

Start point: 57.0297 lat, -3.0518 long
End point: 57.0255 lat, -3.0448 long

Continue to follow it for about 700 metres. You will lose sight of the cairn during this climb. To get to the cairn you are going to have to head off the main track and go through the heather to your left. I would suggest you wait until you are roughly level with the cairn, to make your walk through the heather as short as possible, because it is hard work.

To help, I would suggest looking out for a distinctive wooden post with a small metal box on top of it to the right of the track you are on. It is some sort of equipment (pictured). When you see that, you are almost at the right place. (The App's live GPS Map will also help to to find the ideal turning point).

Heather Trail Guide to The Cairn
Heather Trail Guide to The Cairn

Start point: 57.0255 lat, -3.0448 long
End point: 57.0274 lat, -3.042 long

Continue up the path about another 20 metres or so beyond the post and then, take a deep breath, and head off through the heather to your left. You will not be able to see the cairn at this point. It goes without saying - if you can see any sort of activity by estate workers, or hear any guns, do not do this.

Assuming there is no sign of shooting in the area, clamber across the heather as best you can for about 200m. You won't be able to see the cairn when you step off the path, but shortly you will come over the shoulder of the hill and there it will be.

The Cairn to End
The Cairn to End

Start point: 57.0274 lat, -3.042 long
End point: 57.0486 lat, -3.0407 long

The only inscription on the cairn is 1871 A.R.M. I can't discover what the significance of that is, but the initials probably stand for Allan Russell MacKenzie, on whose estate the stone stands and who was present at that meeting in 1899 commemorated by the stone at the bridge.

Within the panoramic views you will be able to see The Knock plus the distant hills of Carn Dearg, Candacraig and Craig of Pony with Glen Gairn leading up between them. On the right is Ballater with Craigendarroch behind.

When you have taken in the view retrace your steps back through the heather to the main path and turn right to re-join this. Retrace your steps back along the track and access road down the hill to reach the main road. Turn right along the road and then left over the bridge to head back into Ballater. Congratulations, you have completed the walk to the cairn on Craig Vallich!

Remember...the best way of following our walking guides is to use the iFootpath App (iOS and Android) where you will have all the information in the palm of your hand and see your exact location on the live map as you travel. You can also add comments, photos, ratings and track your own routes.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by iFootpath and the author deesidewalks and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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