Cairngorms and the Inner Hebrides

The weather forecast was far from perfect but one route has been on my tick list for a while and I had had enough. It was time to get to the Cairngorms. A circuit linking two of the long passes between Rothiemurchus and Deeside looks very tempting on the map and I needed to know whether the one I had picked would be runnable. So Thursday morning saw me setting off from Glenmore and heading through the Ryvoan Pass. After passing the Green Lochan I turned onto the track signed for Braemar. It would have been much quicker to go to Braemar rather than do the route I was planning!

Boulder field at the top of the Lairig Ghru

Last year I saw from afar the white dots of stone-filled bags on the Bynack Mor path and sure enough, I ran for quite a while on good gravelly path until the way became slightly boggy as it descended down to the Fords of Avon. My crossing of the Fords of Avon was thoroughly uneventful and that removed my main concern about my ability to complete the route. Which was lucky, because from that point on there really are no escape routes. The Lairig an Laoigh was the only bit of the route that I hadn’t done before and I really enjoyed my run through it. I saw no-one, which wasn’t surprising as this pass is much less popular than its more famous neighbour, the Lairig Ghru. Glen Derry and its beautiful Scots pine forest lay ahead, the sun came out and running through the Cairngorms felt like the rightest thing in the world.

I had found the Lairig an Laoigh to be runnable so it was a pleasant surprise when the Lairig Ghru turned out to be even better. Loads of smooth gravel path at a very amenable gradient let me trot slowly nearly as far as the Pools of Dee. At this point the lovely path stopped abruptly and I entered the infamous Lairig Ghru boulder field. As I picked my way through the rocks I remembered that the last time I came through here was on skis – much easier! I also remembered that the Gaelic name for the Cairngorms is Am Monadh Ruadh “The Red Mountains”. The granite boulders I was stepping on were rich in pink feldspar and as if that wasn’t red enough their surfaces were covered in a bright rust-coloured lichen. These mountains are definitely not blue which is the literal translation of Cairngorm!

I had decided to tackle the Chalamain Gap rather than head down through Rothiemurchus which is the logical way to finish a journey through the Lairig Ghru. The Chalamain Gap is a boulder choked nick cut by a torrent of water at the end of the last ice age. It is a peculiar choice for a “run”. But I had my reasons. Well, my one reason. On the far side of the Gap is what I consider to be the best running trail in the whole of the Cairngorms. I defy anyone to find a more runnable path with a better view! Ahead lies Meall a Bhuachaille and the Ryvoan Pass. Up to the right are the Northern Corries. And easy running all the way down the Allt Mor!

It was then time to head across to Skye where my boyfriend was working for High Mountain Guides. Our timing was perfect as Skye experienced its first good weather weekend for months! I caught the ferry over to Raasay and had a brilliant day. It was impossible to decide where to point my camera as the view in every direction was simply superb. Raasay is thoroughly recommended!

Machair on Raasay

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