Late spring in the Cairngorms is a great time to wander. The snow patches add more drama to the scene and cool spring air makes very pleasant walking. At the end of April I was in Aviemore so decided to wander up to the plateau from the ski centre. Going up to 1141, the clouds were low with poor visibility and really cold wind chill. 30 minutes later the cloud lifted and the sun came out and I was treated to an excellent day. I went all over the place and up to Ben Macdui for views into the Lairig Ghru.
I walked between the small snow patches to look into the lochs from above and views from different angles. I walked along the west side of the plateau just above the Lairig Ghru and found a couple of new camping spots for a later date. Views to Cairn Toul (from the Gaelic Càrn an t-Sabhail, 'Hill of the barn'), Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (peak of the little green loch, also known as Angels Peak) and the big Braeriach (Am Bràigh Riabhach, ‘the grey upper part’) were excellent. I could see the ice still covering the lip of the green lochain and the longest lying snow patches in the Garbh Choire Mòr looked quite small for late April. As I walked along the side of the plateau I could see some Ptarmigan sheltering amongst the boulders.
I was surprised by the lack of snow, especially down at the Pools of Dee which was bare. I’d be passing there a couple of weeks later on my first Lairig Ghru trip of the year. Having no snow makes that section easier to contend with...
On the way down to the van I had an encounter and great conversation with the local reindeer, topping off what had been a fantastic day.
Later that week I had the pleasure of guiding a group out of Linn o’ Dee to Beinn Bhreac (speckled hill) then on to Beinn a' Chaorainn (hill of the rowan tree) in what can only be described as damp conditions! We had a good day though, first two Munros for some of the group, a great achievement for them!
May began with a trip up the Glenshee west Munros with my brother on an excellent visibility day, highlight being the white tailed eagle!
Then the day after I guided a repeat client up Lochnagar. Another memorable day as I’ve never seen the loch so still, perfectly reflecting the corrie and snow patches. The air was so still at the top too, the only noises to be heard being birdsong and running water. We strolled over the White Mounth and down to Dubh Loch for lunch on the beach. By this time the wind was picking up and heavy rain came on.
The stags were in the valley as we returned back to the car, happy and fulfilled with our day.
Forward a week and winter returned! Some of the heaviest snow we’ve seen all winter. The plateau is white again and the bare Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru are filled with snow only a few days before my planned guided walk which is now rescheduled! I walked up to the Munro Beinn Bhreac to gauge conditions and wet snow met me at 700m followed by blizzards all the way to the top. Late spring can still surprise!
Blog by Garry, lead guide at Hillgoers.
Walks in Skye and Kintail
Skye is famous for its natural beauty and is highly popular with people travelling there from all over the world. Skye is often portrayed as very busy, but when you have a closer look, you’ll find that it is only busy in certain spots, and the mountains are very quiet and give you a completely different view of the island. To get away from the tourist buzz and enjoy Skye away from the crowds, join our local team member Janni Diez on her island and she will make sure that you experience Skye in a more meaningful way. Janni is a Gaelic speaker and loves Gaelic folklore and place name studies, which she can incorporate beautifully into her walks to keep you entertained.
These are her favourite walks she would love to share with you:
736m, Skye Red Hills 5-6 hrs
Marsco is the iconic hill seen from Sligachan on thousands of photographs. Although not a munro, this granite mountain offers superb views onto all of the Skye mountains and surrounding islands. It lies between the Cuillin and the Red Hills in Glen Sligachan.
There is only a faint path, some steep loose terrain and a narrow summit ridge, so its thrill should not be underestimated.
543m, Trotternish 3-5 hrs
The Quirang is one of the island’s 5 honeypot areas and thousands of tourists flock here every year. However, few make it into the depth of the Quirang and even fewer onto the top. This circular route takes us through the Quirang, which is a giant land slip, with its famous rock formations, pinnacles and rock fortresses up onto the plateau to the summit and back high above the pinacles. Spectacular views of the Troternish peninsula as well as Raasay, Rona, Torridon and the whole of Skye await you.
413m, near Portree 4-5 hrs
Beinn Tianavaig is one of Skye’s hidden gems. Although not a high mountain, the views from the top are spectacular and the scenery similar to that of the Quirang, minus the tourists. On this walk you will see stunning views of Torridon, Raasay and the whole of Skye as well as otherworldly rock formations against a spectacular backdrop of islands and the sea. There are some stepper sections and very faint paths.
The Red Hills
Skye 730m 5-6 hrs
The Red Hills are the rounded granite neighbours of the Cuillin, glowing red in the setting sun. Because of their lower height, they are less visited than the Cuillin, but nevertheless reward the walker with spectacular views, versatile terrain and a beautiful ridge walk. Their 4 tops, one of which is a Corbett can be climbed all together or individually.
The Kylerea hills Ben Aslak, Beinn na Caillich and Sgùrr Chòinnich are often forgotten because of their low height, but the views from their tops surpass all expectation. In Kylerea the sea rushes through the narrowest channel between Skye and the mainland causing fast tide races in which you can see seals and otters playing. The hills tower above and offer superb views of the Sound of Sleat, Lochalsh and the Inner Sound along with all of the mountains of Skye, Knoydart and Kintail. There is no path up these hills and you hardly ever meet a soul up there. A great place to get away from it all. The hills can be climbed individually or all together in a long day.
Blà Bheinn (Blaven)
928m 4-6 hrs
Blà Bheinn is one of the more challenging munros in Scotland, but you are rewarded with breath-taking views over the Cuillin and Red Hills of Skye as well as the islands around. The day starts with a gentle ascent on a well-built path and then ventures up into the steeper terrain of Blaven’s flank before topping out onto its summit plateau.
Five Sisters of Kintail
A classic and a must for every munro bagger, this long ridge walk tops 3 munros and various other tops before descending into the side of Loch Duich. Due to its height and length a good level of fitness is required, but you will be rewarded with stunning views, and sightings of golden eagles and mountain goats are common here. The five sisters were allegedly the 5 daughters of a local chief who turned into stone while waiting for 5 Irish princes who had promised to marry them.
Kintail 1012m 5-6 hrs
At 1012m, the Saddle is one of Kintail’s highest mountains. Keen scramblers can reach it via its rugged steep Forcan Ridge, however, we will take the easier route that doesn’t require ropes and a head for heights. Views into the vast remoteness of Knoydart give you a real feeling of adventure. This mountain can also be combined with Sgùrr na Sgìne, another munro next to it.
Kintail 1032m 6-8 hrs
Beinn Fhada means long mountain and the walk can be as long or as short as you make it. The munro top is on one end of it and the walk can be extended along the wide plateau and ridge which run parallel almost the same length as the Five Sisters of Kintail. Views into Glen Affric give you a real sense of remoteness and a walk back via its morth west ridge provides an exhilarating mountain experience.
The Brothers’ Ridge
Kintail 5-7 hrs
The Brothers’ Ridge is the continuation of the Five Sisters of Kintail and although much shorter it’s not any inferior to its neighbours. It tops 3 munros and provides an invigorating ridge walk with breath-taking views of Kintail, Glen Affric and Knoydart.
South Shiel Munros
This ridge encompasses 7 munros which can all be climbed in one very long day. However breaking it down into 2 or 3 sections gives you more time to enjoy the scenery along this stunning ridge. Its position offers stunning views into the remoteness of Knoydart and all around Kintail. Please get in touch to discuss which option you would like to go for.
We can also offer other walks in Skye and Kintail, low level or high level, so please get in touch if you haven’t found what you’re looking for, including the famous Cuillin ridge and the inaccessible pinnacle!
Why not try something new and experience Skye from the sea looking back at the mountains? Janni and her partner Kevin run South Skye Sea Kayak (southskyeseakayak.co.uk) offering guided tours and taster sessions as well as bespoke coaching for complete beginners to expert kayakers. You will also find a range of accommodation options on their website.