Showing posts from September, 2012


Aberdeenshire | Village | ★★★

Ballater is a well-kept, touristy village and former spa town on the banks of the River Dee, with historical links to the Royal Family and nearby Balmoral Castle. This is one of the best bases for exploring the quieter eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park; a car isn't necessary (though may still be useful), as several excellent walks begin right from the village centre and there's a good bus service accessing the other villages up and down the glen. One of Scotland's most iconic hills, Lochnagar, is a short drive away.


📌 Ballater ★★★
Aberdeenshire, G.R.: NO 370958 ///flatten.tweed.fancied

🚌 Ballater is served by local buses on the Aberdeen to Braemar route.

See & do (<1 mi away)

>> The Snow Roads★★★★
>> Walk: Craggy Craigendarroch★★★ (map: A)
>> Walk: Mellow meanderings to the Yellow Peak★★★ (map: B)
>> Walk: The pain of Pannanich★★ (map: C)

Nearby (1-5 mi away)

>> Knock Castle★★ (1 mi ←)

Walk: The pain of Pannanich

Aberdeenshire | Ballater | Short walk | ★★

Creag Coillich is the closest hill to the south side of Ballater. There are great views of the village from the top with Craigendarroch beyond, but this is a route fairly seldom climbed. Why? Perhaps it's because of the brutally steep paths through Pannanich Woods to get there, no matter which route you pick. But some people like a bit of suffering during their outdoor pursuits, and the reward's worth it in this writer's opinion. The monument passed on the way up commemorates the 2nd Baronet of Glenmuick.

📌 Walk: The pain of Pannanich ★★
Start / finish just north of the bridge over the River Dee (street parking) on Bridge Street, Ballater village centre, G.R.: NO 371957 ///sweat.fountain.emulating

▶ 3 km / 2 mi | ▲ 210 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Moderate
Summits: Craig Coillich (397 m) | Features: Mackenzie Memorial
Terrain: Clear paths and tracks through woodland to the summit, a little muddy at times and steep (especially on descent).

Route &…

Walk: Wellington's Nose - not to be sneezed at

Highland | Achnashellach | Full day walk | ★★★★★

Fuar Tholl (or Wellington's Nose) is a lowly Corbett jostling for space amongst the several higher hills surrounding Coire Làir. But don't judge this hill by height alone: its dramatic, craggy profile is riven by gullies, rock and ice climbing routes and amazing outcroppings such as Mainreachan Buttress. Views are tremendous throughout, from Beinn Liath Mor's shattered ridge to the north, to the graceful curves of Maol Chean-dearg in the west, and even Liathach's sawtooth ridge peeking over the top of Sgorr Ruadh from the summit. And not just hills - lovely Loch Carron gets a look in too, stretching away to the southwest. Save this one for a good weather day: Fuar Tholl seems to have a knack for retaining cloud even as higher surrounding summits clear, and missing out on these breathtaking panoramas would be a shame!

📌 Walk: Wellington's Nose - not to be sneezed at ★★★★★
Start / finish at car park on A890 near Achnas…

Cawdor Castle

Highland | Cawdor | Castle | ★★★★

Cawdor Castle has been home to the Cawdor Family since the 14th century and its links to Shakespeare's MacBeth make it a popular stop for passing tourists. In reality it has far wider appeal than the literary connection alone: the house tour is extensive and reveals a variety of rooms with loads of character. One of the quirks of the house is the Hawthorn Room: a cellar with a tree rising up through the centre of it. The story goes that the site for the castle was chosen when the donkey belonging to William, Thane of Cawdor chose to rest in the shade of this very tree over 600 years ago. The tree's no longer alive but the surrounding gardens are full of life and colour, even on a grey day such as on our visit. Exploring the wider, wooded grounds around the Cawdor Burn is also worthwhile: a dark and lush oasis of calm even when the castle's crowded.

Location & info

📌 Cawdor Castle★★★★
Off minor road immediately south of Cawdor village, G…

Fort George

Highland | Ardersier | Fort | ★★★

This colossal 18th century military base overlooks the Moray Forth opposite Chanonry Point, a short distance east from Inverness. Conceived in the wake of the nearby 1746 Battle of Culloden, the fortress took over two decades to build, by which time the Jacobite threat it was supposed to defend against had largely disappeared. Never mind: it subsequently served as an army barracks and in fact still does, currently home to the Black Watch infantry battalion. Tourist destination and current military base therefore combine to create a fascinating "working" attraction, similar to Edinburgh Castle in some ways but much less crowded and nearly as interesting. 5 football fields' worth of fort makes it easy to neglect aspects: don't miss the large chapel, powder room, reconstructed barracks or the great views over the wildlife-rich Moray Firth.

Location & info

📌 Fort George★★★
At B9006 road end 1 mi north of Ardersier, G.R.: NH 763567 ///…

Walk: Cromarty, coast & caves

Highland | Black Isle | Half day walk | ★★

The Black Isle peninsula is shaped a little like a ship's bow jutting out into the Moray Firth. At the very tip of the prow are the Sutors Stacks, marking the end of a steep and rough headland. This short but fairly tiring route explores the coastline hereabouts, cutting inland through farmland for the return leg. Views across the Cromarty Firth towards Nigg are excellent, and there are also some spectacular rock architecture to watch out for, including caves, natural arches and sea stacks.

📌 Walk: Cromarty, coast & caves ★★
Start / finish at car park on Forsyth Place, Cromarty village centre, G.R.: NH 789676 ///nature.grading.gloom

▶ 8 km / 5 mi | ▲ 250 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Features: Cromarty; Cromarty coastline including McFarquhar's Bed & Cave
Terrain: Coastal section mainly on fairly rough paths and tracks with some steep sections and some mud. Minor road return.

Route & map

Cromarty (& village sights) - coast…


Highland | Village | ★★

Once an important port with a vital ferry link across the Cromarty Firth to all points north, Cromarty has been turned into a backwater you have to make a little effort to get to since the bypassing of almost the entire Black Isle region by the A9. Though its importance may have waned - even the ferry now only runs in high season - the place still has several strings to its bow, both in the village itself and around the scenic headland to the east. Allow the best part of a day to take it all in, including the museums and walk listed below.


📌 Cromarty ★★
Highland, G.R.: NH 787676 ///tram.plunge.muffin

🚶 All the village sights (and the start point for our featured walk) are clustered around the centre of the village.
🚌 Apart from the summer car ferry to Nigg, there's a bus service from Inverness via Fortrose.

See & do (<1 mi away)

📌 Cromarty Courthouse Museum★★
Description: Cromarty's former, err, courthouse, dating to 1776 and full of exh…

Fortrose Cathedral

Highland | Fortrose | Cathedral | ★★

Tourists have to pass through Fortrose on the way to the famous dolphin-spotting location of Chanonry Point. If the tides aren't quite right, or you want a break after an hour of watching, take time out to visit the attractive town, and in particular, the red building of Fortrose Cathedral. You might first wonder how something as small as this ever qualified as a cathedral, but in reality you're only looking at a small portion of the original structure: namely the north choir range (dating to the 12th century) and the south aisle and chapel, once connected by the main body of the cathedral itself. Despite the incompleteness of the surviving ruin, you can still get an appreciation for this place's former glory.

Location & info

📌 Fortrose Cathedral★★
Cathedral Square, Fortrose town centre, G.R.: NH 727565 ///fragment.fully.uppermost
Open daily | Free