Climbing Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Chaorainn

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Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a'Charorainn are two Munros close together in the Scottish Cairngorms, near to Braemar.  It makes sense to climb both at the same time, since they are linked by a large flat expanse of bog about 100m below the height of Beinn Bhreac, so you scarcely notice climbing it on the way back.  I walked up these in May 2008, the weather forecast was very poor, predicting storms and poor visibility.  However, although there was a lot of mist, and a bit of rain, the conditions were generally good.

  GPS track of the route taken

The route starts from the National Trust for Scotland carpark at the Linn of Dee, £2 for the day (non-members.)  There were plenty of spaces, but it looks as though it could be busy at the weekends in the summer.

NTS Car-park at Linn of Dee


The overall trip is about 30km, but it's possible to cycle the first 5km from the Linn of Dee car-park to the (deserted) Derry Lodge, which is what I did.  The track is good all the way, crossing over the River Derry on the Black Bridge then following the river along to the lodge, on fairly flat ground.  We left the bikes just after the lodge, then set of along Glen Derry towards the Lairig an Laoigh, having decided to climb Beinn a'Chaorainn first and keep in the shelter of the valley for the first part of the walk.  The walk along beside the Derry was very pleasant, the path is good and climbs slowly towards the Lairig an Laoigh,  on the way I saw a stonechat sitting on the fence.

Glen Derry

From time to time during the walk the mist lifted, allowing a better view of the surrounding hills.

Burn running into Glen Derry


At the end of Glen Derry the path forks, to the left it goes of to Loch Etchachan, the right fork leads to the Lairig an Laoigh (The Pass of the Calves.)  After following the Lairig an Laoigh for just over a kilometre, at the highest point of the pass, we turned off to the right up a slight path.  The path peters out quickly, but we just headed on up the hill, which flattens out after a while, then becomes steeper approaching the summit. There is an area of small rocks around the summit of Beinn a'Charorainn which we had to pick our way through.

NTS Car-park at Linn of Dee

Just before reaching the summit of Beinn a'Chaorainn the sun came out for a few seconds and it looks like the weather was going to change.  However, at the summit the wind really picked up, and as we tried to descend into the Moine Bealaidh (the boggy area between the two hills) it nearly blew us back up the hill.  Once we got down though the wind died down again, the mist cleared and we were able to sit down and enjoy our lunch.

Flat ground near summit of Beinn a'Chaorainn

Although the ground looked as though it must be very boggy in wet conditions, it had been dry for the last 10 or so days, and we were able to walk right through it without any problems

Temperature inversion seen from summit of Beinn a'Chaorainn

The summit of Beinn Bhreac was difficult to find in the mist, since there is a lot of flat ground.  However, the GPS led us to it eventually.  Incidentally, there are at least 50 hills or mountains called Beinn Bhreac in the UK, it means "speckled hill" in Gaelic, so if you are looking for it on a map, look for the one near to Braemar.

Summit of Beinn Bhreac

Just after passing the summit, we noticed a ptarmigan a few metres away, it walked off slowly, and so did we.  Its plumage was still mostly white, and I assume its nest was close by.

On this walk and the previous one we had noticed some star-like green leaves and wondered what they were.  I then spotted one which still had a blue flower growing out of it, and worked out it was Common Butterwort, using the very useful flower identification website from the Botanical Society of the British Isles

Common Butterwort

We then cycled back along the track from Derry Lodge, seen below.

Derry Lodge


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