Loch Muick, Grampian

Grade: Easy walk on good tracks and paths

Distance: 8 miles/12.5km

Time: 3-4 hours

IN Queen Victoria’s Footsteps, the weather put paid to our best intentions. We wanted to climb Lochnagar but as we drove up Glen Muick from Ballater it was clear the weather would thwart us. Low cloud and strong winds were the order of the day but despite the pull of the excellent coffee shops in Ballater we decided on a low-level walk – a circuit of Loch Muick.

When our elder son was still a bairn we lived in Aberdeen and often wandered here, carrying Gordon in a rudimentary papoose, so our decision to walk round the loch had a certain element of nostalgia attached to it. It’s also a fine walk in its own right.

The car park has been provided by the Deeside Access Trust and there is a parking fee; the cash collected goes towards footpath maintenance in the surrounding areas and is a good, worthy project.

We spent some time sheltering from a shower in the Balmoral Estate Visitor Centre before heading off, thinking of all the times we had turned right immediately after the centre – the route to dark Lochnagar. No high tops for us today though, so we continued towards the loch. Within half a kilometre or so a path runs off to the left. This is a very old route, the Capel Road that crosses the Capel Mounth to Glen Doll in Angus.

We continued straight ahead towards the foot of the loch. For much of the distance this path is hemmed in between the waters of Loch Muick and the steep slopes of Creag Bhiorach and soon veers slightly away from the loch as the footpath crosses the Black Burn. Once again we ignored the path that climbed the slopes in front of us and dropped off to the right after crossing the bridge. This is a lovely section of the walk and stays close to the water’s edge all the way to the head of the loch.

The National:

It’s here you get a sense of remoteness, with the big hills that protect the Dubh Loch ahead of you. If you have the time it’s well worthwhile following the course of the Allt an Dubh-loch up to the crag-girt loch but you’d need to add on a couple of hours, more if you wanted to linger for a while up there, one of the great spots in the Cairngorms National Park. We opted to continue with the lochside route and after crossing boggy ground, and negotiating a couple of dodgy bridges, we were soon on a better track which led to the pine-sheltered buildings of Glas-allt-Shiel.

Queen Victoria had this shooting ledge built after the death of Prince Albert - she wanted somewhere she could escape to. I camped here once with my younger son, who was about 11 or 12 at the time. I told him to watch out for MI5 agents who might be lurking in the shadows. Poor wee soul didn’t sleep all night.

Beyond the lodge the path becomes a wide track once again and hugs the shoreline for about 3km. At the end of the loch, by a boathouse, a path leads to the right to cross the River Muick but it looked as though the winds that had been raging all day had caused big waves to flood part of it so we continued on the main path as far as the house at Allt-na-guibhsaich where we turned right onto the Lochnagar path and followed it back to the Spittal.

Map: OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 44 (Ballater & Glen Clova); Harveys 1:25,000 Superwalker, Cairngorms & Lochnagar
Distance: 8 miles/12.5km
Time: 3-4 hours
Start/Finish: Car park at Spittal of Glenmuick (GR: NO 310852).
Transport: None to the start.

Information: Ballater TIC, 01339 755306, www.royal-deeside.org.uk Refreshments: None on route. Good choice in Ballater.

The National:

Route: Leave the car park and turn L, crossing the footbridge and passing the Visitor Centre. Continue straight ahead ignoring paths to R and L. Cross the bridge over the Black Burn and turn right, dropping down to the lochside. Continue following the lochside on paths that deteriorate a bit at the head of the loch. Once on the northern side of the loch the path improves again and becomes a broad track at Glas-allt-Shiel. Follow this track all the way to Allt-na-guibhsaich, turn R and follow the track back to the Spittal of Glenmuick.

Link to digital map: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/4373509/SW34-Loch-Muick © Crown copyright 2020 Ordnance Survey. Media 059/20.