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Loch Etchachan & Ben MacDui: A Cairngorms Photo Story

Sunrise from the Cairngorms

Living by the Spey, most of my walks into the Cairngorms are from the north-western side, such as the one to Angel’s Peak last year. I’ve always wanted to venture in from the Deeside on the south-east, walking up to Loch Etchachan and Ben MacDuie, so on a recent weekend we drove round the top of the mountains to begin a three-day camping trek from the Linn of Dee near Bramar. We were blessed with endless sunshine, but the unusually still air meant we were also cursed by Scotland’s smallest and most infuriating fiends: the midges! Apart from their invasions morning and evening, it was a trip of radiant light and colour, of long days and far views, of rushing water, birdsong and quiet. I’ll let the photos tell the story.

View up Lui Water, Mar Lodge Estate
The walk begins. Looking north-west up the Lui Water, Mar Lodge Estate, Aberdeenshire.
Low waterfall and pool in Derry Burn
The pool in the Derry Burn where we stopped for lunch and a swim.
View up to the Cairngorms from the south-east
The last of the old Scots pines in Glen Derry, looking north to the Cairngorms, Beinn Mheadhoin on the right.
Merryn Glover on bridge over mountain stream, Cairngorms
The last bridge by the last tree on the track up to Coire Etchachan.
Bog pools in the Cairngorms surrounded by grass, moss and heather
Bog pools filled with sky.
The Hutchison Memorial Hut with the lip into Coire Etchachan behind
The Hutchison Memorial Hut with the lip into Coire Etchachan behind.
Trekker in Coire Etchachan beside the smaller lochan
Arriving into Coire Etchachan beside the smaller lochan.

The small lochan in Coire Etchachan, looking east
The small lochan in Coire Etchachan, looking east, back the way we came.
Merryn Glover swimming in Loch Etchachan
Late afternoon swim in Loch Etchachan. Cold and crystal clear.
Campsite on the shore of Loch Etchachan
Our campsite on the shore of Loch Etchachan. A moment’s peace before the midges arrived!
View into Loch Avon from Beinn Mheadhoin, Cairngorms
Next morning, view into Loch Avon from Beinn Mheadhoin.
Granite tor on Beinn Mheadhoin
Granite tor on Beinn Mheadhoin.
Looking down on Loch Etchachan from Beinn Mheadhoin
Looking back down on Loch Etchachan with our next trail leading up on the left. Ben MacDui is top centre.
The view south in the Cairngorms with Derry Cairngorm top left
The view south with our afternoon hill, Derry Cairngorm, top left.
The rocky top of Derry Cairngorm. Looking north towards Beinn Mheadhoin with its tors, centre back.
The rocky top of Derry Cairngorm. Looking north towards Beinn Mheadhoin with its tors, centre back.
Looking south from Derry Cairngorm to the southern Grampian Mountains.
Looking south from Derry Cairngorm to the southern Grampian Mountains. Glen Laoigh Bheag, in the centre of the picture, will be our route back tomorrow.
Merryn Glover on a spur above Coire Sputan Dearg in the Cairngorms, looking south.
On a spur above Coire Sputan Dearg looking south. The ridges on the right are part of tomorrow’s route.
Pool above Coire Sputan Dearg, looking north-east.
Our second campsite, above Coire Sputan Dearg, looking north-east.
Sunrise in the Cairngorms from the tent, distant valleys sunk in cloud.
Sunrise from the tent, the distant valleys sunk in cloud.
On the spur above Coire Sputan Dearg looking across cloud inversion
Early morning, Alistair on the same spur above Coire Sputan Dearg. The lochan is one of four in the Cairngorms called Lochan Uaine – The Small Green Loch.
Path up Ben MacDui, looking north to Derry Cairngorm, Loch Etchachan and Beinn Mheadhion.
On the walk up Ben MacDui, looking north over our campsite above the small lochan, Derry Cairngorm, Loch Etchachan and Beinn Mheadhion.
Top of Ben MacDui
Top of Ben MacDui, highest mountain in the Cairngorms and second highest in the UK.
View west from Ben MacDuie: Cairn Toul in the middle, the pyramid of Angel's Peak to its right.
View west from Ben MacDuie: Cairn Toul in the middle, the pyramid of Angel’s Peak to the right. (An important mountain in my upcoming novel.)
Walking south down the Sron Riach ridge
Walking south down the Sron Riach ridge.
Lochan Uaine from the Sron Riach ridge
Lochan Uaine from the Sron Riach ridge.
Gleann Laoigh Bheag, with regenerating Scots pine trees
Gleann Laoigh Bheag, with regenerating Scots pine trees.
Sandy track to the Linn of Dee, heather in bloom
The last hour down the sandy track to the Linn of Dee, heather in full blaze. Looking north-west, back the way we came.

We got to Braemar by 5.30 that evening, extremely thankful for hot showers, a pub meal and a huge soft bed. But even more thankful for three days walking, swimming, sleeping, looking and listening in the Cairngorms.

“However much I walk on them, these hills hold astonishment for me.”
Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain

2 thoughts on “Loch Etchachan & Ben MacDui: A Cairngorms Photo Story

  1. Walked from Braemar through to Aviemore one year, old drovers trail. Lovely post bringing back mostly lovely memories. Decided midges were tea dust or pepper!

    1. Thank you, Jean. Yes, I’d like to do the walk the whole way through some day, too. I wouldn’t mind the midges if they just behaved like tea dust or even pepper! Quite happy to eat them – just wish they weren’t trying to eat me!

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