Lairig Ghru
September 14, 2018, 4:59 pm
Filed under: running

The Lairig Ghru has been on my list of walks to walk for a very long time, but it’s either a very long but lightweight one day walk, with tricky logistics at the start and end, or a backpacking two-day walk, with tricky logistics at the start and end. There’s no easy way of getting between Braemar and Aviemore by public transport and if you drive to the start, you need some way of returning to your car after you finish. The easiest way is to have an obliging friend drop you off at one end and pick you up at the other, but we don’t know any of these.

Everywhere looked grim, wet and windy for the first weekend in September – except for a pocket of settled weather over the Cairngorms. We packed without checking everything three times, caught the Inverness train on Saturday morning, a bus to Coylumbridge and started walking just before noon.

Our Cairngorm map is just about as old as our tent, but we use the paper version to get a wider view and as a backup for the modern digital version on my phone. The forest paths were dotted with shrooms and we met loads of people walking, running and on bikes.

Out of the forest, the views open up, only to be enclosed again as you enter the glen. For all that there were loads of people out on the trail, it felt really wild and remote. The cloud was well down over the tops adding to the feeling of  isolation.

The slopes become craggier as you climb up to the moraine wall across the pass. Negotiating the boulders isn’t hard but needs a little bit of caution with a heavy pack, and you have to alternate between looking out for the little cairns which mark the route and watching where your next step will land.

Over the high point, the vista is wider and more open. We passed the Pools of Dee, greatly reduced after the dry summer, and continued downhill in the shadow of Braeriach to the right and Ben Macdui to the left with Devil’s Point dominating the view. We caught up with a group of girls, backpacking the Lairig Ghru as part of a 4-day walk for their Duke of Edinburgh gold award. They seemed pretty tired but were still smiling and cheerful.

While the Braerich corries and the cliffs of Devil’s Point drew the eye, we also stopped to look at the Tailors’ Stone, the remains of ancient forest in the peat,  and a little frog that jumped into a puddle infront of me.

There was still a patch of snow high up on the cliffs of Braeriach, though it’s shrinking fast.


We caught drizzly rain from time to time but nothing that needed our heavy waterproofs, and there were snatches of sunshine as  well. We had wondered about camping at Corrour bothy, but there were already several tents near it, and it looked there were some volunteers carrying out work there as well, so we walked on down the valley. Every mile walked before camping was a mile less on the second day and since we hadn’t started until mid-day we were keen to keep moving while we could.


In truth we were getting tired and hungry and wondering whether we should have camped higher up when we reached Glen Lui. We camped on a broad track beside the river and had just started to eat our dinner when the wind dropped and the midges rose. We ate up, pretty well threw everything in the bell end of the tent, got in and zipped it up. Unfortunately hundreds of the blighters joined us – that’s the first time I’ve got into my sleeping bag with a midge net on. We carry a dram with us and I refused to let Bill open the tent to get it out of the rucksack. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been on the Lairig Mor where every inch of skin itched like blazes with cleg bites.

It was cool with a slight breeze in the morning and the plague wasn’t so relentless. We packed up and started down the track in the soft early light.


At Derry Lodge we came across a host of other campers, including some more of the DofE girls and as we walked downhill, we began to meet hikers and cyclists coming up from the Linn of Dee and we learned that it was the weekend of the Braemar Gathering. Further on dozens of cars passed us on our way down the road, but whether they were heading to Crathie Kirk to see the queen or just going into the village for their Sunday papers, it was impossible to tell.


Getting home from Braemar  is a much longer journey than you might expect. There are few buses from Braemar to Aberdeen on a Sunday (and none that go anywhere more convenient) and the journey takes over 5 hours (you can get from Edinburgh to London more quickly). I had expected to get the 16:20 bus but since we had walked further than we expected on Saturday, the 14:20 was now a real possibility and there was an outside chance of catching the 12:20. So having stopped to admire the Linn of Dee from the bridge, we yomped down the road for a bit.

Fast hiking on hard tarmac with a big pack, tired legs and aching feet is no fun though, and after a bit we stopped for some snackage, and decided to enjoy the last couple of miles into Braemar, even if it meant we missed a bus. The views across the valley were pictureque and quite different from those at the Rothiemurchus end.

We got to Braemar with enough time for a delicious coffee and a sandwich in  taste cafe , fortuitously open on a Sunday because of the Gathering, and still made the 12:20 bus. This was the most taxing overnight we’ve done so far, but our legs, hips and shoulders have strengthened with every trip and the Lairig Ghru is a classic that I’m glad to have finally hiked.



2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Did you never consider a very much younger sister may to the drop off and pick up if it fitted in with her very hectic social life and times away lol No, seriously ask me I can only say No !!

Comment by verymuchyoungersister

As usual, I’m shattered just reading about it

Comment by Brenda Pollock

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