Cairngorms National Park: Bynack More

Bynack More is one of those Munros that’s a bit out on a limb, and as such it’s best done as an out-and-back from Glenmore Forest Park. We had breakfast on the beach (I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done that!) at Loch Morlich, and then took down the tent and tootled up the road to Allt Mor car park. We stuffed snacks, sunblock and waterproofs (best to be prepared for all eventualities) into our day rucksacks, and set off. After three days of hauling all our kit around, it was nice to have a day with a lighter load.

Lodge Trail through Glenmore Forest Park

Glenmore Forest Park, and the Ryvoan Pass beyond it, is in the process of being reforested. Since the 1990s, Forestry and Land Scotland has been removing non-native trees such as Sitka spruce and Lodgepole pine, which were planted to provide fast-growing timber after World War One, and replacing them with native species like Scots pine. Flitting through the pines either side of the Lodge Trail (purple waymarkers) were all sorts of songbirds; some stopped to perch on a branch just long enough for me to take a picture, but most didn’t.

Great Tit on the Lodge Trail

When the trees thinned to reveal a small meadow, we peeled off the Lodge Trail and joined the Ryvoan Trail (blue waymarkers). From here, it’s about a kilometre to the picturesque An Lochan Uaine (or in English, the less-mystical-sounding The Green Lochan). If you’re after a scientific explanation for the colouring, it’s probably due to the presence of blue-green algae in the water. (Whilst we did see some folk swimming in the lochan when we passed by again in the afternoon, there were signs cautioning against it due to the algae.) Local legend, on the other hand, has it that fairies wash their clothes in the lochan, and that’s why it’s a beautiful green-blue colour.

An Lochan Uaine

Top tip: there are numerous lochans with the name Lochan Uaine across the Cairngorms National Park, but a lot of articles muddle them up and say that An Lochan Uaine is below Sgòr an Lochan Uaine (The Angel’s Peak). There is a Lochan Uaine below Sgòr an Lochan Uaine – but that’s not the same as this one!

We stopped for a snack break at An Lochan Uaine, and then continued along the Ryvoan Pass (the waymarked Ryvoan Trail ends at An Lochan Uaine). A little further on, the path forked. Continue straight, and you’ll pass through Abernethy Forest and end up in Nethy Bridge. Turn right, as we did, and in seven(ish) kilometres you’ll reach the summit of Bynack More.

Ryvoan Bothy

It’s a fairly easy-going trail, as it’s well-maintained and for the first couple of kilometres after the fork it simply meanders across the moor. Flashes of purple heather dotted the landscape, bursting out from behind tussocks of grass.

Looking back across Abernethy National Nature Reserve

Once we crossed the River Nethy, the trail began to climb steadily. Soon after, the hulking shape of Bynack More came into sight. The obvious upside of the good weather was the expansive views, particularly towards Moray and Aberdeenshire (below). The flipside of that was that once we’d left Glenmore Forest Park behind the path was very exposed – and there was no shade to be had.

Ascending Bynack More

The last couple of hundred metres was short and sharp, and there were a few (or a lot, depending on how worn out you’re feeling by this point) false summits before we reached the top.

Not the top!
The Barns of Bynack. Some of these granite tors are six metres high

From the summit, we could see several of the Munros we’d ascended over the past few days, including Beinn a’Chaorainn, Beinn Mheadhoin, Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm. We stopped for lunch at the top, and then began to pick our way back down just as others were reaching the summit.

Sròn a’ Cha-no, a ridge on the other side of Strath Nethy

On our way back down, we spotted a capercaillie (below) and her chick (not pictured) scampering through the grass, and some rather large mushrooms/toadstools (I’m afraid I haven’t a clue how to tell them apart) amongst the heather.

Capercaillie
Mushroom or toadstool?

We were glad of the early start, as the heat was beginning to get to us. (Heaven only knows how the group of four with only one 500ml water bottle between them managed it!)

A little after Loch a’ Gharb-choire, Laurence spotted some bilberries by the side of the path. We took advantage of the limited shade and stopped to munch a few handfuls of bilberries, our juice-stained fingers the only trace of our fruity feast.

Bilberries

We stopped for a rest at An Lochan Uaine on our way back, as we were feeling pretty worn out from the sun. By now, it was mid-afternoon and there was none of the peace and tranquillity we’d enjoyed on the shore of the lochan that morning. Interestingly, with the sun overhead the lochan had lost the green hue it had that morning under an overcast sky and was now a vivid blue.

An Lochan Uaine. Not pictured: the folk swimming around the edge of the lochan and the families gathered on the shore
Glenmore Forest Park

We made it back to the car around 16.00, and promptly devoured another packet of ready salted crisps each. (Must’ve sweated off a load of salt in the sun!) On a hot day, I’d usually be beetling over to the nearest ice cream spot, but on this occasion a hot shower and the opportunity to wash off four days’ worth of sweat and grime proved more tempting. So off we went to Badaguish Outdoor Centre. Until we hit a traffic jam, that is. A good forty-five minutes or so later, and Forestry and Land Scotland had set up a diversion through the forest and we were on our way again. Luckily for us, the diversion took us up towards Badaguish Outdoor Centre.

View of Cairn Gorm from Badaguish Outdoor Centre

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Parking | Allt Mor car park cost £2 for a day ticket in July 2021; the machine accepts coins and card. Alternatively, there’s a fair amount of verge parking along the main road.
  • Maps and guides | Arm yourself with a copy of OS Explorer OL57 – and know how to read it. If you’re after a shorter walk, take a photo of the ‘Welcome to Allt Mor’ board by the car park machine – it shows a few routes you can do in the area.
  • Distance | 24.1km/15 miles; 836m of elevation gain
  • Accommodation | We stayed in a camping pod at Badaguish Outdoor Centre. We paid roughly £60 in July 2021, and got a better rate by booking directly (www.badaguishoutdoorcentre.org) than through third-party sites. From the main road, it’s a couple of kilometres up a well-maintained dirt track (single-track with passing places) to Badaguish Outdoor Centre.
  • Misc. | Take care on the roads in and around the Cairngorms National Park; they’re often twisty and narrow. To quote a friend’s driving instructor, it’s a speed limit, not a target. We were stuck in a mahoosive queue as a result of a car accident near Loch Morlich, and I can’t even begin to imagine how horrifying it must have been for those involved and those who witnessed it.

6 thoughts on “Cairngorms National Park: Bynack More

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