Loch Rannoch and Glen Lyon: A Weekend of Cycling and Munro-Bagging

Although I spent a fair chunk of the Easter break penning the penultimate assignment for my PGDE (I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved I was to see the back of that particular one), there was still plenty of time for exploring. We opted for the area around Loch Rannoch and Glen Lyon, and while it’s impossible to see everything this area has to offer in the space of a few days, you’re sure to leave wanting more. (I don’t know about you, but I’d far rather a trip ended on that note.) Here’s what we got up to…

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Cairngorms National Park: Carn Aosta, The Cairnwell and Carn a Gheòidh

When I say this trio of Munros is the [easiest / quickest / insert superlative of your choice here] to bag, I mean it. They’re a hop, skip and a jump from the car park at Glenshee Ski Centre – which is only three hundred metres below the first two summits.

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Cairngorms National Park: Carn an Tuirc, Cairn of Claise, Glas Maol and Creag Leacach

Usually, I sleep like a log when we’re camping. Not so on this occasion, as we had the misfortune to be pitched next to a couple who gossiped loudly into the wee hours on one night and a tentful of snorers on the second. When we surfaced, the campsite was enveloped in mist and the midges were ready and waiting for their breakfast (aka us). We pulled on our midge nets, scarfed down our breakfast (eating a scone with jam whilst wearing a midge net isn’t the easiest of tasks), and then hopped in the car.

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Cairngorms National Park: Loch Callater, Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr, Carn a’ Choire Bhaidheach and Lochnagar

After pottering round Aviemore and stocking up on supplies, we headed east towards Braemar. I can’t remember exactly how Loch Callater came onto our radar, but it didn’t take long for us to find a way to fit it into our itinerary. Of all the lochs I’ve seen in Scotland so far, this is a strong contender for being my favourite. We parked the car at Auchallater, fed coins into the machine, and changed into our hiking clothes. (As it turned out, it was a popular spot for wild swimming so no one bats an eye when they see people changing between car doors.)

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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.

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Cairngorms National Park: Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm

With its craggy peaks (including enough Munros to keep the avid Munro-bagger busy for a very long time*) and arctic-alpine lakes, the Cairngorms National Park is the gift that keeps on giving. Our multi-day loop concluded with a string of peaks in the vicinity of Loch Avon: Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm, Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm.

*Unless you’re the guy we bumped into up Beinn Mheadoin and Cairn Gorm who’d packed eighteen into a single weekend, that is.

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Two Beinns: Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a’ Chaorainn

While we slept – or perhaps I should say while we tried to sleep, for sleep evaded me for much of the night – the wind howled. When we woke, it was still – almost eerily so. Others camped around Corrour Bothy were, for the most part, yet to surface.

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Conquering the Cairngorms’ Angels and Demons: Braeriach, The Angel’s Peak, Cairn Toul and The Devil’s Point

When it comes to planning a trip to the Cairngorms National Park, the biggest challenge is its size.

There’s a whopping 4,500sq kilometres of it. To put that into perspective for you, Greater London (i.e. the city proper, and all the suburbs that sit within the M25) is 1,583sq kilometres. Luxembourg, at 2,586sq kilometres, could almost fit into the Cairngorms National Park twice.

There’s so much to see, and that makes it hard to choose which parts to see and which to save for a subsequent trip. After much deliberation, we opted to spend the first half of our trip in the area around Cairn Gorm itself, and the latter half around Braemar.

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Two More Munros: Ben Vorlich and Stùc a’ Chroin

Sunshine? On a bank holiday? Well, it would’ve been rude not to head up to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs for a spot of Munro-bagging. Our targets: Ben Vorlich and Stùc a’ Chroin. (Confusingly, there are two Ben Vorlichs in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Here, I’m talking about the one located due south of Loch Earn.)

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Ben Nevis: Bagging Our First Munro

Given the West Highland Way finishes in Fort William, it’d be rude not to climb ‘the Ben’ whilst in the area – or that was our thinking, at any rate. Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level (a dwarf compared to many peaks in Europe, but a giant by British standards), Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK – and the only one of the Three Peaks we hadn’t yet summited.

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