“Let’s go camping!” – ok, great.
“I’ve mapped a route” – excellent, that’s super.
….“So it’s 30kms with 5 peaks on day one….” – uh-ohh.
Needless to say, I requested a route change.
So off we trotted, backpacks fully laden, into the hills and valleys of the Cairngorms National Park.
We began our route at the Spittal of Glen Muick car park, walking along the banks of Loch Muick before rising up and over into the next valley. The weather was mild and overcast, with occasional fine mists of rain – never heavy enough to require a jacket; ideal hiking weather.
Owing to the fact that we weren’t under any time pressures (and were feeling the strain of heavy backpacks) we navigated our route slowly and purposefully. Our springer spaniel led the way, bounding and lunging about the hillside with glee. Next time he’s getting a doggy-backpack to slow him down a bit too!
The scenery was eerie, with dramatic hues of greens and browns. Shadows and shades appeared furtively across the glens, with the sunshine ebbing and flowing through the clouds. This created some spectacular scenes, the like of which can only be fully appreciated in-person. Encountering the looming hills which edge the valley, feeling them tower over you and making you feel but 6 inches tall is a rare sensation for those of us more used to dwelling in towns.
We walked for the best part of the day, stopping occasionally for water-stops, or to take a few photographs. It was relaxing to escape from everyday life, knowing everything we needed was on our backs, except perhaps some additional water, which we would source from the river which we walked along. …I really did try my best to ignore the rubbing of my boots and the bruises forming on my collar bones, although sometimes even panoramic vistas and world-renowned landscapes aren’t enough to take away the pain completely!
With only a few kilometres until our anticipated camping spot, we stopped to explore some large rocky pools which had formed in the river. This provided us with an excellent excuse to remove our walking boots and socks, and embrace some fairly chilly paddling. Sitting on a rock, with feet dangling into the flowing water below, I watched one man and his dog explore the breadth of the river in more detail – jumping from one stepping stone to the next, egging each other on. It’s the simple things which bring us joy!
After some campsite-scouting we settled for a (relatively) flat area on the hillside, some 30 meters from the river, with gorgeous views of the valley below. Living in Scotland, wild camping is permitted under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The general rule is that small scale camping is allowable on open/wild land, provided that campers leave no trace. (‘Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos’ was what I was always taught!) This provides locals and tourists alike with the opportunity to connect with the landscape and embrace the idyllic peacefulness of knowing there’s no one else for miles around.
This was our tent’s first outing. It was slick to put up (and take down!), coped well in a flurry of rain showers, and was spacious enough inside for all our gear.
We’d packed a portable BBQ with burgers, spaghetti hoops, marshmallows and a few tinnies (that’s cans of beer to the non-Scots!). Quite a feast! Talking and eating, whilst trying to avoid the midges and keep the pup away from the fire at the same time meant that the evening flew by. Pity our tent pitch site turned out to not be quite as lump-free as we had hoped though!
The next day, after an early start and a double check of our site for any forgotten items, we headed back onto the trail. With a much shorter route and lighter backpacks, we found ourselves making good time back to the car. A quick stop at Ballater for late morning breakfast rolls, and then it was back to reality!
Hopefully camping take #2 will be even better, now we’ve had some practice!
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