After our successful, and rather longer than expected, walk on Friday, Saturday was most certainly a rest day. Sunday however turned out to be a different story. Mo wasn't feeling up to another slog so, with the weather looking pretty good in Portlethen I set off at about 09.30. I wasn't sure where I was going but I thought Glen Tanner a safe bet, with maybe a walk around Bawdy Meg a fair target - far enough for a late(ish) start but with a wee bit of a climb to keep me honest. The weather down Deeside got steadily worse with snow flurries and a sky that promised more so by the time I got to Aboyne I was having second thoughts! With this in mind I stopped at the bridge over the Dee and took some photos of the river thinking that, if nothing else, I'd get some photos in the bag, (or is it can), for the January assignment.
From here I decided that since I was this far I might as well have a look into Glen Tanner to see what the roads were like and if I could get as far as the carpark. As it turned out the roads were just about passable and there was a space just inside the carpark so I took it as a good omen and decided that I'd have a walk out to St Lesmo chapel if nothing else, (still thinking on the January assignment). The paths were really treacherous and I managed to fall twice before I'd got 20 yards from the bridge over the river. Embarrassing but fortunately there was no one about to laugh! The worry was that I had damaged my camera but apart from a cracked lens cover it seems to have escaped unscathed which is more than I did. I'm pretty sure I'll have a few bruises in the next day or so. About ten minutes from the start of the walk you come to St Lesmo Chapel. This is a rather plain building but built in a beautiful setting and I've photographed it many times but never seem to do it justice.
In the wee graveyard attached to the chapel there is what appears to be a standing stone. The story goes that in the days when the estate was in it's prime the laird and his faithful gamekeeper came across this stone up on the high moors. On their many outings together they would sit by it to have their tea and sandwiches and came to the agreement that when the first of them died the other would bring the stone down from the moors and it would be set up as a headstone. Apparently the gamekeeper died first and the laird duly had the stone brought down and set as the gamekeeper's headstone.
From the chapel the path forks left and right and I took the left hand path up through the trees for the first stiffish climb. Nothing too taxing of course but it did remind me that I'd had a fair walk on Friday and that I was going to have a bruise or two in the morning after my earlier falls! The path leads up through a stand of Scots Pine, (at least I think that's what they are, I'm no tree expert) and was very pretty in the low sun. As you clear the trees you come to a view point that looks up the length of the Glen and gives a fair idea of the extent of the estate.
From the view point the path continues steadily, if gently, up hill. This is the Firmounth Road which will take you, if you walk far enough, all the way to Tarfside in Glen Esk and was a main route in days gone by. At the top of the hill there a couple of things of note. First there is a lone pine tree, nothing unusual in that you might think, but this one has an old fence round it and every time I walk past it I wonder why; secondly, and I'm sure that there are a few people who miss it because it's directly across from the pine, is a stone marking "The Monks Well". I assume that at some point there was a well, manned by a monk, at the top of the hill probably to provide a service to weary people and animals who have climbed the hill.
There's no sign of a well now as far as I can tell. There is however what looks like a green tank set into a concrete block on the hillside below the stone so I'm guessing that the estate at some point brought the well under control to stop it washing away the path. From here the path continues along the flank of Bawdy Meg, (which is, by the way, not a reference to some free spirited lady but is Gaelic for hill of hares - always a bit of a disappointment I feel!), and is pleasantly undulating and nice to walk on. When I first did this walk the trees were small but now it's difficult to see over them so there is a wee bit of sameness for the next half hour or so. At the end of this leg you come to a fork in the track with the Bawdy Meg route going off to the left and the Firmounth road heading off to the right.
This was decision time, but to be honest it wasn't difficult to make. The path I'd been following, as you can see, had already had people on it whereas the Bawdy Meg route was pristine snow so I headed off to the right and the start back down. Normally when we walk this way we stop at a little lochan a couple of hundred yards from the junction because it is, in rough terms, half way. Today however the snow was a wee bit deep and the wind a wee bit cold to sit long so, after a bag of hoolahoops and some chocolate, I carried on.
The path now turns up hill for a little way before coming to the point where the Firmounth Road branches off to the left while our path now goes downhill to meet up with the river, (Water of Allachy).
There's a T junction at the bottom of the hill and to the left the path crosses a ford then heads up into the hills at the top end on the glen to Cock Cairn and Little Cock Cairn which is a walk for the summer months. Today however my route was to the right, heading back towards the start. The walking is generally gently downhill and, with the river on my left and the sun over my left shoulder, it was very picturesque. After about half an hour you come to an old fishing bothy by the riverside. This is the first of two on this walk and both appear to be derelict. I've never really understood why they just don't knock them down, but I'm quite happy because they're quite good for photographing. In fact I had a photograph of this one as my computer wallpaper for a while!
From here it's only a short step to a bridge over the river and the next decision making point. I could carry straight on and this would be the shortest way back to the car. The alternative is to turn left and cross the river. This adds about an hour to the walk but since it was only half past one I decided to take this way. It's a flat walk and about fifteen minutes later there's a second bridge this time over the Water of Tanner. On the other side of the river there is another T junction where the path to the left is the Glen Tanner route to Mount Keen so I turned right, heading back to the car. By now the path was really slippery, probably because the snow layer had been well trampled and I ended up on my bum for the third time today. Fortunately I landed in some deeper snow so the camera survived again. After about fifteen minutes there is a second fishing bothy situated where the Water of Allachy joins the larger Water of Tanner. This one is in an even worse state than the first one and has a barbed wire fence around it to stop people investigating too closely.
The main reason for coming this slightly longer way was the chance of some photos of the private fishing loch that belongs to the estate. Before I reached it however I came across a woman sitting by the side of the track. It turns out that she had been walking with her husband when she'd slipped and twisted her ankle! It seems that I wasn't the only one struggling to stand up today. She assured me that her husband would be back soon with help so I walked on and sure enough in about ten minutes a landrover with a woman at the wheel and a man in the passenger seat passed so I assume she was rescued. The fishing loch was frozen over of course but it's a good spot for photos in any weather so I took a few before I went on.
From here it's a fairly short walk back across the river to the car, the only point of interest being the man I met cross-country skiing. He obviously had better footwear than I had!! I had left the carpark at 11 o'clock and arrived back at 3 o'clock so it was a good, if bruising, day out.