This was one of those days that could only happen in Scotland. The weather forecast on Thursday had promised sunshine and showers with the emphasis definitely on the showers. Sure enough when I got up this morning it was raining pretty hard, so the day looked like a washout before we'd even had breakfast! Never the less we got up and organised, all be it in a slightly more resigned fashion than normal. As it turned out of course by the time we were ready to set off the rain was off and there was even a slight hint of blue in the sky. The forecast even at this stage was mainly heavy showers punctuated with the occasional glimpse of the sun, so choosing where we were going was a challenge. In the end we decided on Glen Tannar, mainly because it gave us options. If it got as wet as suggested we could turn right at the first bridge and do the three bridges; if it stayed a little bit drier we could turn right at the third bridge and go further up the glen and round the side of The Strome then up to join the Firmounth Road; if we were really lucky, and the weather forecasters were wrong, we could even add in the circuit of Baudy Meg. Unlikely as this seemed at the time it was at least a plan that let us make some decisions as we went along.
Even though we were a little bit later in getting there the car park was surprisingly quiet, even for a Friday but we weren't complaining too much! Glen Tannar has been the starting point for a couple of walks since we started this little experiment. The first was way back in January when the snow was thick on the ground and I seemed to spend a fair amount of time on my back side, (read it here); the second was when we climbed Clachan Yell back in April with the now infamous stepping stone crossing!
We set off around a quarter to eleven under cloudy skies but we were walking without jackets so it certainly wasn't cold. As usual I took some photos of St Lesmo Chapel and as usual I still can't get the one I want! Someday I might just go and keep taking photos until I stumble blindly onto the perfect shot. Anyway, we crossed the Water of Tannar at the first bridge to pass the private fishing loch and there was still no sign of rain and now the jumpers were coming off! In Glen Tannar there are lots of stones with verses or quotes or strange numbers that don't seem to mean anything in particular. The first of these today is at the apex of a small triangle planted with trees and marked as a memorial to Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in, 1887.
The second was on the right hand side of the path about half way between the loch and the first fishing bothy and is a verse about the trees.
As far as we can tell it goes like this:
The pine is the king of the Scottish wood,
And the queen, ah who is she,
The fairest form the forest kens,
The bonny Birken tree.
From here we had a pleasant walk along the river past the first fishing bothy towards Mount Keen but turning left to cross the river at the second bridge of the day. The interesting thing about all of the bridges in Glen Tannar, and there are a lot of them, is how well they're built. Last week when we walked at Loch Callater the bridges were, at best, functional, but the Glen Tannar bridges are solid stone built edifices and it's worth having a look for the key stone and I defy you to identify it without leaning over the parapet so well does it fit.
The walk to the third bridge passes through a high pine forest and it was stuffy and hot, surely it was only a matter of time before the promised rain arrived. Reaching the third bridge meant that we had to decide to carry on along the riverside, (The Water of Allachy at this point), or head back downstream towards the car. By now however we were having serious doubts about the weather forecast so it was an easy decision to carry on up river towards the top of the Glen passing the second fishing bothy.
From here the path is gently up hill but is easy walking until eventually the path wants to cross a fairly deep ford and carry on up and over Cock Cairn and little Cock Cairn. However about a hundred yards back from the ford there is a branch that leads steeply up to join the Firnmounth Road which joins Glen Tannar to Glen Esk. Turning now back towards the car park the path drops down to cross the little Burn of Skinna at a lochan, (no name), that just happens to be the perfect spot for lunch.
We had now reached the point where we had to decide what we should do next. We could follow the Firmounth Road back towards the car, basically retracing our steps but at a higher level, or we could turn off the track and head up and around the slopes of Baudy Meg, (translated as Hill of Hares, and not what you might like it to mean). Again, with no sign of any rain, it was an easy decision to make. Mo was feeling good and although the route was now steadily uphill it wasn't uncomfortably steep and the top held the promise of being above the treeline and maybe even a bit of a breeze.
The promised breeze when we cleared the trees was very welcome and as we walked along we started playing the favourite game of hillwalkers - name the hills you can see. There are a couple of easy ones of course; Bennachie with its distinctive shape; Carnferg Mon with its large triangular cairn; Gathering Cairn with Mount Keen behind; and Morven with Loch Kinnord in front. There were a couple we'd like to think we got; Broom Hill and Pressendye because of their rounded shape; and in the far distance Tap o Noth, again because of the distinctive shape of the fort at its summit. How many we got right is probably open to debate but it was fun!
The other interesting thing about this part of the walk is the story of the "haunted stag". It's told that one William Cunliffe Brooks had been hunting an elusive stag for a long time but had been unable to get his sights on it long enough to get a shot off. Then, on the 9th of October 1877 he finally managed to bring it down with a shot of 267 feet. In those far off days this was considered a remarkable feat of skill and the gentleman, not known for his modesty, had two memorials erected to himself; one where he stood and one where the poor beast fell. These memorials take the shape of a triangular base with a ball perched on top. Apparently there is a faded inscription that reads "The Haunted Stag. The stag is dead. Sure bullet to its fatal mark hath sped".
Unfortunately the memorials are a fair way off the path and the walk out to them would be over some pretty rough ground, so I contented myself with some photos on a long lens! From here it was an easy flat walk around the flank of Baudy Meg before we started back down a steep rocky path towards the Firmounth Road. On the way down we met up with another couple, Martin and Gail, who were also on the way down and we had a chat about the walks in and around Glen Tannar and played the "name the hills" game yet again. We split up at the Monks Well where our path joined the Firmounth Road and made our way down towards the old view point. About half way down we stopped at the last carved stone of the day, but we were unable to decipher this one.
At the view point we decided that rather than carry on straight back to the car, we'd cut down the steep path and pick up the riverside walk so that we could have a look at the old turbine building. Many years ago I'd photographed the old building and had gone looking for where the water had fed into it from the river. At that time I'd been unable to get close enough to the riverbank to find it but in recent years somebody has gone to the trouble of putting up a barbed wire fence around the area where the inlet is so now it's easy to find. Somehow I don't think putting the fence up had the right outcome since now I would imagine anybody walking along the path is going to have a look at what has been fenced off!
The machinery is still in place although I'm sure anything of any value has long since been stripped away. There used to be an information board by the side of the path but it seems to have been removed. I seem to remember that the turbine supplied electricity to the chapel, but whether that was its sole purpose or not, I can't remember. From here it was only a short walk back to the car park, and there had been no rain whatsoever, so the forecasters don't always get it right! We'd left at a quarter to eleven and were back in the car by half past four. All in all a good day out made more so by the fact that it was unexpected.
As ever my thanks go to Robert Smith's 25 Walks on Deeside book for his information on the "Haunted Stag".