Thursday, 19 January 2012

Glen Esk to the Stables of Lee

Friday 13th January,

After a wee bit of a blogging holiday over the festival period, we finally decided that we needed to get back into the routine of Friday walks. It’s not that we haven’t been out and about but it has tended to be snatching the odd walk from home or in other familiar places like Forvie with the dogs or a Christmas day walk in Glen Tannar. Now however it was time to start “proper” walks again, especially on a Friday. Unfortunately as Rabbie Burns once put it “the best laid plans ‘o mice and men gang aft agley”, and it turned out that Mo wasn’t feeling at her best so, being the loving husband that I am, I promptly left her at home and headed to Glen Esk. I had no particular plan in mind when I set out but with the weather forecast promising light winds and bright sunshine I was keen to try and capture the fantastic reflections that you can get on Loch Lee at this time of the year, but other than that it was a free day. Being on my own meant that I left home while it was still dark and had parked at the Glen Esk car park just after first light.

It's only a short walk from the car park to Loch Lee, passing Invermark Castle along the way. The castle was built around 1526 by the Lyndsays and if you fancy reading a bit about the history of it you can find it here.

Invermark Castle

Perched on the edge of the loch are the ruins of Glen Esk Old Parish Church, (the new church dating from 1803 stands near the car park), and is another of those ruins that I've photographed before and never really got the photo I wanted. This morning was no exception. But I tried anyway and had a walk around the graveyard as usual and wondered about the people buried there and their stories. Again if you want to know more then there's good information here.

Old Church Graveyard

Although the sun was getting up now there was also a fairly stiffish breeze and the surface of the loch was pretty well broken up. So no reflections yet it would seem. As I'd left the car park I'd spoken briefly to another walker who was also setting off heading for Hunt Hill and I was tempted to follow in his footsteps, but this was a hill that Mo and I had in our sights for later this year at some point so I finally decided that I'd just keep walking and see what, if anything, turned up!
The path along the loch is a well maintained estate access road and is easy walking. At the head of the loch sits the farm of Inchgrundle. It's one of these places that makes you wonder what it would be like to live there. Would it be the idyll that it looks or would it be a cold lonely place when the weather wasn't as beautiful as it was today. Who knows!


At the head of the loch there's a junction where one track goes off to the farm and the other heads off further up the Glen in the direction of Cairn Lick and it was this route that I decided to take. I had no intentions of going back up Cairn Lick but Hunt Hill was still available if things didn't work out. At the junction there's the dilapidated Glen Lee Cottage and I wonder why, when the rest of the estate is so well maintained, that they don't simply do away with it. Slowly but surely over the many years we've walked here we've watched it disintegrate. In the early days we even explored the interior, but now it's fenced off and looks decidedly dangerous. Maybe there's a plan, but somehow I don't think so.

Glen Lee Cottage

The track continues upstream following the course of the Water of Lee until it splits at the footbridge marking the route to the Falls of Unich and ultimately to the Falls of Damff. It's also the route to Cairn Lick and a possible route to Hunt Hill, so a decision was required!

Towards the Falls of Unich

In the end I decided to carry on along the path for two reasons. Firstly I thought there may be a better, (read easier), route up to Hunt Hill by coming at it from the North West and secondly I wanted to have a look at a building shown on the O&S map called the Stables of Lee which I assumed would be some sort of ruin for bygone days when mountain ponies would be stabled there for the benefit of helping the well-heeled get their trophies down from the hills. The weather, now that the sun was up, was very pleasant with almost no wind and a near perfect blue sky. I almost started feeling guilty about leaving Mo at home!

Ever improving weather

About half way between the Falls of Unich footbridge and the Stables of Lee there's a small plantation of trees, rather unimaginatively called Lee Plantation, with an old rather run down bothy, (or quaint depending if you're into bothies or not). Inside it was pretty obvious that there had been people staying there recently since I could still smell the fire and they had left a couple of unopened tins of soup and a couple of tins with no labels. On the inside of the roof people have left messages along with dates but I'm always a bit sceptical about whether or not they're genuine or if it's just somebody with a bit of a strange sense of humour.


Are the dates believable?

Signs of recent habitation

Beyond the bothy the path climbs slowly but steadily towards the end of the Glen and I think when Mo and I finally get round to climbing Hunt Hill we'll come this far before crossing the river, (there's and estate footbridge just past the bothy), and making our way up from there. Before reaching the Stables I met a couple of estate workers clearing the drainage ditches across the track. Not bad work if you can get it on a day like today and, as one of the guys pointed out, at this time of year it's a short day! From my blether it was only a short distance to my goal at the Stables. To my pleasant surprise, and I don't know why I was surprised really, not only was the building not a ruin, but it had two ponies stabled in it. I can only assume that the deer carcases are still transported from the hills on the backs of these ponies.

Stables of Lee

One of two ponies in the stable

Having reached the end of my walk and had a bite to eat with my new equine friends I retraced my footsteps back to the loch where to my delight the wind had died down and the water was flat calm. With the sun up and blue skies I was able to get the photos I'd hope to get when I set of from home some five hours earlier.

Loch Lee Reflections 1

Loch Lee Reflections 2

Loch Lee Reflections 3

From here it's only a gentle stroll back to the car park. Apart from the walker I met at the start and the two estate workers I had the place to myself and never met or seen another person. I had started walking around eight thirty and wandered back just before three o'clock.