Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Loch Lee - Hunt Hill - Cairn Lick

Friday 24th February,

If I was only allowed one word to describe today's walk, it would be "uncomfortable!" It started out so promisingly as well. Mo decided that, with a busy week of travelling planned for Saturday and the family coming for dinner on Sunday, she would stay home and rest up, thereby letting me loose for a longer, and possibly a little higher, walk. The weather forecast was for dry but breezy conditions and I was up early and driving just as the sun was coming up. It was only a couple of weeks back that I was down in Glen Esk when I went is search of the Stables of Lee and at that time I had considered climbing Hunt Hill. The thing was that it was a beautiful day that day and I was more interested in getting photos of the reflections on the loch than of climbing hills, so decided to leave it until nearer the Summer when Mo might be up for it. Today however I decided that I'd climb it and confirm the route I wanted to take and if Mo wanted us to go back in the Summer I'd be a bit more familiar with the area. Well that was my excuse for getting some height under my boots anyway.

 Car park to myself

The breezy conditions forecast turned out to be a what felt like gale force winds whistling down the length of the loch and right into my face, so it was a long slow slog along the estate road towards the head of the loch. There would be no reflections today and I knew that the wind would only get stronger as I gained height. Never the less I was set on getting some uphill stuff done today so persevered in the hope that it might grow a bit calmer the further into the glen I got. It was to be a forlorn hope!

Windy but clear

Inchgrundle Farm
The ridge for today - walking up onto Bruntwood Crags on the right and along to Hunt Hill on the left
The footbridge to the Falls of Unich is tucked underneath Bruntwood Crags and it was at this point I finally got a little bit of relief from the wind. It picked up again as I made my way up and around the crags following a faint and often broken path through the heather. It had been my intention to choose a spot between the crags and take a steep but hopefully short route up onto the ridge. However the path, although it seemed to be taking a fairly long route, was making its way up so I followed on until I ran out of patience and reverted to the original plan of scrambling the short distance up to the ridge. The wind at this point gave the impression that it was really pleased to see me!   

On the way up

From the ridge at Bruntwood Crags looking back along the route in towards the loch
The plan now that I was on the ridge had been to walk along the edge of the cliffs and try for some photos looking down on the falls and the Cairn Lick route I'd used way back in March last year but with the wind coming hard from my right I decided that maybe moving away from the edge a little was the wiser move. I did however get a couple of the photos.

Looking down on the Falls of Unich

From Bruntwood Crags along the Water of Lee towards the loch
Eventually however I needed to turn back into the wind and head up the final slog to the summit of Hunt Hill. There was a wee bit of a detour around a  peat bog that delayed getting to the start of the climb, (the delay was made longer by the wind blowing so hard it made my eyes water so badly that the inside of my glasses were wet and I was struggling to see anything, never mind a way through the bog!).

The final slog up to Hunt Hill

Once out of the bog it was a case of head down and try to go up faster than I got blown back. It seemed to take a long time, but at last the rather innocuous summit cairn came into view and with it I think the wind took it as a personal insult that I had insisted on getting there!

First glimpse of the summit - apologies for the camera shake!

From Hunt Hill (705m) towards Lochnagar - camera's still shaking!
Much as I had been looking forward to having a seat and some food at the top there wasn't any shelter so I made my way over the top and down towards the Falls of Damff. I did stop eventually under an overhanging rock formation that had the double advantage of being out of the wind but still in the sun. I could have sat there all day!

Off the top and looking back
It had only been a brief and uncomfortable visit to the top but with a little food and some shelter I was already looking forward to coming back on a nice summer's day with no wind and needing sun tan lotion! The next part of the plan had been fairly fluid. One option had been to pick up the path coming up through the hanging valley above the Falls of Unich and make my way down under Bruntwood Crags; the second was to cross the footbridge above the Falls of Damff and make my way up over Cairn Lick and pick up the estate path back to Inchgrundle. I decided that I was reluctant to give up the height I'd battled so hard to gain so Cairn Lick was the route of choice.

Bridge to Cairn Lick

Towards the Falls of Damff

Looking back across the bridge to Hunt Hill
I'm familiar enough with the path up to Cairn Lick to know that it's always wet - even in the summer! Needless to say therefore that it was just the same in February, only more so. On the upside though the wind was firmly at my back so for the first time today I wasn't cursing it. All good things come to an end of course and as I turned to make my way along the top of the cliffs at Craig Maskeldie and up onto Cairn Lick it was again hard onto my right side. The rewards however are the great views of Loch Lee.

Loch Lee

Cairn Lick (682m)
I had hoped that when I picked up the estate track down the fantastically named Shank of Inchgrundle that the wind would finally be my friend. It was not to be as it swirled and gusted so much I almost, but didn't quite, start shouting at it! To take my mind off it I started wondering about the names of the places I'd passed today - including Dog's Hillock, Brides Bed and Smith's Gutter as well as Shank of Inchgrundle - and I decided that I was glad that the names already existed because can you imagine what "modern" names we might come up with? I just don't think we have the imagination anymore.

The hidden lochan of Carlochy

Loch Lee

Pine Wood

I sheltered for a while in a heather made grouse butt, ate the last of my food and reflected on what had been a challenging day. I'm pretty certain that I'll be back up Hunt Hill, it was too fine a walk for the abiding memory to be the wind. I might just change the route next time though. There's a post on Walking Highlands by Chris W with what sounded like an interesting route so maybe I'll try that one next time. The walk back along the loch was pleasant enough, especially with the wind at my back and for the first time since I'd set off I began to meet one or two early evening walkers.

Craig Maskeldie with Hunt Hill behind

The old Glen Esk Kirk

On the final walk back to the car park I stopped off to visit my second church in two weeks, (my Mother will be pleased, but maybe I'll not say anything in case the shock is too much). This one is the Church of Scotland Parish church that replaced the old one on the lochside. It wasn't in quite as good a condition as St Drostan's but it was quiet and out of the wind!

I might have stayed around for a wee while but there were a couple having a look round when I arrived and another couple turned up while I was taking photos, so I decided that I'd be just as comfortable in the car. I'd set off just before nine o'clock and was taking my boots off at the car just before four. It had been a fine day although maybe just a little bit harder than I had planned for this early in the year.

More photos


  1. What is this suntan lotion that you speak of? Surely that would be unnecessary in Scotland, even in this thing you call "summer"!?!

    When are you going to be forcing your brothers (and me) to go out walking again??

    1. Hi Greg, I'm always available to walk. As for the other two, well you'll need to nag them. I thought you were too busy watching films to be bothered slogging your way up some remote hillside.

      Thanks for looking in.


  2. Another good walk with great views, John. Like you I am impressed with the curiously named Shank of Inchgrundle. It sounds like something from an RL Stevenson novel. Have you any idea what it means?
    Alen McF

    1. Hi Alen, thanks for looking in. I've no idea what the name means. Usually the names have some form of Gaelic root, but to my, admittedly untrained ear, it doesn't sound very Gaelic......J

  3. I was going to say that just about every feature in that walk has a fantastic name. Cairn Lick, Inchgrundle, the Falls of Unich - the imagination starts to boggle, right enough.

    1. Hi Scott, I know what you mean and sometimes I worry that when we name things these days we want the name to have some other, usually a vague political, meaning. Maybe I'm just getting old and cynical!!......J

  4. Big brother here - looks like a good walk but I must admit I am no friend of The Wind. But envious of the seven-hour walk. And what is Greg going on about - he can't even take pictures!! Anyway, plan the walk and I'll be there.

    1. Jings, what's this big brother catching up with technology?!! Our younger brother says that it's up to Greg to get the walk organised! Sound familiar? We'll be lucky to get out before the Winter!!......J