Ruthven Castle
The Landlubber's Tale
Nigel Rose
Many Carnethies spent the weekend either competing or marshalling in the Scottish Islands Peaks Race. It should be remembered, however, that there are those who like to keep both feet firmly planted on terra firma. The forecast was good so I decided to go for a two day Corbett bagging trip. My plan was one of elegant simplicity. I would step off the train at Blair Atholl, set a direct compass bearing for Kingussie station, some 30 miles away, and start running. The route should take me across the headwaters of the Feshie and over five Corbetts.

The run started well; a red squirrel ran across my path as I stated up the Glen Tilt track. I continued as far as Gilberts Bridge then crossed to the west side of the river. I had to climb through an extraordinary gate to cross the deer fence. It was like a diamond-shaped port hole - the nearest that I was going to get to a nautical adventure. I followed the river upstream then turned up a side valley towards Beinn Mheadhonach. The ridge climb to the summit seemed interminable; a map check showed it to be about 2½ miles! The view from the top was vast, with the Beinn a'Ghlo range to the east and snow-covered Cairngorms to the north. That is a big advantage of Corbetts; their tops are usually excellent viewpoints.

I continued northwards over high moorland and lesser hills towards Beinn Bhreac, the next Corbett. The terrain became increasingly wild and remote and I could see the valley of the River Feshie snaking off to the northwest. Once I had reached the summit, the plan was to go on for a couple of miles further then find somewhere to camp for the night. Navigation was becoming increasingly difficult. There were miles of gently undulating moorland, small featureless hills and peat hags in every direction. It was getting late in the day and I needed to find somewhere to stop for the night. I decided to head for the nearest valley in search of water and level ground. I would use the GPS in the morning to find out where I was.

As I descended into a steep-side valley, oh joy, there was a meandering burn at the bottom, with flat grassy areas where I could pitch the tent. The burn was flowing in the opposite direction to what I was expecting but I was soon able to work out where I was. I cooked up a good meal and settled early for the night. It was too cold to do anything else and I could feel the cold air coming down from a big bank of snow further up the valley. The next morning the tent had frost on it and the groundsheet made peculiar crackling sounds as I folded it up.

I started early and was soon on top of Leathad an Taobhain, the next Corbett. As I came off the hill there was a welcome change of terrain from peat hags to lumpy grass. I soon picked up a landrover track which wound for miles over the hills towards Carn Dearg Mor, my next objective. As I neared the summit I was blasted by a bitterly cold east wind and had to pause to put on extra clothes. The summit was a long, level ridge, about ¼ mile long. The end I was on looked the highest and it was too damned cold to go to the other end so I beat a hasty retreat. By now, Kingussie had come into view, nestling miles away in the Spey valley.

I continued on to Meallach Mhor, the final Corbett of the trip. From its summit there were dramatic views down to the precipitous hills on either side of the Gaick Pass. I came off the hills northwards, into Glen Tromie and ran up the road to the next bridge. From the west side of the river, there was a boggy path through the Woods of Glentromie then over the moors to Ruthven Barracks. From there it was a short distance to Kingussie and I was in good time for the train home. I had returned to civilisation. A little later I sat relaxed, cup of tea in hand, watching as the train sped past the lorries, caravans and road works on the A9.


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