Walk of the Week: Carn a’Chlamain

Atholl Estates in Perthshire. Picture: Contributed
Atholl Estates in Perthshire. Picture: Contributed
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Provided free of charge by Atholl Estates (though a donation of £1 is suggested), the Glen Tilt car park is reached from Blair Atholl via the minor road to Old Bridge of Tilt, then turning left over the River Tilt.

Do pick up an informative leaflet at the noticeboard; Highland Perthshire – Red Squirrel Paradise. Red squirrels have been in the area for thousands of years. Greys, on the other hand, are recent incomers, though Highland Perthshire is on the “frontier” of their expansion.

Jimbo and I, however, were not tempted to follow the Atholl Estates Red Squirrel Trail. Our thoughts were on higher things – a 4½-mile cycle up the glen to tackle 963m/3,159ft Carn a’Chlamain.

With a rise of just over 100m, the cycle can be done within one hour. The glen is of historical interest in terms of the right to roam. In 1849 the nascent Scottish Rights of Way Society successfully contested an attempt at closure by the Duke of Atholl.

Carn a’Chlamain, peak of the kite, is a short one-hill day; ideal for winter, provided the estate track is not snow-covered. Last visited on a wintry January day, this time it was a cold November day with a few wintry showers. As before, the track was devoid of snow, though this time the summit was clear.

We met just one couple on the hillside, but on the way in we cycled past Chrissie and Al, a couple previously encountered when I was abseiling from the Inaccessible Pinnacle. They had kindly taken a picture and sent me a copy.

Map Ordnance Survey map 43, Braemar & Blair Atholl

Distance 15 miles, of which 9 miles cycled

Height 800m

Terrain Estate track, then hillside path and track to stony summit

Start point West of Old Bridge of Tilt, map ref 874662

Time 5 to 6 hours, assuming cycling


At first on the west side of the Tilt, after 1½ miles the track crosses to the east bank and goes past Gilbert’s Bridge and Auchgobhal (where the wooded area comes to an end) and then Marble Lodge, beyond which a bridge leads to the north side of the Tilt. The glen by now is more of a narrow defile, with steep grassy slopes on either side.

Continue to the wooden bridge over the Allt Craoinidh, opposite Balaneasie. By now at a height of 270m, the base of the south-west ridge, Faire Clach-ghlais, marks the start of the climb.

A worn path zigzags easily up the prow of the ridge, rising to 400m to join a track, shown as a path on my old map, coming up from Clachghlas. The latest OS map also shows a track ascending the ridge, then turning north-west to the summit plateau and passing close-by the cairn. On a poor day, the track, though rough, will undoubtedly seem attractive as a navigational aid.

Follow the track to around map ref 925750, where it cuts north-west through a craggy and steeper area 
to reach the plateau, then bypassing just east of the cairn. To shorten 
the distance, the track can be left earlier, taking a north-west bearing. However, on a bad day, stay with the track.

At the very summit, Jimbo, a few yards ahead of me, saw a Brocken Spectre; his magnified shadow surrounded by a rainbow-like band thrown on to a bank of cloud, but alas quickly gone before my arrival. Most spectres I have witnessed occurred in December or January when at a reasonable altitude, close to cloud or mist-level, and with a strong enough back-projecting sun. The shadowy image can seem very life-like, particularly if the observers wave their hands. It is not true that you can only see your own spectre: the trick is to be standing very close together.

Once back in the glen, it was a speedy cycle to the car park, at which point the temperature was just above freezing.

Nearest village Blair Atholl

Refreshment spot Atholl Arms Hotel, Blair Atholl