Walk of the week: Carn Bhac

EAST was best, so east we went. Jimbo and I headed for Carn Bhac which lies south-west of Braemar in an area of high rolling moorland, where only the summits give stonier and drier conditions underfoot.

Allt Cristie Mor. Picture: Geograph/Richard Webb [http://bit.ly/1nDp6mV] (CC)
Allt Cristie Mor. Picture: Geograph/Richard Webb [http://bit.ly/1nDp6mV] (CC)

Carn Bhac means peak of the peat banks, but this feature refers to the boggy hinterland.

Carn Bhac has had a chequered history in terms of Munro minutia and mapping. An anomaly in the original 1891 Tables was the listing of the SW Top as the Munro, despite maps of the time showing the NE Top to be higher. This was corrected in 1921. However, maps repeated what had been published in the earliest one-inch-to-the-mile map, naming “Carn Bhac” alongside what is now the SW Top. Only since 2002 has the name been moved; a surprisingly long time to correct this anomaly and the cause of much confusion in the past; probably one of the top five miss-the-summit Munro-bagging errors – as happened to me.

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On my first visit, I chose the track by the Allt Cristie Beag, then south to Geal Charn; a sensible circuitous route I thought on a very misty day. It was then a tricky dogleg to find the top, clearly mapped as Carn Bhac. I returned the same way. It was only when I got home that I noticed from the map that there appeared to be higher ground north-east of Carn Bhac, but without a spot-height. Oh no, I had not gone far enough. The following weekend I returned, this time in good visibility.


Park on the south side of the Braemar/Linn of Dee road at Inverey, east of a phone box and the lovely stone-arched bridge over the Ey Burn. Cross that bridge and follow the track on the west bank. Pass on the left a timber stockade of medieval appearance that encloses a small plantation; a broad wooden barrier presumably to keep deer out.

Leave the track at map ref 073871, cross the open planked bridge over the Allt Cristie Mor, and enter the grassy secluded glen of the Allt Connie. The mapped path, in fact an undulating vehicle track at first, then an ATV way, with occasional logged crossings over minor dips, now continues all the way to the grassy nose of the north-east ridge. It is thus a pleasant and easy stroll to the junction of the Allt Carn Bhathaich and the Allt Connie.

The 450m climb to the summit is not unduly steep and the slope lends itself to gentle zigzags. Keep east of the headwall of the small un-named northern corrie. As with a previous visit eight years ago, also with Jimbo, the north-east face of the summit still held a few ramps of softish snow, avoided on ascent but used on descent.

A stroll over the rounded quartzite-studded dome leads to the 3,104ft/946m cairn, larger than it used to be. It took us 2½ hours. On a cloud-free, albeit blustery day, we enjoyed panoramic views of the Cairngorm high tops and the Lairig Ghru.

It is a quick return to the Allt Connie, where on an earlier visit I had encountered deep snowdrifts. Floundering on, I came across antlers sticking out of the snow, but was unable to pull them free. They were still attached to a deeply buried dead deer. This time the glen incident was encountering a 2ft long adder. Jimbo pushed me to one side just as I was about to step on it; an identical incident occurred in 2010 when we were in Gleann an t-Slugain. As then, the snake did not rear up, as has happened to me in the past. It slithered away, but not before I managed to get a photo.

Map Ordnance Survey map 43, Braemar & Blair Atholl

Distance 9 miles

Height 600m

Terrain Track to grassy slopes

Start point Inverey, four miles west of Braemar, map ref 088892

Time 5 hours

Nearest village Braemar

Refreshment spot The Fife Arms Hotel, Braemar