Active Outdoors
Published: 17/02/2018 14:16 - Updated: 12/02/2018 14:20

Tackling icy run on a wing and a prayer

Written byJenny Gillies

It’s always a good start to a run when even the car park boasts its own attractions. If you go through the gate on the opposite side of the road to the start of this route and peek round the trees you can see the island which is home to an osprey nest. Last time I was here I saw them circling, protecting the nest and its precious contents from curious crows.

No raptors in sight on this visit, though. Lucky, as the cold morning meant it would have been a chilly birdwatch, especially in running gear. Setting off south, we didn’t have to run far along the side of the road before turning left along a farm track, the running immediately becoming impossible on the sheet ice underfoot.

Passing the farm entrance a footpath sign pointed us right through a gate and here the frozen mud gave uneven but slightly less hair-raising running. Once through a second gate trees sheltered the path and to our right a small, whitewashed cottage hunkered down against the cold.

The ground to our left dropped steeply away towards the River Feshie. When a Forestry Commission marker indicated a sharp turn down towards the bank we followed it, out of the shelter of the trees and back into the domain of the ice.  The grey, frozen ribbon of the path, edged in by last summer’s grass, threaded its way alongside the river.

An obstacle course of slippy bridges and black ice led us to the Feshiebridge car park where we joined the yellow waymarked trail to continue alongside the river. Feshie Bridge itself soon came into view, the pools beneath it calm and emanating a sense of cold from the water that had flowed here from deep in the frozen Cairngorms.

Crossing straight over the road, the track entered a forest and climbed gently up, soon emerging into sparse birch woodland with a grand view south into Glen Feshie, the white, snow-covered mountains disappearing into cloud. After passing through another gate we dropped quickly down to the floodplain of the river, the grass underfoot giving quick, firm running.

The River Feshie came back into sight, leading the eye back downstream to where the river journeys northwards towards the solitary hill of Ord Ban above Loch an Eilein. The river flows through a landscape of its own making – one of banks and bars fashioned from countless gravels brought here from further upstream by the power of the water.

The path turned away from the river, skirting to the right of some houses then turning left to pass onto a drive between them. At a junction we headed straight on, then ahead again around a barrier. The track soon turned right to join a minor road and, after a short rise, we turned left to enter Inshriach Forest.

The wide forest track started clear but my gentle descent was soon slowed by more ice. I gave up and scrambled through the shrubby trees alongside the track as it bent right before continuing along a long straight.

A large stone on the right marked the way off the forestry track and onto the paths around the Uath (pronounced “wah”) Lochans. This area has a network of paths and duckboards around the pinewoods, lochans and wetlands. The duckboards were surprisingly grippy and, once back on the sheltered earth beneath Scots pine, I discovered that pine needles had insulated the ground from the worst of the cold. It was the perfect place to stop and appreciate the still, semi-frozen lochans from beneath the tree canopy.

Once fully back onto dry land we joined the red waymarked path up Farleitter Crag – a stiff climb that was soon rewarded by a view back down over the lochans. The hill wasn’t finished yet and the path continued to snake up the ridge to a viewpoint that looked down towards Loch Insh and over the Spey valley.

The path soon joined forestry tracks and we followed these downhill until a path turned off left under electric pylons. The rough and rooty path was clear of ice and it was short, sharp and fun work to get down the hill to join another forestry track.

Just before a gate we swung right to take a path alongside the B970 where stiff heather branches covered in melting hoarfrost ensured my legs were soaked by the end of the short section. Reaching a gate, we crossed the road to enter the Loch Insh RSPB reserve, and followed arrows down towards the loch edge.

The only company we had here were bobbing wildfowl on the water, gently conversing between themselves as their flotilla made its way steadily around the loch edge.  The trail followed the shore before reaching the boundary of Loch Insh Watersports where it was time to double back slightly to follow Badenoch Way markers up towards the road.

After a short section of road running we reached a T-junction, shortly after which a surfaced link path mirrors the route of the road north-east towards Kincraig.  This path rejoined our outward route at the initial farm track.

Before heading back to the car we made one small detour around the back of Insh Church, perched on an outcrop above the loch. It was the perfect way to end the run as the path alongside the water brought us close the loch shore again – the pines on osprey island were lit behind from the low sun and the loch edge beside us had a crazy-paving sculpture of thick, cracked slabs of ice.

Route details

Loch Insh and the River Feshie

Distance 8.5 miles / 14km

Terrain Paths, forest roads, minor road

Start/finish Car park below Insh Church, Kincraig

Map OS Explorer OL57

Inspired by the Cicerone guide Walking in the Cairngorms, this route takes you through lower Glen Feshie linking a variety of waymarked paths

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