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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Magic of the map is more of a pull than reindeer!

By John Davidson

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Clara and Jennifer play Pooh Sticks while Matthew marches ahead.
Clara and Jennifer play Pooh Sticks while Matthew marches ahead.

A trip to see the Cairngorm reindeer herd is usually a must for us at Christmas time, but this year we just had a quick passing glance as we headed for a little walk through the forest.

It didn’t feel quite as festive with the temperature deep in Glenmore sitting at around 12 degrees Celsius. The snow which had been gathering on the mountains in previous weeks only remained in insignificant soft patches, a depressing sight in mid-December.

You’d expect to see the Cairngorms in their deep winter coat by now, with the Northern Corries a popular venue for winter climbs, but we’ll have to wait a while for that.

Hopefully the conditions will bring some change and we’ll have a white Christmas at least on the mountains, if not down to lower levels in the glen and Aviemore.

We started our pre-Christmas family walk at the visitor centre in Glenmore, heading along the path towards the reindeer centre where we had a quick look at the paddock where a few of the reindeer spend time before their big Christmas Eve adventure.

Joining the Old Logging Way beyond the reindeer centre.
Joining the Old Logging Way beyond the reindeer centre.

You can get a ticket from the reindeer centre to enter the paddock and learn more about how these beautiful creatures, which have been in the area since the 1950s, are looked after and enjoy the freedom of the Cairngorms. Hill trips are also offered, where you can get the opportunity to feed the reindeer.

Today we continued past the paddock and soon forked left onto the Old Logging Way path, which here parallels the road to where it ends at Glenmore Lodge, the national outdoor training centre.

Matthew had picked up the map leaflet from the car park and was keen to lead the way on this walk – and that meant nobody going in front of him, as well as him actually navigating and carrying the map. “I’m really into this walk,” he told me at one point on the way round, “and I like holding the map.”

I can’t think where he gets that from…

We’d decided we would walk a loop of the Lodge Trail, which is marked by purple post rings. It is usually accessed from the Allt Mor car park, but we picked it up from the blue Ryvoan Trail, which continues from the lodge to An Lochan Uaine.

Matthew waits at the junction to make sure we take the right turn.
Matthew waits at the junction to make sure we take the right turn.

Matthew and I had worked out from the map that we needed to take the second purple turning on the right, so he dashed ahead and made sure we all went straight on at the first signpost, continuing towards the lochan, then took the right turning which was signed towards the Allt Mor car park.

Much of the pine forest here is part of a national nature reserve, home to ancient Scots pines that host red squirrels and crested tits among plenty of other wildlife.

Despite its popularity, it remains a peaceful place and provides wonderful opportunities for people to access such an exquisite area and breathe in the fresh, if not particularly cold, air.

Approaching the Allt Ban, a wide ford lies in the way with the path signed up to the left to cross a footbridge. Jennifer and Clara played Pooh Sticks here and on each of the next bridges!

On the other side, the path meets the track that emerges from the ford, then continues round a left-hand bend (ignoring a path to the right). Continue along this track, crossing a bridge over the Allt na Ciste, the burn that comes down from the skiing area at Coire na Ciste.

Jennifer waits on one of the footbridges.
Jennifer waits on one of the footbridges.

At a signed junction ahead, our route turns right towards the Allt Ban car park to reach another ford with a footbridge just up to the right. The track ahead leads to the car park, but we wanted to return to Glenmore Lodge on the loop, so we turned right at the next junction, signed to the visitor centre.

This took us up a hill on a lovely trail that leads past the back of the lodge grounds, skirting the edge of a rifle firing range and passing an informal dog cemetery before returning to the main track close to the training centre, where we turned left.

Matthew was tired by now but was still determined to stay in front, so he marched back along the Old Logging Way and didn’t want to lose ground on his sisters by stopping for another look at the reindeer.

Sibling rivalry clearly usurps any magic of Christmas, although he has collected some lichen to leave out for the reindeer on Christmas Eve.

I’d like to wish readers of Active Outdoors a very merry Christmas.

Matthew takes his time to check the map.
Matthew takes his time to check the map.

Route details

Glenmore lodge trail loop

Distance 3.5 miles / 6km

Terrain Good paths throughout

Start/finish Glenmore Visitor Centre car park (charges apply)

Map OS Landranger 36; OS Explorer OL57

A gentle walk through the forest close to Glenmore Lodge

Click here to see the route in OS Maps

An ancient Scots pine alongside the trail.
An ancient Scots pine alongside the trail.

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