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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Striding out for Ryvoan bothy on a run at Glenmore

By John Davidson

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John strides past Ryvoan bothy.
John strides past Ryvoan bothy.

Ryvoan bothy is a special little place, tucked alongside the track between Glenmore and Nethy Bridge and below the steep path up to Meall a’ Bhuachaille.

My eldest brother Iain and I seem to be drawn to it every time we meet in this great part of the Cairngorms. Iain lives down in Cheshire but is always trying to find reasons to return to Scotland – as if the mountains aren’t enough in themselves!

A Sunday morning run took us up to the bothy on this occasion, cold but glorious as the spring sunshine lit up a fresh covering of snow on the surrounding hills.

Outside the bothy a couple of guys emerged from a tent. They’d come from the directions of the Fords of Avon through the Lairig an Laoigh and found the bothy full when they arrived – with the occupants already having had a few drinks by the time they arrived in the early evening.

That’s Ryvoan’s real issue as a bothy – it’s just too easily accessible. These shelters are important for people travelling through the hills and glens but too often they are used as simply a meeting point for a party.

Whether that’s what was happening in there last night, we weren’t sure, but there was no movement inside despite the day looking like it was going to offer some beautiful conditions for enjoying the outdoors.

Ryvoan bothy with the campers' tent beyond.
Ryvoan bothy with the campers' tent beyond.

We chatted to the guys at what was roughly the halfway point of our run. We’d started down at the visitor centre, heading along the path towards the reindeer centre, then turning left up the road following the blue marker posts.

These lead you up behind a couple of houses with some of the most spectacular views imaginable, keeping right at a junction to join a track.

The climbing continues for some distance along here, with views to the snow-capped plateau at a break in the trees giving us a good excuse to pause for breath. It’s a bit of a relentless start to the run, but it does eventually level off for a spell alongside a clearing.

Then the track ends and a narrower path leads downhill – giving an altogether different feel to the run. There are roots and rocks to hop over, not to mention tree trunks to twist and turn around as the descent drops you steeply across a shoulder to reach the main path opposite An Lochain Uaine – or the Green Lochan as the anglicised signs here say.

Iain at An Lochan Uaine.
Iain at An Lochan Uaine.

We headed down to the water’s edge, where the lochan lived up to its name in the early morning stillness. Only a couple of ducks swimming towards us broke the perfect calm of the surface.

Heading back up to the main path, we continued up the rougher track towards the bothy, patches of ice here and there testament to another chilly night in the hills.

When we reached Ryvoan, the sky was a glorious blue, with the pure white of fresh snow on the hilltops and the sun lighting the gable wall of the bothy beautifully. These traditional stone shelters seem to fit perfectly in this landscape, even enhance it; a gentle touch of mankind in an otherwise nature-filled frame.

Our reluctant return journey began by retracing our steps to the lochan, where we continued ahead on the main path which leads ultimately to Glenmore Lodge. However, in the search for a little more time in this delightful spot, we diverted left at the first major track junction, now taking the purple route towards the Allt Mor car park.

This crosses the Allt na Ciste on a footbridge on its way to the Allt Mor crossing, through more beautiful pine forests at the foot of the Cairngorms.

Iain heads through the forest after crossing the Allt na Ciste.
Iain heads through the forest after crossing the Allt na Ciste.

Emerging in the car park, you continue ahead then take a path off to the left. This leads you straight across the track giving access to the car park and wriggles through the forest away from the ski road. We kept an eye out for the Hayfield on the opposite side of the road and crossed over to take the track to the left of the field.

Marked as the white route, this climbs slightly before a junction leads to the right, signalled by another white marker post. A short way ahead, the white route splits, and we took the right turn to reach a bridge over the burn flowing into Loch Morlich.

After this, we headed right before forking left to run through the campsite back to the starting point.

Iain runs along the high route towards Ryvoan on the blue route.
Iain runs along the high route towards Ryvoan on the blue route.

Route details

Ryvoan loop

Distance 6.5 miles / 10km

Terrain Forest tracks, paths, steep with roots and rocks in places

Start/finish Glenmore Visitor Centre

Map OS Landranger 36; OS Explorer OL57

A great Cairngorms circuit to Ryvoan bothy and back via the Allt Mor

Iain and John at Ryvoan bothy.
Iain and John at Ryvoan bothy.

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