Heading into the heartland on Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ
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In my opinion the Munro of Glas Tulaichean deserves a rebrand. The hill is synonymous with the bulldozed track right to the summit and may even be called dull by some.
Certainly, when I mentioned I was heading south-east to the Spittal of Glenshee to do Glas Tulaichean and its neighbour Carn an Righ, no-one piped up to regale me of their great day on the hill.
I drove south-east from Moray into Aberdeenshire on a day that felt like one of summer’s final flings. Driving over the high Strathdon passes and taking the long drive to Dalmunzie House Hotel from the Spittal of Glenshee is a bit of an adventure in itself.
The hotel deserves much credit for being so welcoming to walkers – ask for permission to park at the hotel reception and pay a small amount for all-day parking on arrival.
I headed along the tree-lined drive at the back of the hotel soon following a sign for Glas Tulaichean that pointed walkers left away from the farm ahead and into a grassy field, with a gate at the end leading out onto the moor.
The way starts on the track and there are two choices of path in this first glen; either stay on the main track or scramble up the heathery right hand side to join the line of a dismantled railway track. This was used to bring stone in off the hill to construct Dalmunzie House.
Although at times it seemed like the dry track below would have been a much better option than bog hopping across the sleepers, as I reached the end of the glen, the path dropped towards a series of stepped waterfalls, giving a hint that there was going to be more about today than the guide had told me about.
Crossing the stream, I rejoined the Land Rover track and it was time to start plodding upwards. With no wind and just some thin high cloud, this was hard work, and I passed several groups of hill walkers already shedding layers.
Undoubtedly the track is a broad scar up the ridge, but it is merely a three-metre wide strip in a panorama that expanded with each step. The vast landscape had absorbed the crowd from the cars at Dalmunzie and in the still, quiet air all I could hear was the sound of my feet dislodging stones.
With so much to see, the top came pleasantly quickly. Sharing the summit moment with a mountain biker, I contemplated Glas Tuliachean’s broad ridges that extended eastwards before turning round towards the countless hills stretching away towards the centre of Scotland.
It was amazing that I’d achieved this reward with such straightforward effort, and demonstrated why now, more than ever, we are being drawn to our high mountains.
Carn an Righ, my next objective, stood obvious and alone to the north-west, the stony snaking trail of the walkers path contrasting with the grassy slopes surrounding it. Descending quickly downwards, the easiest route followed a dog-leg course.
Heading first along the good ground of Glas Tulaichean’s north ridge I then bore left off the path to cross pathless, peat boggy ground to rendezvous with a stalkers' path marked on the map contouring around the base of Mam nan Carn. With near-perfect weather conditions and the adventure of a new place, the climb up Carn an Righ, although steep, seemed again shorter than expected.
From this viewpoint it was the great notch in the Cairngorm plateau of the Lairig Ghru that defined the view. Amongst the sea of rolling Grampian mountains it was the gap from east to west that drew the eye, an unmistakable passageway to what lay beyond.
A short section of scree was followed by fast, grassy running back down into the base of the glen and here I retraced my steps along the stalkers' path, continuing over increasingly boggy ground towards Loch nan Eun.
Still I was alone, having seen no-one since the summit of Glas Tulaichean, with only the call of the odd crow (presumably waiting for me to reach the end of my energy bars and expire) being carried on the wind. The path finally reached a high point and contoured in towards the loch.
Loch nan Eun lies in a truly enviable position, high on a col but sheltered on all sides by big domes of hills. With the hillsides turning towards a gentle autumn brown, the blue water stood out even more than usual and I stood on the shoreline and contemplated a swim, the only thing stopping me being the number of walkers who kept materialising out of the hillside.
Eventually I decided that it was time to head down, yet more entertainment as the rough path dropped steeply down by the burn, making sharp eroded turns beside a series of waterfalls.
I lost height quickly and the difficulty of the path eased along with the gradient, the fast running meant I was soon in the bottom of Glen Taitneach, where the path became a large but pleasant track. Many walkers opt to mountain bike to this point but under the autumn sunshine, the extra few kilometres running certainly didn’t feel like a chore.
I kept an eye out for the last navigational point, a substantial bridge marked on the map close to the bottom of the glen and crossed over to follow grassy paths along the hill side to reach my starting point at the rear drive of the hotel.
Back at the car, changing for the drive home, I had the lingering elation of a great day in the hills, even more since the run gave so much more than I expected – well beyond a day to bag a couple of Munros, this felt like a good exploration into the great empty centre of Scotland.
Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ
Distance 15 miles / 25km
Terrain Tracks and hill paths, some pathless ground. Navigation needed in poor visibility
Start/finish Car park at Dalmunzie House Hotel by permission (charge payable at reception)
Maps OS Landranger 43; OS Explorer OL52; Harvey British Mountain Map Cairngorms and Lochnagar
Spectacular scenery and good varied running on a circuit of one well-visited Munro and its much quieter, more remote neighbour