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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Idyllic night in Glen Feshie is true wild adventure for family camp

By John Davidson

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An idyllic camping spot for two small tents.
An idyllic camping spot for two small tents.

Lightweight isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think about camping in the summer holidays with a family of five. And in truth, it rarely is for us.

But I wanted to introduce the children – and my wife – to the joys of wild camping and the ethos of leave no trace that underpins it.

My usual wild camps are done solo in the heart of the mountains, so having located a more accessible spot that was still remote enough to feel like a true adventure, I convinced them it would be a good idea.

I sold it to the girls on the promise that they would get to see the beautiful wild horses that live in Upper Glen Feshie, while Matthew, who is just four, was keen to sleep under the stars anyway!

The girls go for a wander beside the wild white horses.
The girls go for a wander beside the wild white horses.

We got lucky with the weather – a glorious sunny few days (too hot if anything) with a breeze that was strong enough to keep the midges at bay most of the time. The reality of wild camping is most often very different, so I was grateful for this idyllic experience for them to enjoy.

Before we set off, we had discussions about what we had to do, such as carrying out all our rubbish, using a stove rather than a fire to cook (especially important during the dry spell of weather we’ve had recently) and, perhaps most pertinently, how to go to the loo while we were there.

It’s a subject that isn’t talked about enough when it comes to access rights, but it is one of the responsibilities that goes along with them.

So, here’s what you need – a trowel, toilet paper and lots of bags (dog poo bags are perfect). I keep my ‘toilet kit’ in its own waterproof dry bag ready to throw into the rucksack whenever I’m going on an overnight trip, or even a longer day trip with the kids.

The poo is buried in the hole dug by the trowel – well away from watercourses – and the toilet paper gets shoved in one of the dog poo bags, tied up tightly and kept in the dry bag, to be disposed of back at home.

With all that explained, we were able to get on with the more fun job of loading up my new bike trailer and cycling in this wonderful location.

We started at Invertromie, where’s there’s a small car park at the start of the Invertromie Trail, not far from Ruthven Barracks. Our route took us along to Tromie Bridge on a nice path, then up the estate track and left to climb to Drumguish.

A right of way sign here points right to go via Glen Feshie to Braemar or Blair Atholl. We wouldn’t be heading on one of those excellent through routes today but headed through a croft then up a steep hill before dropping down S-bends to head alongside a burn.

John with the trailer loaded at Invertromie.
John with the trailer loaded at Invertromie.

There’s a ford to the right but we opted for the more sensible bridge crossing a little further on. A path leads back to the track that passes the ruin at Baileguish before reaching another ford and bridge over a tributary burn.

After pausing for a break and a snack at the ruin, where Matthew was delighted when a butterfly landed on his leg, we followed the track up into the woods ahead. A very large bird – possibly an eagle – flew above the trees ahead. We were glad of the shade in this intense heat, and even more glad when the descent dropped us on the Glen Feshie estate road.

Turning right here we cycled south down the road, admiring the beautiful views in the glen and to the mountains above. This glen has changed dramatically over the last decade or so, with a plan to rewild the area that is already having a big impact.

The estate road is surfaced all the way to the turn-off for Glenfeshie Lodge, where you fork left to reach an open area and a junction at some ruins. This is a popular spot with hill walkers and mountain bikers but offers plenty of space for a quiet camp.

Jennifer, Meg and Matthew (out of sight on the tagalong) on the estate road in Glen Feshie.
Jennifer, Meg and Matthew (out of sight on the tagalong) on the estate road in Glen Feshie.

We found our spot and set up for the night, enjoying some fine dining (OK, pasta and pesto) from the stove and playing some games. I managed to squeeze a frisbee onto the trailer as well as Travel Scrabble.

The children were enchanted with the horses, which we left alone until they approached us, full of curiosity. We collected water from the river, as the burns had mostly dried up, and enjoyed a few stories at bedtime.

In the boys’ tent, Matthew was asleep in no time, and I popped out to watch the sun set behind the Corbett of Carn Dearg Mor.

After breakfast the next morning, the next lesson in wild camping was packing up and making sure there was no rubbish left behind. Besides a few blades of slightly flattened grass, there should be no sign at all that we’d been there.

We pedalled off after a great night in this wonderful place, saying goodbye to the horses. It had been a new experience for the children and one that I’m sure will live with them for a very long time.

* For information about your responsibilities and rights when wild camping, see www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/camping

The camping spot with the hills of Upper Glen Feshie beyond.
The camping spot with the hills of Upper Glen Feshie beyond.

Route details

Glen Feshie wild camp

Distance 9.5 miles / 15km

Terrain Into remote area with navigation skills required, but all on good estate tracks with some bridges to cross and some steep hills

Start/finish Invertromie, B970 (between Ruthven Barracks and Tromie Bridge near Kingussie)

Map OS Landranger 35

A wild camp in Upper Glen Feshie makes for a fine family outing

Matthew enjoying the wide open space in Upper Glen Feshie.
Matthew enjoying the wide open space in Upper Glen Feshie.

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