Brown Cow Hill above the River Gairn

Brown Cow Hill from Corgarff Castle

Hillwalking route up Brown Cow Hill from near Cock Bridge

Fine estate tracks lead to a delightful hillwalk on wide crests above Corgarff with fine views to Ben Avon to the west and Morven to the east.

Route outline


Brown Cow Hill

Ascent 600m (1960ft)
Distance 19km (12m)
Time 5:45hr
Start/finish Corgarff Castle car-park
Grid Ref : NJ254090
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Brown Cow Hill may not be the most exciting of Corbetts, but given decent weather, this delightful circular route over the hill and its neighbouring humps can be enjoyed either at a relaxed pace giving fine views or as a short hill-running route.

Starting from Corgarff Castle south of Tomintoul, decent private roads and estate tracks follow the River Don to its upper reaches and the lower slopes of Brown Cow Hill. Higher up, faint paths can be picked out tracing a route over the hills and humps with most of the wide crests being grass-covered. Only Meikle Geal Charn has much in the way of a rocky summit.

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Route description

1. Getting to Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle sits by the A939 around halfway between Ballater and Tomintoul in the Eastern Highlands.

Corgarff Castle with its unusual star-shaped protective wall sits on a mound overlooking Cock Bridge and the River Don. Below the castle there is a car-parking area, from where this route begins.

2. Carn Oighreag

Track heading up Carn Oighreag

Track heading up Carn Oighreag

Leave the car-park and head west along the private road following the River Don. You'll pass a house (unoccupied on my last visit), then around 500m further on, you'll see a track heading uphill on your left .

Head up the track, which starts by aiming south-east. After climbing 50m or so, the track turns south-west climbing the broad northern shoulder of Carn Oighreag.

Upon nearing the summit, the track pulls slightly away from the crest, but returns and continues to the top Carn Oighreag from where a fine view of Morven is given.

3. Brown Cow Hill

Ben Avon from Brown Cow Hill's summit

Ben Avon from Brown Cow Hill's summit

On Carn Oighreag the track continues south-east and not in the direction of Brown Cow Hill, so leave it and head southwards. Dropping downhill over heather clad terrain, reach the wide col between Carn Oighreag and Brown Cow Hill .

Above the col a faint path can be traced leading up through stunted heather on the hillside ahead. Follow this, generally aiming in a south then south-west direction and, as height is gained, terrain becomes easier underfoot.

The ground levels somewhat and a small cairn marking the eastern summit of Brown Cow Hill is reached. The highest summit on the crest is just under 1km to the west , with delightful grass-cover crest between.

4. Meikle Geal Charn

Route down from Cairn Sawvie

Route down from Cairn Sawvie

The western summit on Brown Cow Hill, Cairn Sawvie, is around 1km westwards. The ground cover between these summits is a tad more heathery though a worn line slightly to the north of the crest aims close to Cairn Sawvie's top. I followed this, then took a short detour southwards to touch the small cairn marking the summit .

From just north of Cairn Sawvie, signs of ATV tracks can be followed north-east to the col below Meikle Geal Charn. From this col, faint paths attempt to avoid some of the soggy ground on the hillside ahead, before converging for the final pull onto Meikle Geal Charn's rocky summit - this is a fine point to take in the superb views over Glen Builg towards Ben Avon.

5. Return

Inchmore below Brown Cow Hill

Inchmore below Brown Cow Hill

I'll admit making a slight error here - I should have continued north-west to the col below Little Geal Charn and descended from there. Alas, from Meikle Geal Charn I descended due north, aiming directly for the track in the glen below - although this was shorter, the ground underfoot was hard-going, lumpy with hidden boulders and holes.

Once on the track, concentration can be relaxed as progress is made downhill. The old building at Inchmore is met from where a final view back up Brown Cow Hill can be taken in before joining the track by the River Don to return to Corgarff passing the farm buildings at Delnadamph on the way.

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Alternative and nearby routes »

Carn Ealasaid from the Lecht

Starting from a height of the 635m by the Lecht Ski Centre, a fairly easy and short hillwalking route can be made over grass and heather to Carn Ealasaid.

Peaks : 1 Corbett

Ascent : 300m (980ft)
Distance : 7km (4m)
Time : 2:15hr

Morven hillwalking and race route

The shortest and direct route up Morven begins from near Logie Coldstone in Cromar and takes the form of a steep heathery trudge followed by a gentle hike over a wide crest. This route is also used for the ascent on the Morven Hill Race, with a detour for the descent.

Peaks : 1 Corbett

Ascent : 660m (2170ft)
Distance : 9km (6m)
Time : 3:20hr

Culardoch and Creag an Dail Bheag from Tomintoul

Some easy cycling for the most part leads to the base of Culardoch and Creag an Dail Bheag from where a couple of short there-and-back hikes bags these two rolling Corbett hills.

Peaks : 2 Corbetts

Ascent : 1230m (4040ft)
Distance : 53km (33m)
Time : 6hr

Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Tomintoul

A delightful cycle on a fine track following lovely River Avon through Glen Avon is followed by hiking paths on gentle slopes to pass weird rocky tors to reach the high summits of Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird.

Peaks : 2 Munros

Ascent : 1600m (5250ft)
Distance : 51km (32m)
Time : 10:30hr


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