Geal Charn from Abernethy

Geal Charn from Abernethy

Cycling and hiking route up Geal Charn from Abernethy Nature Reserve

Fine tracks through Abernethy Forest Nature Reserve enable an enjoyable cycling route approaching Geal Charn from the west. The tracks continue up a fair height up Geal Charn's slopes, leaving a short walk over heather to reach the remote cairn on the summit.

Route outline


Geal Charn

Walk ascent 240m (780ft)
         distance 5km (3m)
         time 1:30hr
Bike ascent 410m (1340ft)
         distance 24km (15m)
         time 2:00hr
Start/finish Abernethy
Grid Ref : NH998167
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South of the village of Nethy Bridge, fine estate tracks lead from Forest Lodge in the Abernethy Forest National Nature Reserve through woodlands and past lochans to the foot of Geal Charn, from where heather-clad slopes rise to the summit.

The route can be cycled for much of the way and depending on your fitness and stamina, a bike can be cycled to a height of over 600m on Geal Charn's westerly slopes. Thereafter, faint trods can be picked up hiking a route via Bile Buidhe or a direct trudge will lead through heather.

Route map

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Route description

1. Getting to Abernethy Forest and Forest Lodge

Forest Lodge

Forest Lodge

The village of Nethy Bridge lies on the B970, around halfway between Aviemore and Grantown-on-Spey.

At the western end of the village, by a junction, a sign points to Loch Garten and Tulloch. Around 4km down this road, a further junction sees the start of a smooth estate track heading south. There is a small parking area close to the start of this track.

The estate track heads for a further 3km into Abernethy Forest National Nature Reserve, past the house at Cuchanlupe and to the Forest Lodge .

Prior to the Covid lockdowns of 2020, you could drive up the estate track to the buildings by Forest Lodge and park there. Alas this is no longer the case and vehicles should be left by the roadside.

A slightly longer approach to Forest Lodge begins from the end of Dell Road in Nethy Bridge, though parking is more limited here,

2. Cycle through Abernethy Forest

Heading down track through Abernethy

Heading down track through Abernethy

On bike, from Forest Lodge, cycle along the track that is marked to Nethy Bridge. The track passes a couple of old buildings and drops to a junction. Turn right and cycle over a bridge crossing the River Nethy.

Around 500m on from the bridge, the track comes to another junction . Keep to the main track which takes a sharp right turn then climbs. A further 2km on, the track comes to another junction with three exits, a couple which have gates - keep left on the track that doesn't have a gate.

The track heads out of forest and views begin to open up. Follow the track as it passes around Loch a' Chnuic , then becomes rougher as it enters some woodland to travel aside Faesheallach Burn.

Reaching the Allt Gheallaidh , one of the burn's tributaries, the track attempts to ford the water. In most conditions this should be pretty straightforward.

The Allt Gheallaidh ford

The Allt Gheallaidh ford

Once across the ford, the track begins to head uphill, becoming quite rough and challenging to cycle up. Persist and you should be able to bike it up to just over 600m where the track comes to an abrupt end where ATV tracks take over crossing the moorland ahead.

The Allt Gheallaidh ford

The Allt Gheallaidh ford

3. Geal Charn

Looking up to Geal Charn

Looking up to Geal Charn

Having reached a height of just over 600m on the northern shoulder of Bile Buidhe, you may be tempted to bike it up the ATV tracks. Alas the ground is rough and soggy, tiring on a bike, and the ATV tracks head southwards to Bile Buidhe's summit - away from Geal Charn !

So best to drop of your bike at the end of the rough track and on foot, head south-east, crossing grass and heather-clad terrain with occasional peat-hags, gaining a little height. Admittedly a bit of a trudge, but upon approaching the wide bealach between Bile Buidhe and Geal Charn, the heather becomes less dense and progress becomes easier.

View from Geal Charn's summit to Ben Rinnes

View from Geal Charn's summit to Ben Rinnes

The last 150m of climb up Geal Charn is on a gently rising slope covered in stunted heather, crossing an old, rather dilapidated fence-line on the way. The highest point on Geal Charn's summit is marked by an untidy pile of boulders, in which an old fence-post has been stuck. Views are rather fine from the top, the Cairngorm plateau stretching in one direction, Ben Rinnes and the Moray Firth in the other.

View from Geal Charn's summit to Ben Rinnes

View from Geal Charn's summit to Ben Rinnes

4. Return

Loch a' Chnuic

Loch a' Chnuic

About-turn on Geal Charn's summit and retrace your steps to Bile Buidhe's northern shoulder to pick up your bike and return to Forest Lodge.

The initial cycle down the rough track to the ford over the Allt Gheallaidh is an absolute hoot, though does require a bit of concentrating !

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Alternative and nearby routes »

Geal Charn from Dorback

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Meall a' Bhuachaille from Glenmore

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