Beinn Mheadhoin and Loch Etchachan

Cairngorm darkside from Linn of Dee

Hillwalking route up Ben Macdui and neighbouring Munros from Linn of Dee

Between Braemar and Aviemore and east of the Lairig Ghru are vast plateaus with several Munro peaks. amongst the hidden lochans, long narrow crests, dark corries, huge cliffs and weird granite tors. Healthy forests surround the area with a diverse wildlife and, if you're lucky, you might come across a reindeer herd feeding on the arctic-like tundra.


Route outline


  Map base ©OpenStreetMap
Munros Ben Macdui
Carn a' Mhaim
Beinn Mheadhoin
Derry Cairngorm
Walk ascent 1800m (5900ft)
         distance 25km (16m)
         time 9:15hr
Bike ascent 50m (160ft)
         distance 10km (6m)
         time 1:00hr
Start/finish Linn of Dee
Grid Ref : NN852976
Terrain
easy hard
Nav
easy hard
Effort
easy hard
Scenery
ok fab


The Munros on this route are all quite distinctly different. The hulk of Ben Macdui contrasts with the defined crest of nearby Carn a'Mhaim, whereas Derry Cairngorm is boulder and scree covered and Beinn Mheadhoin is decorated with weird unusual granite summit tors.

Fine estate tracks lead in from Linn of Dee to Derry Lodge from where a network of NTS maintained paths heads up the mountains. A bike to Derry Lodge will considerably cut down the time taken and on the return the gentle gradient dropping back through Glen Lui will make for a freewheel most of the way. If backpacking over a couple of days, the grass covered ground surrounding Loch Etchachan makes for an excellent camping spot, or there's the bothy of Hutchieson Memorial Hut just down from the loch.

Much of the high ground above 1000m is of vast plateaux, difficult to navigate on when visibility is reduced by rain, mist or snow.



Route detail


Getting to Linn of Dee car-park »
  • Get to Braemar, then drive west to the bridge over the Linn of Dee. There's a large car-park (£2 to stay at time of writing) - it can be very busy in summer and holiday weekends.

Derry Lodge »
  • From the Linn of Dee car-park, head northwards up an obvious path (sign-posted) through the forest. The path climbs gently, crosses some bog via a wooden walkway, then meets up with the track travelling up the west side of Lui Water.
  • However, if you'd prefer to cycle from the start (which I'd recommend), it's easier to go out of the main park entrance, head east along the road to the start of the track by the bridge over Lui Water, then turn north on the track. Either way head up the track, cross the bridge over Lui Water , and reach Derry Lodge some 5km from the car-park. Leave bikes here.

Carn a'Mhaim »
  • Cross the footbridge over Derry Burn, turn left and follow a path over grassy and wet ground to meet up with a fine track by some forestry.
  • Continue on this good track, then path to a fenced-off area where the forest is regenerating. In this forest the path comes to a junction - if the conditions are dry enough, then keep left and hike directly down to Luibeg Burn , which should be easy enough to cross, then reach the other side of the fenced area. If conditions mean Luibeg Burn is likely to be in spate, at the junction turn right and head on a faint path north-west for around 500m to cross the burn via a bridge then head south for a bit to rejoin the main path.
  • Follow the path aiming towards the Lairig Ghru for around 1km to where it starts to level out, then look for a path heading off right uphill through the heather. Follow this path, steep and well constructed at first, then levelling out as heather is left behind and onto much barren terrain.
  • The path by-passes Carn a'Mhaim's south-east top (marked 1014m on OS map) which has a large cairn and fine views south to Lochnagar. The path continues on towards Carn a'Mhaim's summit marked with a rather small cairn.

Ben Macdui »
  • Carn a'Mhaim is unusual in the Cairngorms, in that it has a long narrow crest. From Carn a'Mhaim's summit the onward route is obvious, just head north-north-west on the worn path that sticks to this crest, losing height gradually. Nearly 250m of height is lost to gain a bealach below Ben Macdui with small lochans.
  • Cross this bealach on a faint path, then start climbing north-east. Grass gives way to boulders and progress becomes quite tough, with the path disappearing and returning.
  • After a stiff 400m of ascent, the ground begins to level, where you should start turning north onto the broad plateau of Ben Macdui. The remnants of an old shelter are passed, from where the summit of Ben Macdui is not much further. A large cairn marks Ben Macdui's summit along with a viewfinder a few metres west of the cairn. Due to Ben Macdui's vast flat and broad summit, you'll need to head a few metres away from the cairn to get the best views.

Beinn Mheadhoin »
  • Return to the remnants of the old shelter, then trace a faint path heading eastwards. The path makes a way for the top of the crags above Coire Sputan Dearg, then follows a burn downhill towards Loch Etchachan below. The path gradually pulls away from the burn to just below a grassy bealach between Ben Macdui and Creagan a'Choire Etchachan (note this point for later), then drops over more stony ground to the outflow of Loch Etchachan .
  • Should weather turn foul and you need an escape route, then there is a fine path that aims directly eastwards downhill from here. It passes Hutchieson Memorial Hut (a fine bothy and mountain rescue post), then continues down into Glen Derry, where it meets up with another path to aim back to Derry Lodge .
  • From Loch Etchachan to head to Beinn Mheadhoin, cross the outflow of the loch, then look for a path twisting up through the scree slopes uphill ahead. It's pretty steep going for the best part of 200m climbing, but once higher up, the slope flattens and the first of Beinn Mheadhoin's tors can be seen ahead. Aiming to this tor, a path gradually becomes more obvious and makes a route north-eastwards aiming for Beinn Mheadhoin's summit, passing some more tors on the way.
  • There's no mistaking when Beinn Mheadhoin's summit is reached - there are two granite tors separated by a narrow gap into which the wind funnels through. To reach the top of Beinn Mheadhoin's huge summit tor, head to the north side and enjoy a bit of easy scrambling up rough granite.

Derry Cairngorm »
  • Retrace your steps and return to the outflow of Loch Etchachan . Cross the outflow, and hike back up the stony ground to below the grassy bealach below Creagan a'Choire Etchachan , then turn south away from the path.
  • A brief climb on grassy ground reaches the top of the bealach, from where contour around Creagan a'Choire Etchachan. A path gradually forms heading south and drops to bealach below Derry Cairngorm. The path starts up the north-west shoulder of Derry Cairngorm and quickly disappears into boulderfield making the ascent a bit of a slog.
  • At last Derry Cairngorm's summit is reached and you can survey where you've been.

Return to Linn of Dee »
  • From Derry Cairngorm's summit, descend south-east, the terrain becoming easier under foot as height is lost. Drop to the col above Coire na Saobhaidh from where you'll see two paths ahead. In summer conditions either path will do, but if there's snow about, take the higher of the two, as ice can make the lower path quite tricky in places.
  • Both paths by-pass the minor summit of Carn Crom and re-join to continue downhill over stunted heather to Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig.
  • The well-maintained path will take you down to a stile over a deer-fence then through forest and woodland back to Derry Lodge .
  • A brief cycle, mainly downhill, is all that awaits to return to the car-park and back to Braemar for food and a pint !




Route profile »


Maps and GPX downloads »


Weather forecasts & webcams »


Guided hillwalking events in this area »




Route photos


Carn a'Mhaim from Gleann Laoigh BheagCarn a'Mhaim from Gleann Laoigh Bheag
Carn a'Mhaim from Ben Macdui's slopesCarn a'Mhaim from Ben Macdui's slopes
Descending to Loch Etchachan, Beinn Mheadhoin aheadDescending to Loch Etchachan, Beinn Mheadhoin ahead
Beinn Mheadhoin's summit torBeinn Mheadhoin's summit tor
Returning along Beinn Mheadhoin's summit crestReturning along Beinn Mheadhoin's summit crest
On Derry Cairngorm's boulders, looking to Beinn MheadhoinOn Derry Cairngorm's boulders, looking to Beinn Mheadhoin




Recent blog posts



20 Mar'20
A'Ghlas Bheinn

14-15 Mar'20
Black Mount

8 Feb'20
Beinn Dearg

5 Feb'20
Navigation Skills

1-2 Feb'20
Cairngorm and Feshie

more...



Upcoming events


26 August
Ben Lui raid
29-30 Aug
Assynt
5-6 Sep
Glen Ey bike-hike
9-10 Sep
South Glen Shiel Ridge
13-14 Sep
Kintail

more...



Features






Recommended






Contact us

Steven Fallon
31 Argyle Place
Edinburgh EH9 1JT

Office hours 9-5 Mon-Fri

0131 466 8152

info@stevenfallon.co.uk
© 2020 Steven Fallon