Meall an Lundain, Beinn Bhreac & Beinn a' Chaorainn
Cycling the 5.5 kms from Linn of Dee car park to Derry Lodge involves about 140 m of ascent and is along a reasonable track. The cycle back out involves approximately 100m of ascent. I had to dismount and push the bike uphill a few times. Better cyclists may not have to dismount at all. The parking ticket machines at Linn of Dee car park only accept coins and the rate is £3 per day (2019).
Took a smaller track along east side of the Derry Burn following the description in Steve Kew’s “Walking the Munros” published by Cicerone. It is possible to cycle along this smaller track but it’s debateable if this is worthwhile. The track is quite steep and is frequently cut across by deep water channels which seem to be designed to deter cycling.
I found the faint track through the trees mentioned by Steve Kew at NO 04542 94990 and followed it in a north easterly direction until it emerged onto the open hillside. After a quick glance at the map I decided to visit Meall an Lundain (777m) before heading for Beann Bhreac. Lower hills can often provide good views of the higher mountains, it was early in the day and it wasn’t too far off my planned route. It wasn’t long before I began to question this decision. It was a warm sunny day, the ground was soft and wet, the heather and grass were high and, as there was no wind, I quickly attracted thick clouds of midges. Thankfully I had slathered myself with Smidge and suntan lotion earlier, so was able to thwart the midges and continue, although hot and bothered and in some discomfort. The heather and grass gradually became more manageable on the ascent and was barely ankle high by the time the summit was reached. The ground was now firm, and the midges had also disappeared.
To Beinn Bhreac then where there were marvellous views to be enjoyed. Loughnagar was in plain view to the south east with the Glenshee Munros to the south and Carn an Righ, Beinn Iutharn Mhór and Glas Tulaichean to the south west.Looking South East towards Loughnagar from summit cairn of Beann Bhreac.
Short walk then to Beinn Bhreac West top followed by a 4.5 km walk across terrain that is more or less flat to Beann a' Chaorainn Beag and Beann a' Chaorainn. These 4.5 kms seemed more like 10 kms as the destination hills were always in view and never seemed to get any closer. Nice views west to Derry Cairngorm and east to Beinn a' Bhúird offered some compensation.
When the Beann a' Chaorainn Beag summit was eventually reached the reward was a lovely view towards Bynack More.Photo above is of Bynack More from Beinn a'Chaorainn Beag
Headed west then to Beann a' Chaorainn itself. Beinn Mheadhoin was in full view and tantalisingly close. I did the calculations regarding distance and ascent and reluctantly had to conclude that, unless I wanted to return totally exhausted, it would not be possible to visit it today.Beinn Mheadhoin and Cairn Gorm from Beann a'Chaorainn summit cairnDerry Cairngorm and Ben Macdui from Beinn a'Chaorainn Summit cairn.
I carefully descended the steep ground into Glen Derry and reached the track leading back along the east bank of Derry Burn to Derry Lodge. Because I had, with difficulty, cycled north about 1.5 kms along the track on the east side of the burn I had to return along the same track to pick up the bicycle. If the bridge across the Derry Burn at NO 039 958 is repaired, then there is an option to return along the west bank of the burn. This bridge is currently unsafe as it was damaged by floods and is awaiting repair. There is (2019) an information sign where this track meets the north side of the bridge near Derry Lodge at NO 940 935 regarding the state of the damaged bridge. This western track is reported to be a more enjoyable route than the track on the eastern side. It’s junction with the track on the eastern side is at NO 038 961Creagan a' Choire Etchachan and Stob Coire Etchachan
I had great views of Stob Coire Etchachan and Creagan a' Choire Etchachan as I began to make my way back to Derry Lodge. It was then a long, somewhat boring, slog of a walk back to the bike after the feast of views I’d had. It was a price well worth paying though for a memorable day on the hills. A friend insists there is no such thing as a bad pint of Guinness – it’s just that some are better than others. The same can be said about days on the hills – no such thing as a bad day on the hills, but some are better than others. This was certainly one of the better ones.
Note. Mountain bikes can be hired from several outlets in the Ballater / Braemar area for approximately £40 per day. Alternatively, you could transport your own bike to the area. The number of days you intend cycling in the area will determine which is the most economical and practical option for you.