The summits of Beinn a’Bhùird and Ben Avon are only 4.5 kms apart, and as both summits are long distances from roads, they are often visited together. This track, however, records a visit only to Beinn a’Bhùird and 2 of its three tops from Linn of Quoich. Given the weather conditions on the day, the decision to omit Ben Avon was an easy one to make.
The Cairngorms generally experience much less rain than other areas of The Highlands. Indeed, it was the promise of drier weather on Deeside, after enduring a wet spell the previous year on Lagganside, that persuaded Queen Victoria to consider first visiting Balmoral, on 8th September 1848.
In early September 2022, contrary to usual weather patterns, a deep depression had moved up the North Sea and then turned west to deposit torrential rain on the Cairngorms. As a result, the Dee had burst its banks, and the burns were in spate for several days afterwards. The full burns limited route choices.
There are two popular approaches to Beinn a’Bhùird and Ben Avon from the south, one from Keiloch and one from Linn of Quoich. Paid car parking, £3, coins only, 2022, is available at both locations. The Linn of Quoich route has the bonus of passing through lovely Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris) woods. Some of the trees are quite old and are relics of the ancient Caledonian pine forests. (Glen Quoich is one of the 84 sites listed by the Scottish Government as Caledonian pinewood.)Some of the ancient woodland in Glen Quoich
This route, from the at Linn of Quoich car park at NO 117 910, started up a steep path through trees. After around 400m the path met a land rover track which was followed NW. After around 2 kms, at about NO 101 910, a decision had to be made. The choice was between a descent to a track / path along Quoich Water or stay on the higher track. The Scottish Mountaineering guide book explained that the higher land rover track was created after the lower track was washed away. A path has evolved to replace the washed away track and would be passable in normal conditions. Given the recent heavy rain and resultant flooding, the higher track was chosen as the less risky option, although it would add an additional 60 m ascent. The higher track was also quite steep and it was more efficient, in places, to dismount and push the bike uphill rather than try and cycle up the steep gradient.Looking back to Quoich Water and Allt an Dubh-ghlinne
About 6.5 kms from the car park, the track reached a ford on the Allt an Dubh-ghlinne at NO 079 947. (The Allt an Dubh-ghlinne is not labelled on the Harvey’s Maps, it is labelled on the OS maps). Now a dilemma. Although a wade was expected, the water was much higher than anticipated. It looked too deep to cross. A little scouting upstream and downstream found a spot where the burn split into three. This was slightly downstream from where the land rover track crossed the burn. Boots and socks were removed, the socks placed in the boots and the boots tied to the handlebars of the bicycle. Crossed carefully then, the bike providing additional support. It wasn’t as bad as feared, and the water wasn’t as cold as expected either. Feet were dried with a spare tee shirt. Rebooted, the cycling was resumed but not for much farther as the track became very rough and steep again. The bike was then left to browse in the heather. The day hadn’t been too bad until then, only one shower. There was a nice view back down Glen Quoich and some of the mature, self-sown Scots Pine, remnants of the old Caledonian pine forest were truly magnificent. Off up towards Beinn a’Bhùird on a good path then. The path initially followed the line of a track that had been bulldozed by skiing interests up onto the plateau several decades ago. This track had been a terrible eyesore until the National Trust had the hillside restored. As the path skirting An Diollaird was ascended, the weather deteriorated. It became quite wet and cold for a while. A small shelter at 076 978 provided an opportunity for a quick snack in a little comfort before continuing to the summit of Beinn a’Bhùird while shrouded in clag. The path was lost at one stage, but it was easy to progress without it, because despite the clag, it was still possible to discern the outline of the hill. The summit cairn of the North Top at 1197m, NJ 0923 0061 was reached approximately 4 hours after leaving the car park.Summit Cairn Beinn a’Bhùird
A compass bearing was initially followed to navigate towards Stob an t-Sluichd before the clag cleared and this greatly simplified route finding.
In January 1945, an RAF Airspeed Oxford aircraft carrying 5 Czech airmen crashed on Stob an t-Sluichd. All 5 airmen aboard perished. Due to the remoteness of the site, the wreckage, containing the remains of the crew, wasn’t discovered until the following August. Two huge engines and other assorted wreckage remain at the site. It was a poignant scene, in the short spell of sunshine that appeared that day, and it wasn’t consider appropriate to photograph the wreckage.
Additional information on the aircraft crash incident can be found athttps://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/17537Summit Cairn Stob an t-Sluichd
An interesting scramble was required to reach the top of Stob an t-Sluichd and also to visit the top of Cnap a’Chleirich on the way back to Beinn a’Bhùird’s North Top. The North Top was reached again about 2 hours and 10 minutes after leaving it. The clag was well and truly down on the way back from a Cnap a’Chleirich, but time was saved by using the track recorded earlier on the GPS to locate the summit cairn again. The rain returned, quite heavy. The South Top wasn’t too far off the return path but there was little point in visiting it in poor visibility. Possible difficulties recrossing the Allt a’Dubh Ghlinne on the way home were also a consideration as it had rained quite a lot off and on through the day. It felt like a very long way back but eventually emerged from the clag and first An Diollaird and then Glen Quoich came into view.Some more examples of the ancient pines
The bike was retrieved and a freewheel back down to the burn was enjoyed. It was difficult to judge if the water level had risen or fallen during the course of the day, but it was certainly more difficult to get back across. Feet, probably a little tender from all the walking, really felt every stone and pebble. Feet dried again and back on the bike to the car park. Mostly it was freewheeling / easy cycling although there were some huge puddles now in places due to the rain. There was the big push over the side of Creag Bhalg as well but the car park was reached around 18.30, nine and a half hours after leaving it.
Driving back to Braemar, the news came over the car radio that Queen Elizabeth had died at Balmoral, 174 years to the day since her ancestor, Queen Victoria, had first visited Balmoral. TYM