Broad Cairn and Cairn Bannoch from Glen Clova Walking

With a scenic start in Glen Clova, and open striding on the Mounth plateau above, this enjoyable round has plenty of variety. Two Munros are visited on the route described, but if you're bagging it'd be pretty easy to add two or even three more. In November 2021 the woods in Glen Clova - as elsewhere in northeast Scotland - were devastated by Storm Arwen. With thousands of fallen trees, many trails were blocked, and forestry workers have been hard at work clearing the debris ever since. This route is now passable.

The glen of the South Esk from Glittering Skellies  © Dan Bailey -
The glen of the South Esk from Glittering Skellies
Fetching Map

Detailed description

NO2838176100 From the car park backtrack briefly over a bridge then turn left through a gate (often locked to prevent vehicles). Follow the track roughly north, first alongside the River South Esk and then through pine plantations. Just beyond Moulzie the track splits: The left branch goes to a deep ford, so stay right. The track soon becomes a footpath through a grassy area, with boardwalk sections. This runs along the west edge of a pine wood, then follows the river bank to a large wooden footbridge. Cross here to rejoin the 4WD track on the west side of the river.
The River South Esk is a bit of a stunner  © Dan Bailey -
The River South Esk is a bit of a stunner
© Dan Bailey -

NO2771178922 Continuing upstream, around a bend in the glen, the track runs roughly west, with the rambling crag of Juanjorge on the far side of the river, before making a steady climb (stony underfoot) to reach the pretty larch wood at Bachnagairn. Here the track becomes a footpath. Cross a bridge into the wood and follow the path uphill through the trees above a dramatic little gorge. Turn right at a junction to cross a footbridge over the gorge.

NO2541879665 Soon passing out of the woods, the path zigzags uphill quite steeply before heading north over easier angled slopes to reach a trail junction at a stalker's shed. Here turn left, roughly northwest onto an engineered gravel path which makes short work of the steady climb towards Little Craig, the eastern spur of Broad Cairn. An obvious path leads over the almost level shoulder of Little Cairn, then as the slopes get rougher in the final ascent of Broad Cairn there are a number of sketchy trails – all of them ending up at the same place, the cairn on the rocky summit. From here there's a superb view of Creag an Dubh Loch in profile, and Eagle's Falls tumbling over the southern rim of the Lochnagar plateau.
Creag an Dubh Loch and Eagle's Falls from Broad Cairn  © Dan Bailey -
Creag an Dubh Loch and Eagle's Falls from Broad Cairn
© Dan Bailey -

NO2403781561 An obvious trail descends gently off Broad Cairn before skirting the head of a shallow corrie and climbing over the minor bump of Craig of Gowal, passing between the small cairns that mark its two summits. The path, still obvious, now continues over the plateau before making the short climb onto the little rocky peak of Cairn Bannoch. It's debatable whether this and Broad Cairn really deserve the status of separate Munros, since there's negligible drop between them (they'd be nowhere near classifying as individual Corbetts after all). Though remote, this section is surprisingly easily navigated in summer thanks to the well trodden trail linking the two Munros, but under snow cover in poor winter visibility it might be a different ball game.

NO2227982549 Head roughly west-northwest, at first on a well trodden Munro path which links in with Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. Soon quit this path and turn left, west-southwest, to a small cairn on Fafernie. There's a faint trail linking with a second small cairn a few hundred metres to the southwest; from here go south-southeast over open ground – occasional traces of footfall but any path is quickly lost – descending a broad shoulder on a mix of stony, grassy and boggy ground. Approaching the saddle before Crow Craigies, where the historic through-route Jock's Road climbs up from Glen Callater, the ground gets quite boggy. Here the precise course of Jock's Road is not glaringly obvious, but keep following the high ground southeast and a path takes shape on the easy climb to the knobbly little summit of Crow Craigies.
On Jock's Road heading for Crow Craigies  © Dan Bailey -
On Jock's Road heading for Crow Craigies
© Dan Bailey -

NO2219579862 Continue on the ridge path to descend to a broad saddle. Jock's Road now curves south, skirting a small summit (pt 874m) en route towards Glen Doll. At this stage there are two options - continue down Jock's Road into Glen Doll (still blocked at the time of writing), or back via the South Esk. For the second option stay with Jock's Road only a little further, until about 500m beyond point 874m. At a path junction before Jock's Road begins to drop more steeply towards White Water, turn left onto a less well-used trail. This goes roughly east-northeast over a broad col, then makes a descending traverse across the boggy slopes overlooking wild Loch Esk, to reach a heathery spur with the fantastic name of Glittering Skellies. This provides a long, occasionally stony but very scenic descent back to the woods of Bachnagairn. Now just follow the glen track back home.

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