Jock Road & Capel Mounth
Updated: Feb 10
From Braemar, I planned to make a complete circuit of Lochnagar, dropping briefly in to the Angus Glens. It was mid-December so I had picked the route carefully and watched the weather. By following the old drovers paths up the glens, and over the lowest points the Cairngorm plateau, I hoped to skirt the worst of the weather. The Jock’s Road path, from Glen Callater to Glen Clova, follows the northern edge of a loch from the Bothy and Lodge, up the stream to the back wall of the Glen.
A good gravel path at the side of the lake and frozen marshy ground made for fast going. I was soon in the back of the Glen, swallowed by the steep sides towering 300m above the valley floor.
The weather changed markedly as I hike-a-biked up the corrie wall. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped. I reached the snow line just at the edge of the plateau. But the arctic conditions on the plateau disappeared as soon as I descended in to Glen Clova. A short time in the ice, wind and mist was a reminder that these are serious mountains.
I followed another drovers path, the Capel Mounth Path, to leave Glen Clova. There is a stiff climb out of Glen Clova that made me wonder if cattle could ever descend it. Once at the top, there is a clear run down a Lock Muick in the heart of the Balmoral Estate.
I was not able to see the crest and peak of Lochnagar until I had climbed out of Glen Muick and back into Royal Deeside. The ribs and peaks of the corrie were frosted with the first snow of the year. After the speed of the descent from Lochnagar, the few kilometers through the remanant of the Caledonian Forest to the bridge at Invercauld are melancholy, especially as the early dusk was falling.