The Cairnwell Munros: A Glen Shee Adventure

The end of exam time meant I was finally free for the summer and, with some good weather approaching, it was the perfect time to bag a few Munros before heading off to Iceland for a week. The Munros of choice were the Cairnwell Munros, a group of 3 easy(ish) hills on the western side of Glen Shee.

[May 2018]

As Glen Shee is quite far from Ayrshire, this resulted in an early start, leaving around 0600 to avoid the worst of the Glasgow and Perth traffic. We managed this fairly successfully and only got caught in a few minutes of jams in each place, but the drive north was fairly relaxed and very picturesque once we left the hustle and bustle of the motorways behind.

We arrived at the Ski Centre car park around 0945 after a stop to pick Sarah up and another to refuel the car in perth, so we made half decent progress and were itching to get started. After a quick hop to the toilets, we donned our boots and rucksacks and headed off towards the first of 3 munros.

Not a pretty start

The first target of the day was Carn Aosda, one of the smallest of all the Munros in Scotland and less than a mile from the ski centre car park. This was definitely a candidate for the easiest Munro ever!

A pleasant morning
Looking back to the ski centre
Following the ski run

A few hundred metres up the main track into the corrie, we headed north to follow another track which ran straight uphill to the summit of Carn Aosda. This was steep but provided easy walking and meant absolutely no navigational skill was required.

Approaching the summit, the Cairnwell in the distance

We made good progress and reached the top of Carn Aosda in around 45 mins, including a couple of photo stops along the way. Happy with this and raring to get up some more hills, we took a few quick snaps and headed towards our second target of the day.

Carn Aosda Summit with the Cairngorms in the distance
The Cairnwell from Carn Aosda

Again, little navigation was required as we followed a wide track off Carn Aosda heading for Loch Vrotachan.

Loch Vrotachan

We followed the track until it began to head for the Cairnwell, where we turned south west to follow another smaller track – indistinct in places but still easy enough to follow – towards Carn a’Gheoidh. The going was still very easy and it was a pleasant change to be able to see further than the end of our noses, as had been the case on our last Munro trip – Ben Chonzie.

The Cairnwell and the Glas Maol Munros
Easy going

We made good progress along the easy path and reached the summit of Carn a’Gheoidh a little before 1200, 2 hours after setting off from the car park. Once again we stood to admire the clear and vast panoramic views and had a quick bite to eat before we were on our way once again back towards the Ski centre and on to our 3rd Munro of the day.

Sarah at the summit of Carn a’Gheoidh
Plenty to look at
On our way once again

We followed the outward path almost back to the junction with the track, but a few hundred metres before, another track heads east towards the Cairnwell, effectively cutting the corner slightly. We followed this, which again was easy going and not particularly steep, as we made our way towards the summit of the Cairnwell.

The path towards the Cairnwell
Good views back to Creag a’Choire Dhirich

The cairnwell soon came into view and from here, it was only another few minutes to the summit.

Sarah heading for the Cairnwell

We reached the summit at 1330, meaning we took around an hour and a quarter to reach this summit from Carn a’Gheoidh. As it was now particularly warm, we took some more photos and then found some shade behind one of the many buildings and towers that litter the summit of the Cairnwell. Another quick drink and we were on our way back to the car, pleased that we had bagged 3 Munros in only a few hours.

Looking down Glen Shee from the Cairnwell
Extensive views

We followed the track back towards Loch Vrotachan, where another track heads downhill back to the ski centre car park. Sauntering and reflecting on what had been a great day, we reached the car at around 1430, only 4 and a half hours after setting off. Feeling quite pleased with ourselves, we enjoyed a quick spot of lunch and had another toilet stop.

Our adventure was not over – it was now on to Aviemore via the A939 – an absolutely stunning drive – and a fantastic dinner in Roo’s Leap, definitely my favourite restaurant in the town, before a quiet night camping in Dalraddy Holiday park and a visit to see little Hamish the baby polar bear at the Highland Wildlife park the following day. What a great adventure and a great way to kick off what’s going to be a really busy summer!

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