13-Oct-2001 -- This confluence is in a location that is typical of most of the Eastern Highlands of Scotland, i.e. it is in a peat bog on a plateau.
In the past I have spent a night very near the confluence, but sadly the old lodge that was thoughtfully left open by the landowners was burnt down by careless visitors. This visit had to be a day trip.
I had passed up a few possible trips due to poor weather forecasts, Scottish hill tops spend a lot of time inside the clouds and I did not want to submit a photo of the inside of a ping pong ball. Eventually I had a free sunny day and decided to go for a weekend in Aberdeenshire.
The confluence is an easy 2 hour walk from the nearest parking, in the town of Ballater. A better approach is to cycle up Glen Tanar, famed for its pine forests, but I chose not to take my bike to Scotland with me. The confluence is about 1km off an old drove road, Mount Keen, although it is no longer a road, just a faint line in the heather. It was easy to follow in the footsteps of the old cattle drovers, before heading off along an old fence dividing the Estates of Glen Tanar and Glen Muick.
The walk was very pleasant amongst the autumn colours, and I was enjoying the views over to Lochnagar and the Balmoral estate. I was passed by a convoy of 4x4 vehicles, a grouse shooting party, the confluence was on a neighbouring estate, but if the shoot was nearby the attempt would be off. Fortunately, the vehicles drove several miles beyond the confluence.
The last km was a wet struggle through the bogs along the boundary fence. It was a noisy place as just below me red deer stags were roaring. Its the rutting season, and the stags compete to mate with as many hinds as possible. Great care was required not to disturb them, and I had to stay below the skyline. There was also the distant gunfire from the shooting party 2 km to the south.
The spot itself was just an anonymous peaty hill top.It could not be more typical of this part of Scotland. The only nearby feature was the ruined march fence, a few metres to the west. However the views were fine. Dominating was the big hill Monadh Caoin (Mount Keen), 939m. This is the easternmost 3000' (914m) hill in Scotland and gave its name to the Mount Keen road. These hills are called Munros, after the man who first listed them, Sir Hugh Munro. Collecting Munros is a very popular activity in Scotland, there being 277-284 of them depending on whose list you use. Peak bagging has a long history here, and I run a site dedicated to the hills that are less than 3000 feet high.
To the south west, another Munro, Lochnagar (1155m), was well seen. This is a very famous hill with good climbing, and is the centrepiece of the Queen's Balmoral estate. Northeastward beyond the trees of Glen Tanar are the fertile lowlands of Aberdeenshire dotted with small granite hills. Here grows the malting barley used to make whisky. The foreground was just heather and peat, with roaring stags and calling grouse. My feet were getting wet in the pools beneath the heather.
The return was by the outward route, I met a few other people walking or cycling the Mount Keen track, all oblivious to the special but ordinary place on the adjacent hillside.