Although a little longer than our usual 10 km limit, this route offers a rewarding exploration of the Cabrach, once a busy focus of upland agriculture (and illicit whisky distilling), with a population of over 1,000, now reduced to less than a tenth of that number. The special natural environment, culture and heritage of the area is now promoted and developed by the Cabrach Trust.
Duration: 4 hours.
Duration: 4 hours.
Transport/Parking: There is no public transport nearby. There is a free car-park at the walk start-point.
Length: 11.4 km / 7.08 mi Height Gain/Loss: 233 meter.
Max Height: 385 meter. Min Height: 291 meter.
Surface: Moderate. Mostly good tracks and paths. May be very boggy in places. May be suitable for off-road mobility scooters, but users should note very boggy conditions (even after a dry summer!) in the forest section and also thick clumps of rushes which may obstruct a low-wheeled vehicle.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance and overall ascent.
Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep dogs on lead on public roads and near farm animals.
Refreshments: Options in Huntly, Alford, and Dufftown.
This “there and back” walk to the impressive and evocative abandoned Blackwater hunting lodge is an excellent introduction to the landscape features experienced in the Cabrach (A’ Chabraich, in Gaelic, meaning uncertain), a sparsely populated area on the border territory between upland Aberdeenshire and Moray (historic Banffshire). Although sheep and cattle still graze the fields, abandoned farms dot the grassy slopes above the rivers Deveron and Blackwater. Large swathes of the more marginal land areas are now forested, and the hilly hinterland is mostly heather moorland, heading deep into the Cairngorms National Park, beyond, and managed for grouse shooting and stalking red deer. The generation of renewable energy by wind turbines is a recent development. The route starts and finishes at the Visitor Centre for the Dorenell Wind Farm, which has 59 turbines, capable of generating 177 MW, and catches the eye at many points on the walk. Climbing onto pasture grazed by sheep, the track soon passes the abandoned farm at Upper Ardwell, with similar empty farm-houses at Tomnavoun and Shenval visible across the valley of the River Blackwater, below you. A 1.5 km section through commercial forest is lightened by two clearings at Little Burn and Muckle Burn, where we encountered a number of Roe Deer when passing through on both occasions. The approach to Blackwater Lodge, sheltered under a wooded rocky bluff, is over open moorland, skirting the fast-running River Blackwater, and with the atmospheric wind-mills, like gentle giants, positioned on the slopes of Dorenell Hill, opposite. The now dilapidated Lodge, stables and other outbuildings, originally built by the Duke of Richmond in the late 18thC, with later additions, makes for a slightly bittersweet, but interesting, turning point on the route. The Dorenell Ranger Service and Visitor Centre support other waymarked trails in the area, while the Cabrach Trust have recently opened a discovery trail at the nearby Acorn Centre, Inverharroch.
Photos from walk
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