Final Walk of 2021: Pannanich Hill

Having hoped to be out lots over the festive season, unfortunately we’ve not really managed. The weather’s been changeable and the prospect of fog on the tops has not held much appeal. We were happy to have a clear day on offer today, although the blustery conditions higher up led ‘us’ to make plans for a lower level walk instead. The upside of this was that it afforded a relatively long lie in, something I’ve grown quite accustomed to over the last week.

Byron Bakery in Ballater

Having sampled the delights of the Byron Bakery in Aberdeen, we couldn’t resist stopping off ahead of our walk. Fuelled by a macaroni pie (me) and a sausage roll (him), we were in fine spirits setting off from our parking spot in the centre of Ballater.

Leaving the village, we crossed the bridge over the River Dee and headed swiftly onto a good track. It was here that the fun of the day began!

House of Glenmuick: Private Property

Following a 1:50000 map, the paths were clear, however didn’t clearly show the boundaries of the House of Glenmuick. This area is exempt from the rights of access and there were many signs around it reminding us of this. It was not entirely clear how to avoid it, so we did our best to navigate around, at one point crossing a field of sheep. Initially a little apprehensive of our presence, they quickly became intrigued and all headed across to try and make our acquaintance, maintaining enough distance to be mindful of current Covid restrictions.

Follow the Dyke

Having found our way around the house (more or less), we followed the path alongside the drystone dyke and this meandered pretty much straight up the side of the hill.

It was worth stopping to look back as the mighty Lochnagar was very majestic in the distance with a dusting of snow covering the higher ground. Beautiful as it was, we were happy with the decision we’d made to stay lower, sheltered from the wind at this point.

Donnie Darko?

Stopping ahead of the bend in the path for Bruce to put on his jacket again, the wind picking up due to the more exposed terrain and the temperature cooling slightly, he got a fleg as he caught something out of the corner of his eye. I’d not noticed prior to that, a white rabbit or hare peering over the dyke! Having watched Donnie Darko within the last couple of weeks this amused me!

Exposed Top

The final gradual path up to the summit cairn and trig point was very exposed and windy! I was grateful that the temperature was unseasonably warm (12C in Ballater) as although blustery and hard going, particularly at the summit, it wasn’t overly cold.

Bikers Galore

We didn’t meet any other walkers, but there were lots of bikers out. Prior to chatting to two at the summit cairn, it hadn’t really occurred to me that local bike trails would have been decimated by Storm Arwen. That, of course, makes complete sense now that I consider it, many of my favourite running trails having suffered significant storm damage too.

Icy Puddles

Heading off the summit, glad to be moving off the windy top, the path got muddier in places, not helped by the volume of bikes using it at present. As we moved towards Craig Vallich, puddles were deeper and surprisingly very icy under the surface water, testament to the lower temperatures that we’ve had prior to this ‘blip’ in the weather pattern. I love playing in puddles, smashing the ice with my poles and hearing it ‘pop’, so I was in my element!

Craig Vallich Shelter

Rather than heading up Craig Vallich, the wind being such that this didn’t hold a great deal of appeal, we skirted around the back of it, stopping off at the shelter before beginning our descent. This proved a fine resting place to have a snack, the wind sounding quite fierce as we sat inside, again drinking in the fine view of Lochnagar from the wee window.

Dropping Down to Ballater

Leaving the shelter, somewhat reluctantly it has to be said, we began our descent to the Bridge of Muick. This was a very good path, initially into the wind, later with the wind coming at us sideways, and we agreed it must have been a hard slog on the up for the bikers, none of whom appeared to be on E-bikes today.

Finding ourselves back at the roadside we briefly followed the trail alongside before walking on the edge of the road for the last section as heading up again (albeit for a very short distance) held no appeal. Coffee at The Bothy however did, and after a quick stop at the car to dump our rucksacks we found ourselves in the warmth with a good coffee, again rounding off a great day out.

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