What a great walk this was! I have to say we were both very pleasantly surprised! We’d contemplated this earlier in the week but opted for Morrone instead as it was such a fine day. Today however was very different; although still sunny and relatively cloud free, the winds were strong and being on the summits would not have been pleasant, if indeed potentially dangerous.
We paid our fiver to park at Crathie and headed over the bridge towards the Balmoral Estate. Hoofing it alongside the minor road for a bit we saw a couple of highland cows enjoying a good flech; sadly they could not be distracted to pose for a photo.
Continuing on, passing the golf course and distillery, we then reaching the first houses of the estate. Off the estate road and into the woodland the walk began. We crossed a wee bridge having tracked the gorge up and the hunt for the cairns began.
Some were easy to find, others required a little detour from the main path. The Walk Highlands route guide ensured we found our way to them all comfortably:
First up was Princess Helena’s cairn. It required us to follow a wee path off the main track. The snow from earlier in the week had shifted significantly and any remaining icy patches could be avoided.
Next up, Princess Louise’s cairn.
Thirdly, the Purchase Cairn, built by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to commemorate their purchase of the estate. The views from here opened up beautifully.
The next cairn, Prince Leopold’s was my favourite due to the lovely views afforded from the bench.
We stopped here to enjoy our lunch.
Feeling obliged to eventually move on and allow others a seat, we found Prince Arthur’s cairn next.
Onwards through the trees, we found Princess Alice’s cairn.
It was then a longer trek, with lovely views and a wee bit of a climb to reach the huge pyramid built in memory of Prince Albert. This is signposted from the path at the beginning of the walk and could be visited alone if desired. I think saving it for the end was best due to its sheer magnificence.
The final cairn, Princess Beatrice’s, required no searching at all as the path passed right by it.
This was a lovely walk, really enjoyed by us both. Looking for the cairns added interest to what otherwise would have been a fairly standard forest walk, albeit with occasional glimpses across the Cairngorms and Balmoral Castle. It’s definitely one we’d consider doing again. At just over 10k, it’s manageable for most which would make it a good family day out too.
Final Stop: The Highlanders Bakehouse
Timed to perfection, we arrived just as they were changing the sign to closed! Thankfully we were invited to be the last customers of the day! The sticky buns (cinnamon and blackcurrant) were delicious, and alongside a hot latte this was a perfect way to finish our day. Loved the set up here – toasty and warm with heaters to warm the space, blankets available and even a stash of hot water bottles. We will definitely stop off again if passing during opening hours.
Normality resumes tomorrow, but hopefully it won’t be too long until the next outing. Watch this space!