Meall a' Bhuachaille

Looking at the Cairngorms from a smallish mountain above the fairy lochan.




5.25 miles (8.4kms)

1700ft (518m)

About the walk

Meall a' Bhuachaille is the Hill of the Herdsman. Its rock is not the rounded grey granite of the true Cairngorms but a streaky, slabby schist that breaks down to a more fertile soil. So Meall a' Bhuachille, with its grand outlook to the bare Cairngorms across Glen More, has better grazing for the former black cattle and wild flowers for the walker.

Going to Ryvoan

Ryvoan Bothy, a croft house abandoned in 1877, is one of about 200 such simple shelters scattered around the Highlands (along with a few in the Southern Uplands, Wales and northern England). Many, including this one, are maintained by volunteers of the Mountain Bothies Association 'for the benefit of all who love wild and lonely places'. Along with a door to keep out the midges and a roof to keep out the rain, most are equipped with a simple wooden sleeping platform, a few battered chairs, an all-important spade for sanitary purposes and a bothy book in which to record your reminiscences. But at Ryvoan, busier and less remote than most, it was felt that any wooden platform would end up as firewood – sadly, too much of the MBA's efforts is devoted to repairing casual vandalism.

West coast main line

According to legend, a poem celebrating Ryvoan and the Cairngorms was found in the bothy during World War II. It was written by Ms A M Lawrence, brought up at nearby Nethy Bridge but living in England. A copy of the full poem, 'I shall leave tonight from Euston', is kept in the bothy; two lines are also carved into the bench at the viewpont over Lochan Uaine.

And again in the dusk of evening
I shall find once more alone
The dark water of the Green Loch,
And the pass beyond Ryvoan.

Walk directions

From Glenmore Visitor Centre, a tarmac track runs just above the road towards the ski slopes. Keep ahead, just below the Reindeer Centre, on a tarmac lane signed for Glenmore Lodge (Mountain Centre). Soon you can move onto a bike track alongside the lane. The bike/walk path rejoins the gravel track just beyond Glenmore Lodge.

Follow the track ahead, though the steep-sided gap of Pass of Ryvoan, and past Lochan Uaine to open heathery moorland. The track forks; turn left, signed ‘Nethy Bridge’. Soon you arrive at Ryvoan Bothy.

Here a path turns off to the left, to climb Meall a’ Bhuachaille. It has been newly rebuilt, and is smooth with some stepped sections. At the foot of the steeper slope it slants up left, giving views down to Lochan Uaine. After some zig-zags it bends up right, to the top of the steep slope above the bothy. In Strath Nethy below, pines from the north and the south are about to rejoin. Soon squirrels will hop, branch to branch, from Grantown to Glen Feshie. The path bends left, and heads up the rounded, heathery crest with Meall a' Bhuachaille summit about 550yds (503m) beyond. Here you will find a large cairn, with a circular shelter of low stones. Note that you arrive from the direction of the opening in this shelter.

To leave the summit, pass to the right of the big cairn and head down for 35yds (30m) to where the built path restarts. (The first sign of it is a stone drainage runnel.) It bends left, to run straight down the rounded spur towards a col below. Above this col, the slope eases a little and the path divides.

Ignore the path ahead, which becomes peaty as it heads for the col just below. Instead take the main path down to the left as it slants around Coire Chondlaich. Soon the well-built path heads directly downhill, to join a stream. A red-top waymarker is at the top of clear-felled plantations.

The path runs down to the left of the stream, with a strip of standing pine left to shelter it. It widens to a rough track among the pines. At a fork and signboard, a smaller path on the right has a red waymarker, and soon runs down to Glenmore Visitor Centre.

Additional information

Well-made paths, long ascent to 2,657ft (810m) altitude

Forest, high hilltop with views to Cairn Gorm

Off lead but under close control

OS Explorer 403 Cairn Gorm & Aviemore

Glenmore village

Glenmore village

<p>Leaving the summit of Meall a' Bhuachaille in mist is tricky, so inexperienced walkers should only attempt this walk in clear weather</p>

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About the area

Discover Highland

Apart from the Orkneys and the Shetlands, Highland is Scotland’s northernmost county. Probably its most famous feature is the mysterious and evocative Loch Ness, allegedly home to an ancient monster that has embedded itself in the world’s modern mythology, and the region’s tourist industry. Monster or no, Loch Ness is beautiful and it contains more water than all the lakes and reservoirs in England and Wales put together. The loch is 24 miles long, one mile wide and 750 feet deep, making it one of the largest bodies of fresh water in Europe. 

At the very tip of the Highlands is John o’ Groats, said to be named after a Dutchman, Jan de Groot, who lived here in the early 16th century and operated a ferry service across the stormy Pentland Firth to Orkney. In fact, the real northernmost point of the British mainland is Dunnet Head, whose great cliffs rise imposingly above the Pentland Firth some two miles further north than John o’ Groats.

The Isle of Skye is the largest and best known of the Inner Hebrides. Its name is Norse, meaning ‘isle of clouds’, and the southwestern part of the island has some of the heaviest rainfall on the whole of the British coast. Despite this, it’s the most visited of all the islands of the Inner Hebrides. It’s dominated from every view by the high peaks of the Cuillins, which were only conquered towards the end of the 19th century. 

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