Another Judith Special!
The Balmoral estate on Royal Deeside is owned by the Queen, but walkers and climbers are welcome and I love to go there with Missy my dog, in particular to Glen Muick, a beautiful glen. The Glen seems remote but in fact it is only seven miles from the attractive small town of Ballater, along a single-track road. It is such a big area that even with other walkers there, one can enjoy the peace.
There are two options, one of which is to walk round Loch Muick and the other is to climb Lochnagar, but that is quite a tough exercise, even in the summer, so we opt for Loch Muick which is a low-level walk.
The walk takes up to three hours at a steady pace, but the path is well defined and there is no climbing. Plenty of places to stop and look at the mountains and their reflections in the water.
The Balmoral estate is home to plenty of wildlife, including eagles, mountain hares, grouse and red deer.
In October the deer are still up on the mountains but if you have a keen eye
(or binoculars), you are almost bound to spot some browsing on the grass on the slopes above you, just as I did. In the spring you may spot an adder basking in the sunshine as it emerges from hibernation; they are poisonous so keep clear of them!
Lochnagar itself is a true Munro and is one of the main peaks in the Cairngorms.
It is a tough climb, so be prepared to spend perhaps seven hours to walk in from the car park and then up the tracks – some of which are steep and not easy to negotiate. A Munro, by the way, is defined as a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet (914.4 m), and which is on the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) official list of Munros. Maybe interesting to mention that “Munro bagging” is the climbing of all the listed Munros (282). As of 6 December 2021, almost 7100 people had reported completing a round.
In Scotland an "estate" is a large area of moorland and mountains and forests, owned by one family or business, which manages the forests, farms the richer land, lets the fishing on the rivers and the shooting of the red deer – a necessary task because if there are too many deer, there is not enough food in the winter and the weaker ones will starve to death; Balmoral estate is 20,000 hectares.
Salmon in the River Dee: There is a burn (small river) which flows from Loch Muick, and along its banks have been planted hundreds of trees, part of a scheme to plant one million trees along the River Dee’s tributaries in order to give shade and thus lower the temperature of the water; this will result in a better environment for young salmon.
The Dee is one of the top salmon rivers in Scotland but the number of salmon has been in decline and planting trees will, over the years, give them the best of habitats in which to breed.