A few days ago we took a hike that has been a long time in the planning. As you can see from the photo, it proved too much for my trusty walking boots that have been with me over many years and even more miles, But Oh! They went out in a blaze of glory!
As we sit watching the sun set over the Monadliath mountains, for many years we've wondered - what's over the other side?
We knew that there was a route called the Burma Road which crosses from Lynwilg, which is just behind our house, over the Monadliaths to the village of Carrbridge on the other side.
Walkers and mountain bike enthusiasts alike talk about "The Burma" and how tough it is. We had done the first section, which is the most punishing climb of the route, but we had never made it down the other side to Carrbridge.
This time we decided that we would attack it from the Carrbridge side and parked one car at Lynwilg before taking the other round to Carrbridge. A beautiful day with spectacular views as we followed the River Dulnain through forest and heather moorland along a Land Rover track that is obviously used for access to the hills for shooting parties. At one point we did come across an estate worker with a four wheel drive vehicle that looked as if it had a snorkel sticking out the front! He explained that this provides extra air to the engine when the vehicle is crossing a ford when the water level is high.
While out walking it's not unusual to come across hives like those above where the bees are busy making heather honey. Known as the 'Champagne" of all honeys, it has a highly distinctive aroma - warm, woody and floral, reminiscent of the Highlands themselves. A recent study revealed Scottish heather honey to be a world-leading superfood, packed full of essential micronutrients, manganese and high in antioxidant qualities - a real rival to Manuka!
While following the track it was easy to spot the "muirburn" pattern, like patchwork on the mountain side. On a managed heather moorland, the heather is burned on a seven year cycle to ensure fresh young shoots for the chicks to feed on while still providing mature heather to protect the nesting birds.
While much debate takes place about the move to re-wilding in this area of Scotland, there could be little doubt that this estate is actively managed for the grouse shooting.
By now , we're well into our journey so time to stop for a picnic lunch before we cross the river and start our long ascent to the summit.
The climb on this side is much more steady and gradual, but still quite a challenge none the less - it seems to go on for ever! But every time you stop and look back you are rewarded by breathtaking views. You've just got to get the head down and keep going!
Evidence of the shooting is all around, with mountain bothys and lines of butts. I even tried my hand in one of them!
Eventually all the hard work was rewarded and we reached the summit, as the video below tries to capture.
The views to the Cairngorms with their famous corries were truly spectacular and well worth the effort. From here it was all down hill, supposedly the easy part, but not too kind on the knees and definitely the death knell for my hiking boots.
All in all, a memorable day!