Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Saturday 19 May 2012 - TGO Challenge Day 9 – Blair Atholl to Mar Lodge - A Stunning Glen to a Fine Mansion

Route: as planned.
See Day 9 for map of planned route

Distance: 41km (Cum 278)

Ascent: 900 metres (Cum 7600)

Time taken: 9.5hrs including stops

Weather: fine, with early sunshine soon gone, cool NE breeze, temp rising from 5C at 7am to 9C at 4pm

Challengers encountered: none until after crossing the Geldie, then John Hesp and Chris Peart having a brew sheltered by White Bridge's parapet. Around 20 Challengers at Mar Lodge, including Nik (who was pressing on to Braemar) Heather, Sue and David, Freddy Campbell, Di Gerrard, some Hungarians and sundry others

Others encountered: mainly Ali Ogden, and Jane Torrance's excellent team at Mar Lodge

Flora and Fauna: red squirrel, ring ousel

After an early breakfast, we started at 7.15am on a sunny but cool day. The sun was soon lost, and cool it remained, failing to get above 9C all day. That didn't detract from our day's stroll up the wonderful Tilt glen. Apart from the cute red squirrel and the shy ring ouzel we encountered a few humanoids, varying from laden backpackers to a man in flipflops returning with his fishermen friends to a house party at Forest lodge.

Glen Tilt is watered throughout by the River Tilt, which enters the River Garry after a course of 14 miles, and receives on its right the Tarf, which forms some beautiful falls (pictured) just above the confluence, and on the left the Fender, which also has some fine falls.

The attempt of George Murray, 6th Duke of Atholl to close the glen to the public was successfully contested by the Scottish Rights of Way Society.

The massive mountain of Beinn a' Ghlò and its three Munros Càrn nan Gabhar (1129 m), Bràigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain (1070 m) and Càrn Liath (975m) dominate the glen's eastern lower half.

Marble of good quality is occasionally quarried in the glen, hence the presence of Marble Lodge, now a self catering holiday let, where the river rushes past over polished marble slabs. The rock formation of the glen has long attracted the attention of geologists. One of the earliest was James Hutton, who visited the glen in 1785 and found boulders with granite penetrating metamorphic  schists in a way which indicated that the granite had been molten at the time. This showed to him that granite formed from cooling of molten rock, contradicting the ideas of Neptunism of that time that theorised that rocks were formed by precipitation out of water. Hutton concluded that the granite must be younger than the schists. This was one of the findings that led him to develop his theory of Plutonism and the concept of an immensely long geologic time scale with "no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end."

At the confluence with the Tarf, we admired the falls, enjoyed our lunch, and thanked the builders of the fine suspension bridge that obviates the need for a difficult river crossing. A plaque reminded us that 'The bridge was erected in 1886 with funds contributed by his friends and others and by the Scottish Rights of Way Society Ltd to commemorate the death of Francis John Bedford aged 18 who was drowned near here on 25th August 1879'.

There are lots of great wild camping spots beside the Tilt, all the way up to the watershed, which is much less boggy than many of the highland watersheds we encounter. An excellent path runs for 8km from where the Land Rover track (LRT) ends near Tarf Falls all the way to the Geldie river crossing beyond the dilapidated ruins of Bynack Lodge.

We delighted in this stroll across the watershed at around 500 metres, with the snow clad peaks of the Cairngorms in view just below the cloud base. It was cool where we were - up on the tops it must have been 'full winter' conditions, albeit with soft snow.

Bynack Burn was crossed easily just below the lodge, and the Geldie was a straightforward knee deep wade. The water was a little numbing, so we paused to enjoy the last of our tea before replacing our boots and moving on, joining the crocodile of Challengers arriving from the west via Glen Feshie.

At White Bridge, john and Chris were in classic Challenger repose, lingering in a sheltered spot over a long brew. We chatted, but sadly I missed the classic photo opportunity.

A large gaggle of Challengers was nearly caught at the Linn of Dee, but Sue and I fell back as we diverted to admire the bridge and the falls. Then an easy road walk took us to the entrance of Mar Lodge, which I can recall being a difficult place for walkers to negotiate, even in the not too distant past. The present owners take a different view, welcoming the public, in particular at this time of year, TGO Challengers, for whom greeting notices are placed in an effort to draw the walkers in as they approach the Linn of Dee.

This year a big birthday function has relegated us to the tea room, and there is no accommodation for Challengers other than for their tents on the lawn, or their thermarests in the splendid ballroom (pictured). Sue and I had been promised mattresses in the ballroom, but Jane T kindly showed us up to 'Twin 3', a rather comfortable bedroom. Luxurious, Gibson? I guess so.

Despite the high mileage, the day's walk from Blair Atholl hadn't been particularly taxing, and we savoured Mar Lodge's mushroom soup and venison casserole with relish with old friends and new. Heather, Sue and David had planned a tough 'high' crossing ('High = 12 or more Munros and Corbetts) but had been seriously affected by bad weather and are having to pull the stops out to achieve that objective.

We also heard that there has been the heaviest 'casualty' rate ever, with Sue's mate Denis P being the 50th person to drop out of this year's event. Once again, we have chosen a route unaffected by any particular drama, so we have to make do with second hand reports such as Nik's 'stuck on an island' drama, and Heather + Co's graphic description of floods at Cougie.

I'm finishing with a bit of 'Wiki' on Mar Lodge for those who may be interested.

"Mar Lodge is a sporting lodge built for the use of the Duke and Duchess of Fife. It is accessed from the Linn of Dee road, over the Victoria Bridge, a lattice girder structure built across the River Dee in 1905.

The first Mar Lodge was built in the 18th century by Lord Braco, on the site of the present Lodge. It was Lord Braco who initiated the construction of the mansion house at Dalmore, known from the 1760s as Mar Lodge, a predecessor of the present, much altered, late-19th century house.

Sometime between 1730 and 1737, the property was acquired by the Duffs—this family's first foothold on Deeside—and by the end of the century they had purchased the neighbouring Farquharson lands of Alanaquoich, Auchindryne and Inverey.

Originally known as Dalmore House, the Lodge was damaged in the 'Muckle Spate' ('large flood') of 1829 and later demolished.

The 2nd Mar Lodge, colloquially known as Corriemulzie Cottage or 'New' Mar Lodge, was built near Linn of Corriemulzie at the top of Mar Lodge Brae. It was a very 'Victorian' building with architectural detailing such as prominent use of lattice work (still visible on the 'Stag Ballroom') and tree-trunk supports (visible in the veranda of the old bar at the rear of Mar Lodge) being reused in the construction of the next Mar Lodge. It was destroyed by fire on the 14th of June 1895.

The 3rd Mar Lodge was built between 1895 and 1898 for the Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife and his wife Princess Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife. The foundation stone was laid by the Duchess' grandmother, Queen Victoria on 15 October 1895. The architect was Alexander Marshall Mackenzie of Aberdeen (1848-1933) who, at the express request of the Duchess—H.R.H. Princess Louise, used the Elizabethan style of architecture.

The 3rd Mar Lodge was destroyed by a fire while being renovated in 1991.

The 4th Mar Lodge is the result of rebuilding the lodge soon thereafter to a similar design. It has recently been converted into holiday flats and retains many of the grand features of its heyday as a hunting lodge. The ballroom has a spectacular 2,435 red deer stags heads lining the walls and ceiling.

Mar Lodge Estate became a National Trust for Scotland property in 1995.

The Stag Ballroom was constructed for estate staff balls, required by the need for segregation between master and servant which dominated the period. Built near to the second Mar Lodge at Corriemulzie, it was moved to the present site in 1898. A large timber building in the estate red, it has distinctive lattice trellising, an original Victorian ventilation system and unusual cast iron bracers on stone plinths supporting the walls. Internally the building remains virtually in its original state and contains over 2,435 stag's skulls." It is currently (as I write) occupied by about a dozen TGO Challengers on thermarests.

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James Boulter said...

Enjoying your crossing reports Martin. It now looks like the weather could be on the up for you over the next few days. Hope that you have a safe and fun rest of the Challenge to the coast.

Martin Rye said...

Sounds like Affric area got very bad weather on the first Sunday of the TGOC. To honest Martin your have cracked it. Glens and forest to the coast now I expect. Enjoy.

Phreerunner said...

Thanks James, and Martin.

The planned route would never have been particularly problematic, so long as we could do nearly 20 miles a day. It had to be that way to avoid the risk of being caught out with no shelter, and it worked perfectly. We only finished after 6pm on one occasion (at Ballater) and that was only because we spent an hour and a half with Laura at lunch time.

Geoff Edwards said...

I'm very impressed with your route mapping, what software do you use and do you print off your maps or download to a GPS or both?

Phreerunner said...

The mapping on the web page to which this posting is linked is just an Anquet screen dump at 1:250,000 (as 1:50,000 doesn't conveniently fit). It's basically an overview from which readers could easily plot or view the exact route on a larger scale if they wanted to do that