Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

Blackwater Forest

6 – 7 November 2013; 36 km

Another last minute micro-adventure, this time I’d decided to have a wander around the Blackwater Forest before the 59 turbine Dorenell Wind Farm completely destroys the area which borders on the Cairngorms National Park.  IMO this will only serve to make the multi-millionaire landowner Christopher Moran and the Dutch company (Infinergy) accrue further millions in subsidies; how they can state that this “will create many opportunities to enhance local tourism” beats me.  They do seem to have successfully ‘bribed’ the local community of Caprach into supporting it; I for one will never visit Caprach again.  Don’t get me wrong, I support renewable energy but not by sacrificing Scotland’s ‘wild land’ there’s plenty of sites in Moray, Aberdeenshire and elsewhere suitable for these developments albeit there’s the Urban Nimby’s to overcome and the power output may be 1% less but in my opinion that’s a price worth paying; when there’s a wind farms on Arthur’s Seat and ringing Edinburgh, Glasgow and all the other major cities I’ll happily consider wind farms on wild land!


I parked up just off the Dufftown/ Capraich road at very convenient forestry entrance (NJ 353242) before heading through the forest on a recently upgraded track, probably for the wind farm. It didn’t take long to pop out into the wide expanse of the Blackwater Forest, open rolling moorland very reminiscent of the northern Pennines.


Leaving the protection of the trees I had to make a quick stop to don the windshirt, hat and gloves as protection against the bitter westerly.  A good LRT led off for 4 – 5km to the rapidly deteriorating Blackwater Lodge, vandalism quite evident, it must have been a fine place at one time.


Just upstream I checked out the ford across the Black Water and decided that the water level it was too high today for a dry shod crossing and since I’d spotted an intact bridge a little downstream I wasn’t temped to wade across bare foot.


The bridge downstream wasn’t in tip top condition, two large steel channels rest of the main spans of very old tree trunks and look to have not been used for vehicles for a long time (4WD ford adjacent).  Quite stable at the moment, if a bit airy, for foot traffic but when the old timbers go the steels will probably be in the river.


It was quite a pleasant walk up the LRT to the ruins at Cairnbrallan where I made use of the walls to have a lunch break out of the wind.


After crossing the Blackwater I headed off up the Allt na Craoibhe Cuillin, the LRT ran out after about 0.5 km but good deer trails led easily up the stream.


I was heading for a path/ track shown of the map but it became quickly obvious that I’d missed the intersection amongst the peat hags so heading off cross-country NW to pick it; it was nowhere to be found, despite getting out the GPS the ‘path’ wasn’t visible.  I plotted a bearing and heading cross-country; going was fairly easy with only very short heather and grass underfoot but I didn’t pick up a trail until around NJ 292298, on the descent into Glenlivet.  The trail soon gave out; 1.5 km of bog and knee deep heather followed on a bee line for Suie, I thought about going down to the bothy but the wind had dropped to almost zero and the grass next to the old servant house was flat so I pitched up the Trailstar in the failing light.

Screw-up 1#: I dug out my head torch to start getting organised only to find it didn’t work (I later discovered that there was no batteries in it!), luckily I carried a Petzl e-lite as a backup so no panics.

Screw-up 2#:  Dug out a couple of teas lights only to find that they were burnt out.

Moral: Check your gear!

The 0.5L of Earl Grey went down well, it seemed as though I’d ‘forgot to drink most of the day and I was parched.  Winter camping has long…….. nights so once the bed was sorted the 3 course meal took a leisurely pace; Soup, Pasta Bolognese with Parmesan; apple crumble (well….re-hydrated apple with instant custard and a cereal bar crumbled into it……tasted rather good).  Even at a leisurely pace dinner was over by 7pm, the sky was crystal clear and with only a very ‘new moon’ the night sky was wonderful; I sat outside listening to music for an hour until the cold drove me to bed, a frost had already formed inside and outside the tarp.

It was a no rush breakfast to let the sun defrost the tarp and fuel up on coffee to guard against dehydration,  well that was my excuse.


It was around 9am by the time I waving Suie bye – bye and headed off up the LWR back towards Blackwater Lodge.


At the summit I decided on taking the old stalkers path back to the lodge, rather than the LRT, if I could find it.  At first the path was easy going and quite obvious….even if a little overgrown.


This soon change, where it descended towards the Allt Daimh the path had become a boggy watercourse so I opted to heather bash parallel to it.  Beyond the Allt Daimh the line of the path became less distinct until quite close to the Dorenell Burn where I picked up a LRT leading to the Lodge.

I crossed the Blackwater by the bridge again and headed off downstream, only a short section of LRT/ forestry road back to the car.  Wrong, the track through the forestry towards Ardwell didn’t exist, only a deer trail along a firebreak down to the Muckle Burn, I followed this down to the river and the bridge.  Wrong, the bridge doesn’t exist; boots off?  I decided to risk it, it was only a few km to the car so wet boots shouldn’t be a problem?  I managed half way across teetering on boulders without even getting the boots wet and then it was two very fast strides (above boot depth) to safety; the socks were dry!  Sometimes things do go right…. less than a hour back to the car.

Quite a nice stroll around, I think I’ll have to return before the wind farm construction starts.


One comment on “Blackwater Forest

  1. Hugh lancaster
    March 25, 2017

    Hi, as a “local” (I live in banff and formally keith) I have spent some time walking in this area although only day long walks rather than overnight camping trips.
    Having been up Glenfiddich and the now almost lost footpath up to the Echrach (NJ292240) as soon as last October I can tell you that the wind farm progress is slow.
    My plan this year is to walk much more of the tracks and paths in the area, and I will be following parts of your route. Thank you for publishing your photos and route description as this has definitly helped with planning of routes for myself.

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2013 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .

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