Craggy mountains, bubbling burns and dark woodlands of twisted Scots Pine are the essential ingredients for this expedition into the Grampian mountains.
Skirting the southern edge of the Cairngorm plateau, track and path guide walkers through wide glens into altogether more remote territory at the southern end of the famous Lairig Ghru pass.
Here the high mountains of Ben Macdui, Braeriach and Cairn Toul - all over 4000 feet - dwarf the surrounding wilderness landscape.
The return is by Glen Dee where a long walk is rewarded with excellent upland scenery, a stunning gorge of waterfalls and pools and the chance to see herds of red deer.
This route is ideal for the better weather months and is probably best avoided in the winter when heavy snow can make the glens impassible.
Leave the car park by the path signed for Derry Lodge. This heads through the trees, crossing a wooden boardwalk, and reaches a track at a high kissing gate. Turn left and the track continues north over open moorland dotted with Scots Pine trees while more recent forestry plantations line the way on the right further up.
The route crosses the Lui Water by a wooden bridge. Once over, turn left and follow the track up the open glen, the slopes of Derry Cairngorm in view ahead. The way climbs and falls gently to reach Derry Lodge in the shadow of the mountain, two miles on.
The lodge sits in woodland above the Lui Water. Follow the track past it and drop down to a large wooden shed a few yards on. Skirt along the left hand side of this and stay with the track as it curves right to a wooden footbridge over the Derry Burn. On the far bank a green sign post points out local rights of way. Turn left, following the sign for Aviemore by the Lairig Ghru, and take the path over open country until it joins up with a sandy track at the edge of a plantation. Continue west on the track.
The track through Glen Luibeg reduces to path as the woodland peters out and a mile and a half from Derry Lodge the Luibeg Burn has to be crossed beyond a high fence with a gap for walkers. On the other bank, a path climbs up to a another deer fence and the way continues over the hillside, curving north into the Lairig Ghru.
With tiny Corrour Bothy in sight across the River Dee, a rocky path descends to a junction of paths in the shadow of the craggy Devil's Point. You can make a short detour to the bothy from here. It makes an excellent lunch spot if the weather is wet or windy.
To continue the route, go left at the junction. A narrow but distinct path cuts a course through the heather. It can be muddy and boggy in places but soon dries out and becomes more stony as it makes its way south through Glen Dee.
The path emerges on to a well used track at White Bridge. There is another signpost here. Turn left, following the battered arrow for Braemar. A wide track leads down the open glen where, in the evening, herds of red deer can frequently be spotted grazing the flat plains by the river. The way skirts several areas of forestry and there are a couple of short uphill sections to make tired knees cry out.
As the bridge at Linn of Dee approaches, tall pines line the home straight. The track meets the public road just beyond an unlocked gate. Continue straight ahead on the road, climbing up to the car park entrance on the left.
Distance 15 miles/24km.
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 43.
Start/parking Public car park at Linn of Dee (grid ref NO 064897).
Grading Long low level walk over track and path for fit walkers.