Canny walk to Canness Glen

By Andrew Jarret

Everyone who has driven from Blairgowrie to Braemar through Glenshee will be familiar with Glas Maol's western face but undoubtedly far fewer will have enjoyed a glimpse of the mountain's eastern aspect.

This route, which takes the walker into the remote and lonely Canness Glen, not only shows Maol uncluttered by skiing paraphernalia but also provides another approach to the neighbouring Munro of Tom Buidhe.

The road in follows the River Isla past the old castle at Forter and continues up Glen Isla to a quaint white-washed holiday home at Auchavan. Follow the road right, down through a gate and there is a small flat grassy area next to the tumbling river which can accommodate a few cars.

Walk through a gate which is signposted as a right-of-way to Braemar with the destination some 16 miles distant. The path continues alongside a grassy bank which can be climbed to give easier going on a solid Land Rover track. The track passes a bridge at Linns leading to a cluster of farm buildings but continue straight on and follow the contour of the Isla as it winds its way underneath the brooding crags of Creag an Torraidh.

Up ahead a small but dense evergreen forest appears on your left and you should also be able to spot the chimney stack of Tulchan Lodge peeking out from the treetops. As you approach the private lodge, which is guarded by a pair of impressive stone gateposts, another bridge heads off towards the intriguingly-named Spying Hillock. Quite what went on at the lodge which gave rise to the need for covert surveillance can be left to your own imagination!

Continue on the same track and as you leave the edge of the wood you will pass a fence and, somewhat strangely, a television aerial. Also hereabouts is another signpost which guides the walker up towards the impressive looking spine of Monega Hill and on towards Braemar. Don't follow this route but continue straight on with the bubbling Isla for company down to your right.

In wet weather the way is likely to be quite marshy and muddy here and you make be forced to make a little detour or two as you approach the symmetrical stone edifice that is Bessie's Cairn. Who Bessie was, we don't know, but her monument built in 1852 has seating for plenty on each of its four sides. This is also a good place to stop to take in the view into Canness Glen up ahead.

Continue in a north easterly direction and the scree-covered upper reaches of Druim Mor begin to unfold to your left. When you have reached the old stone ruin at grid ref 196 757 the track branches three ways - left into Caenlochan Glen, straight ahead to wind its way steeply up towards Caderg, and down and to the right into Canness Glen. Go right and follow the waterway via a muddy path. Up ahead a number of waterfalls can be seen cascading down steep slopes into the Glen.

The farthest left of these cascading torrents belongs to the Canness Burn and we managed to inch our way up its very steep and tricky slopes to within touching distance of its zenith only to be thwarted by a huge slab of protruding rock. The weight of water in the fall also made crossing it impossible so we had to turn tail somewhat reluctantly and give in to nature on this occasion.

Climbing waterfalls should never be undertaken lightly and those of you who want to add Tom Buidhe to the outing should cross the burn at the end of the path you arrived on and make for an obvious dip in the ridge up ahead.

The top of the Glen makes a fine point to stop for a picnic though and there are a few large rocks scattered around to provide some rudimentary shelter from the elements. Return is simply a case of retracing your footsteps although the energetic can add some extra distance and height to the day by climbing Little Glas Maol and heading back down over the Monega Hill path.


Distance: 9 miles/14km.
Maps: OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheets 43 and 44.
Start/parking: Grassy bank just past Auchavan in Glen Isla, grid ref NO 194698.
Grading An easy low level hike into a steep-sided glen. Navigating shouldn't be a problem because a good track exists all the way. Care must be taken if continuing to Tom Buidhe because of the steepness of the terrain and an exploration of the upper reaches of the Canness Burn waterfall is not for the faint hearted.