Jo Bennie reviews Braclo one, a solo overnight route through the Cairngorms
The Scottish Highlands are famous for treks through lonely wilderness, and this walk from the Aberdeenshire village of Braemar to the Angus village of Clova took Jo Bennie through some of the finest landscapes of the Caingorms National Park. We enjoyed reading her Slow Ways review, so we asked Jo for some additional tips on visiting bothies, camping overnight, and the joys of having no phone signal.
This is a spectacular but arduous route which should not be attempted without the proper gear. Scotland’s weather can turn fast, Mountaineering Scotland have an excellent website. I split it into two parts, carrying a tent and camping overnight, there are plenty of places to wild camp.
Coming out of Braemar the route starts opposite the Fife Arms up Cluniebank Road onto the Old Military Road, which is really quiet because the main road runs parallel. The road is easy and level and you stay on it for a nice easy 2.25 miles until you come up to a mobile phone mast on your right. On the left at the end of the fence, you turn down a footpath towards the river. Turn left along by the river on a small path over a little bridge, and then a bigger one over the river and up the other side to the main road.
The car park for Jock’s Road is about 100m on your left but it’s 100m of an arterial route so you need to have eyes and ears open.
At the car park it’s a steady climb up a 4×4 track for about 3.5 miles alongside the Callater Burn to Callater Stable Bothy where there is a cafe (well, a man with a kettle who will take your donation for a cuppy). Information on the Bothy can be found on the The Mountain Bothies Association website.
Hereon in, you are onto footpaths. The path alongside Loch Callater is fine but deteriorates over the next 2 miles of level marsh and bog, there are some stepping stones, but at the foot of the climb to Crow Craigies the path is intermittent at best, good navigation is needed to climb up through the streams to reach the path at the top.
Then it’s an easier walk over the top of Crow Craigies on good paths straight on past the storm shelter to the steep climb down Glen Doll.
At the forest Jock’s Road itself is still closed due to storm damage. At the start of the trees there is a track turning right down the hill to a footbridge over the river, this takes you onto the Dounault path which rejoins Jock’s Road beyond the damaged section, it’s all easy forest tracks down to the Ranger Base apart from some debris on the path in places.
From the Ranger Base it’s a single track road down to Clova, easy to walk on but Glen Doll is a popular destination and the road twisty so care needs to be taken.
Thanks for the review, Jo! Why did you choose this route?
I’ve walked the first part of this route before (from Glen Doll to Crow Craigies) as part of a loop from Glen Doll, and wanted to complete the walk down to Braemar. I love to know the human history of the landscape I’m walking through so I find it fascinating that this route, called the Tolmounth or Jock’s Road, was used to bring cattle down from the highlands to the market at Forfar. I felt it was a good overnight walk as it would stretch me but (hopefully) not exhaust me: eight miles over rough steep ground carrying a 22kg pack matched my fitness level at the time (I can now do 15 miles!).
What was your favourite part of the journey?
Watching the sun set behind Coire Loch Kander, having made a very difficult wet climb down from Knaps of Falfernie, completely exhausted, but it was so beautiful with the waterfalls decanting down the crags. Walking into Braemar the next morning was lovely too because it was a gentle downhill much of the way down alongside the Callater Burn, and at the Callater Stables bothy I got a warm welcome, complete with a cup of tea and a dog to cuddle.
Would you recommend it?
Yes, but you definitely have to have the knowledge you need to walk it safely. It is challenging ground, there is no mobile phone signal and it is remote and quiet: I met three people the whole way from Glen Doll to Loch Callater. I would love to talk more about all the things I’ve learned over three years of walking the Angus glens, some of them the hard way, and how aware I am I have so much to learn.
We’d love to hear from you again, Jo! Good luck with future walks!
- Further reading on safety and skills at Mountaineering Scotland
- Find out about Callater Stable bothy at the Mountain Bothies Association
- Read Slow Ways tips for multi-day hiking adventures by Ingrina here
- Fancy having a go at this one yourself? See onward Slow Ways routes from Clova and Braemar
- Sign up for Slow Ways to submit your own routes!
Born in Cambridge, Jo has lived in or near Dundee in the north east of Scotland since 1993 when she went to university there. The last three years have seen Jo “take to the hills” (literally) in Scotland, and she credits them as her teachers.
“I began by climbing the Sidlaw Hills above Dundee close to my house in Carnoustie. Next came overnight solo camping in the Angus Glens. I will continue to return to their quiet loveliness and find new sanctuaries among the ‘big hills’ of the Cairngorms. The wild camping and the movement forward in solitude brings me respite from a life complicated by autism, bipolar and long covid. For the only thing of concern to be the next step forwards. Through heather and bog and forest in the glories of the Scottish weather, consistent only in its mercurial changeability.”