My report of a walk of the Corbetts Culardoch and Creag an Dail Bheag, from Keiloch, near Braemar in Aberdeenshire.
Where’s the summit?
Many mountain summits are marked with a trig pillar or an obvious cairn. On some occasions, such as when walking The Fara, near Dalwhinnie, the cairn is not the true summit and this might be because the mountain has been remeasured since the marker was created.
I have also walked a number of Donalds (mountains in southern Scotland with a summit of between 2000ft and 2500ft) with my friend Ben, who is a Donalds compleator, and struggled to know where the true highest point is.
Finding the actual top of the first Corbett, Creag an Dail Bheag at 863m, on Sunday from Braemar proved to the most challenging part of the 24km walk.
But let me start at the beginning…
Keiloch to Creag an Dail Bheag
A car park at Keiloch (daily charge £3.50) is the start of the double Corbett circuit (and also the start of the more popular mountain, the Munro Beinn a’ Bhùird). Since there were plenty of cars parked and my friend Ben and I saw no-one else on our walk, I can only assume most people were heading for Beinn a’ Bhùird or perhaps one of the woodland trails near Invercauld House.
The route begins on a wide track and soon heads through a large area of woods with heather-covered ground and poker-straight pines. The track continues northwards into open moorland before taking a turn west and on to a mostly pathless terrain of thick heather.
The ascent remained fairly steady for most of the climb towards the first high point of Carn Liath at 861m although our pace was slowed by the deep vegetation. As we ascended, the views over the wider landscape of Aberdeenshire revealed themselves and showcased many surrounding peaks.
Carn Liath was, in fact, the named Corbett until its western summit was found to be a little taller.
From Carn Liath, Ben and I tracked north-westerly, first descending for a few hundred metres before walking uphill again. From Carn Liath, it had not been easy to spot our Corbett summit and as we walked on and reached a small cairn that appeared to mark the top, we checked the map only to discover we were still shy of the true high point.
Looking across the summit plateau, Ben and I were undecided where to walk and where the high point might be so we continued north-west reaching another high point, only to check the map again and discover this still wasn’t the exact top.
So, again, we continued further north-west to reach another high point. In these situations, I always think it’s best to cover all high points on a plateau just to be sure I’ve actually bagged the true summit.
The Corbett is now called Creag an Dail Bheag, rather than Carn Liath, taking its name from the crag below.
The search for the summit reminded me of several walks on Donalds, when Ben and I covered much ground making sure we had actually reached the true top. The mountain offered lovely views of Ben Avon and Beinn a’Bhuird.
Creag an Dail Bheag to Culardoch
To reach the second Corbett, Culardoch, Ben and I retraced our steps to Carn Liath then walked eastwards. The next Corbett was obvious, although quite far away, and checking my watch I realised we had not yet walked half the expected total distance.
We descended on rough ground to 650m at Bealach Dearg and joined a wide track. The track staying on the track for about 700m before we once again headed off-trod and started the steeper climb to Culardoch.
We cam across a collection of mesh and plastic cloches covering heather on the moorland. It looked like there was some sort of experiment on the growth of the vegetation. Does anyone know what this is about?
At higher elevation, we found a path and mostly stuck to this. Brilliantly, the summit at 900m was marked by an obvious trig pillar. Superb views extended across Aberdeenshire and we looked east towards Morven (our goal for the next day) and south to Lochnagar, where had walked only a a few weeks earlier.
The tors of the mountain range of Ben Avon looked small although prominent from where we sat to eat a second lunch.
Return to Keiloch
It’s possible to return to Bealach Dearg to rejoin the track and complete the walk back to Keiloch, or to head more directly south-east from Culardoch summit. Ben and I chose the latter.
Having walked many Corbetts, we are used to tramping over thick vegetation and the downhill is usually easier than the uphill so it seemed like no time at all before we were approaching a track lower down the glen.
This track through Glen Feardar took us south-west to join the original track we had walked on at the start of the circuit. Because we were enjoying our conversation, we overshot the turning back towards the house and ended up on a very pleasant trail further west. It’s always good to explore more paths if there is an option, rather than following the return route exactly.
Once again, we walked through the beautiful woodland and regained the car park.
Creag an Dail Bheag and Culardoch route details
The double Corbett circuit was satisfying although not remarkable. It was the vistas of the mountains all around that made it more rewarding.
Route: OS Maps.
Total ascent: 991m
Corbetts bagged: 126 & 127.