The Angus Glens, running like the fingers of a giant hand reaching down from the Cairngorm, are festooned with a network of famous trails. The Kilbo Path, Jock’s Road, The Minister’s Path, Streak of Lightning (aka Streak of Pish), Glas-alt Shiel descent, Capel Mounth and more. The options are almost unlimited and the scenery spectacular.
For this year’s ‘proper’ F.B.R.O.T.Y, we made a plan to ride from the bunkhouse in Glen Clova. I had some time off work and had been planning to bike pack, so meeting up, then riding, a few beers and a spraff with the boys seemed ideal.
A fraught week of weather watching was a little depressing. The route I had hoped to complete was looking a little messy, weather wise. I wanted to take the train to somewhere on the A9 corridor, then ride up Glen Tilt, pop over the Deeside via the Geldie Burn and head east past Linn of Dee, Braemar then ascend the lower slopes near Lochnagar and drop to Loch Muick, before climbing and dropping into Glen Clova via the Capel Mounth.
Heavy snow, lots of rain and high winds followed by much milder but still wet weather meant I was deeply concerned about crossing the Geldie Burn. Last year, later in March, I crossed the burn in much better conditions and it was mid thigh deep and running strong. It is a serious and relatively remote river crossing and if you don’t ford, there are zero options for moving east.
Of course, bivi-ing wet and cold, then riding a full day the next day could be, well, harsh.
After deliberation, I felt the sensible option was to simply head to Glen Clova and try and ride some of the fantastic trails there before heading out with friends the next day. So I pedaled up Glen Clova, to the start of Jock’s Road. Famous for the dispute between the drovers – who would drive sheep over the high Tolmounth pass from Braemar – and the land owner of the time, who wanted to close the path.
I have ridden Jock’s Road several times and knew it to be a classic. Out and back rides are less inspiring than loops, to my mind, but without committing to a long route, or the questionable trail around Loch Esk, and out and back was required.
At around 700m of elevation, the snow started to deepen and at Davy’s Bourach, the accumulations were enough to make riding – even with fat tyres – tricky. This tardis-like howff was built by the eponymous Davy Glen in response (if memory serves) to some walkers getting trapped high on the trail in bad weather and losing their lives.
Nevertheless, the return was ace.
After a brief stop due to my camera taking a roll down a rocky outcrop, I reached the bottom and went after the second target for the day – Corrie Fee.
This area of Special Scientific Interest – and nature reserve – is a classic coire, carved out by glaciers and with large moraine piles, forcing the stream to meander as it crosses the flat base of the cirque. The high, shear cliffs form a dramatic environment, that was made more profound by the low cloud and gloom.
A surprising amount of riding was possible as I climbed toward the waterfall, scything down from the cliffs above. Eventually, H.A.B was the rule with some thick plates of ice keeping things interesting. I stopped around 50m from the top, with the trail becoming scree. I had no intention of going cross country as I wanted to descend into Glen Clova from Corrie Fee, but it would have been interesting to see if a trail existed (see part 2) from the rim, although nothing was marked on the map.
It is a great trail in a fantastic environment and with care, can be ridden without leading to any significant wear and tear of this special environment.