There was excitement, adventure and bacon rolls even before we hit the hill on our trip to Glen Esk for the November 2008 walk. The coach turned up a few minutes late but our troop of 19 souls who braved an inclement, dark, cold Aberdeen morning were soon being whisked down the A90 at a good pace. The rain died away, the sun rose over a steel-grey sea and our souls lifted. Unfortunately, so did the bus’ engine temperature which caused us to dive into a lay-by shortly after we had sped past the Fettercairn turn off.
A few anxious minutes later, having turned to head back north, we stopped again, this time straddling the hard shoulder and inside lane as the engine yet again refused to go on. The driver topped up the radiator and we crawled a little further on to the services at Strathcathrow, not before we had narrowly avoided wiping out a car as the driver yet again missed the turn and tried to head down the joining slip road!
After a few minutes of discussion and technical analysis outside at the services we decided to head inside where a new plan for the day was formulated over cups of coffee and bacon rolls. We had a half hour wait for a coach to come from Forfar, during which time we decided to do a shorter loop walk up over Mount Battoch and then around a few of the smaller hills in the area. It was seen as a bit risky to send our driver off around to the Clachnaben car park even if the new bus did prove to be reliable.
The new, much smaller, yet functioning bus arrived and we piled on for the last twenty minutes or so into Glen Esk. We were deposited into the cold clear sunshine close to Millden Lodge and the bridge over the Burn of Turret.
Thanks to our hot breakfast the Stockets were soon off at a good pace heading along a clear track north towards Blackcraigs. From these farm buildings it was then a gentle climb up the landrover highway onto the broad back of Mt Een (529m). As we climbed the views back into a sleepy Glen Esk opened up, and to our west the peaks above Glen Tanar appeared.
After a pause for coffee we continued. From Een the track continued over the undulating slopes of Bennygray (558m) and then up towards Wester Cairn. The top of Mt Battock which had been visible for most of the walk was now close by. We followed the track up onto Wester Cairn through boggy ground whilst the following group took a more direct route.
From here it was only a kilometer or so to the summit of Mt Battock where a stuff breezed forced only the brave to linger. After taking in the views of the Mounth (lochnagar and Mt Keen bathed in winter sunlight) as well as Clachnaben we sought shelter for lunch. Most people had to descend from the summit but in the sunshine behind the large cairn it was delightful and sandwiches were consumed whilst the view down Glen Esk was admired.
The return journey took us along the other half of the horsehoe leading down from Mt Battock. After a short section of cross-country we again picked up a well made track and headed down across the Hill of Saughs and the Hill of Turret. Somewhere on this section we came across our only sign of other walkers on the hills - the words Cairngorm Club had been scratched into the gravel.
5 hours after setting out and with the sun sinking behind the hills south of the Esk we came down into the farmland around Millden Lodge and were reunited with the bus.
We stopped off for a warming pint or three in the Edzell hotel which was cosy and warm. Then it was back on the bus for a dark drive back to Aberdeen and the end of a satisfying day.