Date: 21st July 2012
Time: 4hrs 30min
Hills: Craig Maskeldie
Weather: A warm, humid summer's day with rain on and off
Route: View on OS Maps
Well, it had been several weeks since my last drenching in the Scottish hills. Saturday rolled around and I had a free afternoon so the bag was packed, sandwiches were made and I was heading down the road to pay another visit to the Angus Glens. Around this time last year my girlfriend and I had enjoyed a wander down Loch Lee and enjoyed views of the craggy hills which crowd in around the Water of Lee. We hadn't been up the hills on that occassion (there was a barbeque to enjoy, after all) and since those views I had been keen to get back and take in a few of the summits. Although I have a long route planned out I ended up just doing a short walk today, mainly because the weather really wasn't very enjoyable.
I drove down Glen Esk in heavy rain, the road rapidly turning into a series of deep pools and streams. The hills were shrouded from view and I was feeling quite glum. Happily, after Tarfside the rain eased off and the views returned and I found the Glen Mark carpark almost full. There were kids running around playing football and the smell of food wafting up from the river. I parked the car in the last available space and was quickly off, hoping to get away before the rain returned and disuaded me.
I almost made it through the woods before the rain returned but when it did it was heavy. I stopped to don a waterproof and stow away the camera before continuing on. At the end of Loch Lee, beside the cemetary and ruined church I stood on the shingled shore staring out across the waters that reverberated with the splashing of raindrops. There was barely a breeze and clouds of midges were doing their best to withstand the downpour.
I continued and a couple of kilometres later as I passed the end of the loch the rain finally abated. It was humid and I was soon stopping again to take off my waterproof. This pattern would continue. After passing the Inchgrundle turn off I continued on the substantial vehicle track which parallels the Water of Lee. The impressive cragged sides of Craig Maskeldie and Hunt Hill dominated the views until they were shrouded in the next shower.
The rain eased again as I reached the linn where the Water of Lee tumbles down to the floodplain. Here I decided to stop for lunch whilst the weather was good. The linn offers plenty of interesting photos opportunities as the water tumbles down between several layers of rock.
After a sandwich I headed up to the bridge and crossed over to the west bank of the Water of Lee. A muddy track led over the shoulder of the hill before dropping back down to the grassy flats where it was now just a short walk in pleasant sunshine across to the falls of Unich.
I'm sure this is an impressive waterfall year-round but with all the recent rain it was swollen to a mighty roar tumbling over a shelf of rock far above me. Spray kicked off the foot of the falls catching the sunlight.
I left the falls behind and began to climb up besides the stream, following a track that zig-zagged its wayaround a number of rocky outcrops to reach a narrow valley nestled between Hunt Hill and Craig Maskeldie.
The gradient eased slightly along the valley floor but then kicked again as the narrow path climbed up to reach the more open moorland. The climb was fun but without any air movement it was hot and humid and I was ready for a drink by the time I came out just below the Falls of Damff.
The track up here was very boggy in places but after passing the impressive falls, which again tumble down quite a height, I crossed the river by another estate bridge and backtracked slightly to get a more extensive view of the waterfall from the slopes of Craig Maskeldie.
I now headed up rough, trackless slopes towards the summit of Craig Maskeldie. I contoured north and soon came to the edge of the crags overlooking the Water of Mark. A tiny spur led out over the precipice and I stood on the edge gazing out across the wide country north to the Deeside hills.
It was then a short climb up to the summit cairn and then it was slightly east to get the full views down the Water of Lee to Loch Lee itself. It was a little breezy up here and there were spits of rain in the air but I put my windshirt on and sat down on the edge looking out over at the views as I munched on the rest of my lunch.
The views came and went, across to Mount Keen which was rapidly attracting cloud and further west to Lochnagar and the hills of the eastern Cairngorms, the tors on Ben Avon a distinct sight.
Sun broke across the hills above Loch Lee but I was hit by another shower which got me packing up and moving on. I now bobbled along the lumpy, undulating plateau which marks the long summit of Craig Maskeldie. Initially I followed the leading edge of the crags, until steep ground above Carlochy forced me upwards where I struck a path winding its way on the firmer ground.
The sun was back out and I thoroughly enjoyed taking my time on this stretch, pausing often to take a photo and enjoy the peace. Showers could be seen shrouding Mount Battock and the hills towards the coast.
Occassionaly the track wound around a pool of still water surrounded by bog cotton and other delicate wild flowers. The extensive views across the Angus Hills were superb, the low grey clouds lending a sense of drama to this wide, rolling landscape.
It was now just a short distance to the final top, named Cairn Lick on the map, and the point at which I would rejoin a landrover track to take me back to the glen.
The track drops down a gentle rib of hillside aimed almost directly at Loch Lee. The clouds now seemed to be rolling in once again and I was glad to be heading back down to the glen. As the track neared the end of the ridge it dropped off to the south, falling in a series of zig-zags to the woods around Inchgrundle.
After passing the farm buildings I crossed the flats to reach the outward track just beyond the end of the loch. Happily it stayed dry and so I wandered back along the loch enjoying the views. A pair of fishermen were out plying the waters in a small boat.
At the far end I once again paused on the beach, conditions much more clement this time. A breeze ruffled the surface of the loch and it looked like it wouldn't be long before the rain was back. Eventually I turned away from the water and wandered along the road to the car, to the drive home, dinner and a fine Saturday evening.