Loch Callater

It’s always nice to find a new walk we haven’t done before and that happened today with a walk up to Loch Callater. The walk starts about 3 miles south of Braemar at Auchallater Farm. There’s a small carpark there which costs £3. It’s about 7 miles to the loch and back from the carpark which took us around 2.5 hours.

The path leads up a hill initially but the rest of the way to the loch is fairly flat and runs up the valley beside Callater Burn.

It’s a fairly exposed and barren landscape surrounded by hills so you’re very much at the mercy of the weather. You can see on the hillside in the next photo a new emerging forest. They’re just young saplings now and they’re only flourishing because this hill has deer fencing which is also visible towards the bottom of the photo. Deer eat the young saplings and so the fencing is necessary to protect them. If you must eat meat then venison is the way to go because deer roam freely here without any predators and their numbers are controlled by culling. I can’t wait to see a fully grown forest here and hope I live long enough to see it.

A friend of ours who lives nearby had a dog that needed walking so Sammy accompanied us and was very well behaved.

We reached the loch and it was beautiful, hemmed in on all sides by snow-covered hills.

There’s a bothy at the loch which you can use to escape the inclement weather. It consists of two rooms, one with four bunk beds. There’s a separate building with a composting toilet.

There’s no fire in the bothy but it was warmer inside than outside nonetheless.

On the way back it looked like the valley ahead was shrouded in mist but we soon discovered it was snow and walked back through a blizzard.

It’s possible to extend the walk and do a circuit around the loch or even continue over the pass to Glen Cova making a total one-way walk of 13 miles. This particular walk has some history after the tragic deaths of five men on New Year’s Day in 1959. They left Braemar to walk past Loch Callater and follow what is known as Jock’s Road on to Glen Doll. The route goes up to 920m. All men were from Glasgow Universal Hiking Club and were experienced hill walkers but they were met with a fierce and unexpected storm.

I’ve lived in Scotland long enough to know how quickly the weather can change as it did for us on our own walk to Loch Callater. What started as a sunny day ended with a snowy blizzard. You really need to be prepared for all weathers at any time of year. I’m sure these men were prepared but we’ll never fully know what happened as none lived to tell the tale.

Daniel asked me as we were walking how anyone could get lost, “Can’t you just follow the path?”, he asked. I replied that the path would quickly disappear under a foot of snow. And if you’re stuck outside in a blizzard without shelter you’d quickly die from hypothermia. The temperature in nearby Strathdon the night they disappeared was recorded as -19.6C. This is why Scotland has mountain bothies as they have saved many lives as long as you can find one in a blizzard.

On our way home we drove past the Braemar Lodge Hotel which was destroyed by fire on the 16th March. They think it was an electrical fire, started by a faulty fridge. The hotel has been completely destroyed and is in ruins. What a loss! It was a lovely Victorian shooting lodge originally. I hope they have good insurance and can rebuild it as it was.

7 thoughts on “Loch Callater”

  1. The mention of the bothy and the thought of sleeping in it – you could do it if you were kitted out – and that got me thinking of how well prepared you need to be to go walking in the terrains near you. Beautiful but you need to respect it and it’s a good lesson to realise that. My husband had a horrible walk many years ago where the weather turned a bit nasty and they were with a younger guy (someone’s son) who had got himself separated from the group by going on ahead, not knowing the etiquette for keeping safe in a group in the mountains. Everything was OK in the end but you can do without that stress.

    1. Yes, I’m 100% with you there. You’ve really got to be prepared and have a compass and know how to use it if you want to go on the really long walks. I’m not really up to do any of those things, not unless we had a knowledgable guide to go with us. The bothies are also pretty basic and I like my soft comfortable bed 🙂

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