Loch Brandy Revisited

By Ian & Neil
29th April 2022

Del Boy enjoys a wee Brandy

It was 10:20 when the second car arrived in the Clova Hotel car park. We were six Brothers, intent on reaching Loch Brandy, a lung busting hour’s climb above us.

This was Derek and Neil’s first visit here. For Doug and Steve it was a chance to measure their improvement in fitness from their last visit five weeks earlier.

For Garry and Ian it was another return to an old adversary.

Five minutes up the hill Ian realised he hadn’t brought his poles. A quick return to the car park. The irony wasn’t lost on anyone after his lectures on the benefit of using poles.

The group continued up the hill and as always on Clova within a short time layers of clothing were being shed as the exertion took its toll. Garry likened this climb to the Devil’s Staircase, which we would face on the West Highland Way.

Ian caught up with the group by the time we reached the first flat area. This being his first real climb, Derek was suffering. It was no surprise as we had all gone though similar on our first major ascent.

Loch Brandy

A drink break, a second wind and we all made the lochside in one piece. A welcome coffee and a piece of chocolate cake courtesy of the reinstated chef de mission, Diane.

At this point the group split with Derek and Ian returning to the car park while the rest of us prepared to ascend the Snub.

Ian: Derek and I took a leisurely stroll back to the hotel car park. There was no drama as we made our way down the occasionally tricky path, trying not to slip on any loose stones or stumble on those sitting proud of the path.

Apart from Derek’s minor stumble near the bottom, the walk went without incident.

The Snub

Neil: Meanwhile, the remaining four of us climbed the Snub.

According to Garry this was a bit like Conic Hill, which we would face on the second day of the WHW. Apparently most walkers don’t climb it, but go round it. We decided we’ll consider our options on the day.

Away below, we could see Ian and Derek halfway down, heading towards the car park.

Ian: At about the halfway point we could see a figure standing at the top of the Snub. It turned out to be Garry.

Derek and I made our way to the Ranger Station in Glen Doll. We had a chat with the Ranger to discuss how to descend from the Mounth on Monday. The path network through the forest was still closed after December’s storm Arwen. It would need to be via Bachnagairn.

Above Loch Brandy

Neil: Meanwhile, we were at the top of the Snub, taking in the panorama.

There was a strange phallic cairn above the loch.

At this point there was a steep drop a metre or so off to the right of our path. Doug was so focused on keeping his steps correct he didn’t see the drop and fortunately looked up just in time.

We walked on for 15 minutes from the summit before sitting down for lunch. Rain was visible in the distance, to the west, north and east, but we were fine.

We packed up and set off.

Within a couple of minutes the hail started, resulting in a quick stop to get the waterproof gear on. Ten minutes later the hailstorm had passed; it had been just enough to give us a soaking.

We made a slight detour to the cairn on Green Hill and took in the views of Lochnagar and Mount Keen. St Andrews bay was just visible away to the south, then it was back on the trail to complete the loop above the loch.

I really began to feel my knees hurting as we descended. Doug had his eBoots on now and shot off into the distance. There was one more diversion for a photo opportunity of the landslide on the opposite side of the loch. This slide was immediately beneath where Doug had almost walked off the edge. We’d have kept well away if we’d known just how fragile it was.

In a few hundred yards we were back where we’d left Ian and Derek a couple of hours or so earlier. Then it was straight back down to the car park.

The Clova Hotel

Ian: After leaving the Ranger Station we had a walk to check the tree damage before enjoying a picnic beside the South Esk.

We arrived back at the Clova Hotel as our colleagues were coming into the car park. All looking fit, and happy to have completed the whole walk.

Neil: As we arrived at the car park, Derek and Ian were coming out of the hotel. They said they hadn’t been in the bar, and it was just coincidence that they came out as we arrived. It couldn‘t possibly have had anything to do with the fact that our progress was being tracked in real time on the website and they knew exactly where we were and when we would arrive back? Of course not. They said they’d been up to Glen Doll to check out the route for Monday.

Before heading back home we all enjoyed a pint in the hotel, Garry’s highlight of the day.