Day 4: Blair Atholl (Pitlochry) to Kingussie
Breakfast for us was at the Café Caluna as it opened up at 8:30. It was raining and were faced with a final day of miserable weather. The 7 miles back to Blair Atholl flew by but then we were faced with what seemed another 10 miles of tarmac on what we think must have been the old A9.
We had this trail to ourselves, but with the steady rain and long long straights it was a bit of a drag. Had this been the first day of our adventure (as per the trail description) we would have been wondering whether the rest of the Carousel was the same. However, once across the A9 we headed back to the forest track and headed back into the wilderness. The rain stopped and the clouds started to break.
We had no problem at the first river crossing and were soon at the derelict Sronphandruig Lodge. The landscape looks a bit scrappy at this point –the river is damned a bit further up by the foot bridge so the river bed was exposed. There was no ford at the next river crossing – instead a new looking concrete bridge. We crossed at the footbridge (with the damn) and were at the point that the trail notes describes as a little tricky. With a clear need to head due east, there was no obvious path. Following a look at the compass, we headed for high land up the bog and heather until we could see Loch An Duin beneath us.
The trail now changed to single track and sections that were beyond our skill level again (and quite a bit of a drop again to the right hand side). With a bit more walking we headed towards Glen Tromie. There were a couple more river crossings that we did with our shoes on this time as taking socks and shoes off was becoming a bit of a faff.
We were congratulating ourselves on nearing the end of our 4 day adventure when we turned the corner and both spotted the deepest looking river crossing we had seen all circuit. More thankless searching for the “easy hidden crossing upstream” and we were back to realising that “route 1” was the best option. Possibly the deepest crossing on the 4 days this one, but with our new found fording skills we were soon across.
The next bit of the day was spectacular ! The trail notes say the views are breathtaking and they are not wrong. The sun broke out and we were exposed to some quite amazing scenery.
Back on the estate road and we made good speed as we headed towards the turn to Kingussie. At this point the heavens truly opened. We had the full force of the weather for the last 30 mins of the 4 day adventure. Not bad going for October, considering the rest of the UK seemed to have had severe weather all weekend.
Once in Kingussie and drenched we needed to find somewhere to clean up as we had a 5 hour wait for the sleeper train. There are some showers in the public loos, but we decided to ask a couple of hotels if we could pay for the use of their facilities. Unfortunately with a few coach loads of tourists due we found ourselves out of luck but the nearby leisure centre sorted us out with towels and a hot shower.
Beer and food was sorted for us at the McInnes House Hotel before we headed to the train station to catch the sleeper back to London.
Distance : 74.2km
Ascent : 903m
The Cairngorm Carousel is truly a spectacular circuit. It lived up to the trail description which if anything was a bit understated. Very doable for the averagely fit MTBer (two out of three of us are career office jockeys who get out max one day per week for about an hour). Every day was different and every day had an adventure in store.