Saturday morning started early with us quickly getting dressed and throwing our gear into the car to set off on our weekend adventure. We jumped in and set off, tucking into our breakfast, all before 7am. We drove through Dundee, through Kirriemuir and onwards towards Glen Doll, our starting point for the weekend. Just after Kirriemuir it struck me… I couldn’t remember packing the walking poles… Stacey was not impressed. This was going to be more of a challenge than we thought. We decided to press on, stubbornly having our sights on adventure and not wanting to do a further hour and a half in the car to go and get them, and were in the car park with our boots on by 8am. We left a route card with the rangers saying our expected arrival time being Sunday at 6pm.
The route we had chosen to do was to walk over Tolmount and Tom Buidhe, getting there via Jocks Path, before continuing on to camp and then head towards Mayar and Driesh. This route is not a popular one, with a big walk in, so we hoped to get plenty of space to ourselves.
We made swift progress towards Jocks Path. This was Scotlands first right of way and was the source of quite a legal battle at the time. It is a relatively easy walk steadily climbing through forestry until the open upper valley is reached. This marks a significant change in scenery and we were glad to get out above the trees and continue on steadily. We paused for a minute for second breakfast and to take a picture of our son as pretty much exactly 4 years ago we had been here whilst wondering if we should move to Scotland, or stay on the south coast. Best decision we’ve made for our outdoorsy fun!
We walked through the upper valley, climbing on a good path until we reached an emergency shelter which sits on the edge of the plateau. Jocks Path gets up to around 920m height, despite not climbing any munros, which gives a sense of the height and exposure on the plateau region. I am sure there have been many times in winters where this shelter has been a welcome resting point.
We walked on, still climbing in a now very open valley until we reached the highest point on Jocks Path. We stopped for lunch here and crunched in some snow, soaking up the beautiful sunshine we were treated to all weekend. The late March to mid May weather window so often delivers excellent weather in Scotland, with very few bugs to go with it.
After lunch we broke off the path and headed to the saddle, before the final climb to Tolmount, our first Munro of the weekend. There were still some snow patches around, but they were all solid with a soft top, making them very easy to walk over without issue. We reached the summit after a final slog, stopping frequently to admire the mountain hares. Our son surprised Stacey with a cream egg we had brought for her for mother’s day. A lovely surprise for her at any time, and especially welcomed after a trudge up a mountain! After a brief rest and a chat with a few other hill walkers at the summit we carried on our way.
Tom Buidhe summit is fairly close to Tolmount so we descended quickly to the bog at the saddle between. We found a great stream to refill our water and then climbed the short distance to our second munro of the day. We had this to ourselves with vast views all around. This was our son’s 20th munro, so we had brought a cupcake for him as a celebration. He did a fantastic celebration dance which had us laughing loads.
As the day was so lovely and we still had plenty of time we decided to push onwards to be closer to Mayar for the following day. Our legs were starting to get tired but, after checking with our son to see how he was doing, he wanted us to push on, taking delight in the occasional snowpatch we could run along and the wildlife around. After collecting water for a final time we pushed up towards a very broad ridge which leads to Mayar summit, and our son chose a camp spot, after we had seen a heard of around 100 red deer. We gladly stopped, set up the tent and started cooking our dinner.
As the sun went down, the stars came out and we all enjoyed stargazing, taking photos and light writing. Our son particularly enjoyed using the big camera with remote control. Eventually, around an hour past his normal bedtime he turned to us and said ‘Can I go to bed now, I’m really tired.’ Moments like this are sweet and stick with us long after the walk.
The following morning, we had a slow get up, and even got a lie in due to the hour change. Our son gave Stacey a Mother’s Day card he had made at school… which was such a great surprise, especially as he had drawn a picture of them climbing mountains together surrounded with love hearts. That pesky wind does make you tear up some… 😉
After packing up we set off again, crossing more peat bog. Fortunately, the cold night meant it was firm and we made quick progress until we hit a massive snow patch before the final climb to the summit. Our son asked if we could sledge. It was like he had read my mind! We had a great fun half hour sliding down and running back up the snow patch. This re-invigorated our son, who then ran ahead of us all the way to the summit.
After Mayar we walked along to the Kilbo path, had a leisurely lunch and decided whether to do Driesh or not. Our son was certain he didn’t have the energy to do the extra ascent and distance so we happily set off down the descent, with it becoming clear as we got lower down just how tired our son was getting. We were so proud that he had made the right choice, listening to his body and asking to head back before he got too tired. A wise head on his shoulders. The mountain will always be there to do another day.
The descent was quite jarring without poles and we were glad when we started to hear the river again at the bottom of the hill. We made it back to the ranger station (they guessed it was us from our route card) who wanted to hear from our son all about the wildlife he had seen before we gladly dumped our bags and boots in the car before walking down to the river to dip our feet, cooling off before the journey home.
Weekend adventures are fantastic for the soul, allowing us to feel so much closer to each other, taking on challenges as a family and working together to reach our goals. The distance we did this weekend was the furthest our son has done so far, and we are proud of him reaching his 21st munro summit. It’s going to be an exciting year!