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Glen Avon Circuit

Park your car in the estate car park at Keiloch just off the road near the Invercauld Bridge, remember to pay the parking fee. On the bike and follow the track keeping to the left past the estate cottages. Follow track up through the pine trees, keep right at Invercauld House following the track all the way up past the slopes of Meall Gorm. As you exit the trees the track climbs in open countryside before dropping down and then climbing as you cross over the Allt Cul water. Continue climbing up towards Culardoch, the track steepens and it is a good measure of how fit you are if you can keep in the seat and climb all the way. When the track is dry, you tend to suffer more from the back wheel spinning out on the loose stones. Near the top the track bears left and begins a fast descent towards the River Gairn down in the valley crossing several fords which always leave a smile on your face. The track undulates alongside the river on the right hand side before a bridge crosses to the other bank at GR 191 021, and then joins another track just before Loch Builg and the start of some of the best single track in the area. At the start of the loch the track passes through some deep peat bogs which then give way to the narrow track that heads onwards towards Glen Builg. The track on the eastern side of the loch is constantly turning, climbing and descending. After the loch the single track reverts to land rover tracks with a couple of fords, all of which can be ridden if you have the speed until you arrive at the Linn of Avon where the track to the left heads up towards Glen Avon.

Cross the bridge over the River Avon and head west up Glen Avon (the OS 1:25000 & 1:50000 are a bit confusing here, as the infant River Avon which is clearly shown on the map is actually out of view behind a small rise, however, trust your instinct and follow the blindingly obvious track!). To your right, the Avon passes through a small but beautifully formed gorge - this whole area is well worth some chilling out time!

The land-rover track climbs then descends on the southern bank on the Avon, crosses a bridge then goes up a short, vicious climb - stay on the main track, following the river from a 50m balcony. The right turn leads into Glen Loin a good ride by itself and worthy of a return trip. Beware when the track starts to descend, as there is a very airy, fast 90 right hand bend which, if misjudged, could prove very entertaining! This is always a slog on the way back if you have done an out and back to Loch Avon.

This part of the track provides fine views west up Glen Avon as well as the northern flanks of Ben Avon itself. Note the granite Tors which dot the skyline. When you are almost opposite the North Top of Beinn A Bhuird there is a small bridge across the river which is the link to the Beinn A Bhuird circuit. Continue along this track for 7 km past a corrugated iron shelter and to it's end at Faindouran Lodge. This location would make a good nights stop over, if you don't mind the immediate hard work to follow next day. Time for a lunch break and an opportunity to top up your water bottles. Inside the Lodge have a read of the visitors book before adding your own comment on your trail of woe. I remember reading a few words from a fell runner who had run in from Braemar over the top of Beinn A Bhuird and then returned the same way after work!

This is roughly the half way point for the loop and marks the start of the worst bit. The fun begins - a loose stoney land rover width track follows the edge of the river but soon peters out. From here, to the next major landmark at the Fords of Avon Refuge, is 5 km of pushing, dragging , carrying and swearing . For the first couple of kms a path of any sort barely exists - either keep to the edge of the river and hope to pick up intermittent stretches or veer off to the right and climb slightly to avoid the worst of the standing water and bogs. Once the aluvial fan has been crossed, the glen narrows into a "v" shaped valley and rough granite singletrack can be picked up. Don't think for one minute this is rideable! You won't be mounting your bike until the you've pushed and carried it along this path for another km or so , and climbed 50 or so meters above the river. A very short rideable downhill (take care!) leads to the point where Glen Avon dissects the Lairig an Laoigh (an old drovers route from Nethy Bridge to Glen Derry). A further short push across peat hags brings you to the Fords of Avon Refuge. Take a look around this magnificent area! A small sign at the refuge gives a bit of history into how the refuge was built all hand carried !!

If you are planning your overnight stay here, there is a small grassy area next to the shelter which would make an ideal resting place. This would also allow time to walk up the loch (approx. half and hour).

Otherwise, it's wet feet time again as the burn is crossed at (submerged!) stepping stones. Take particular care here - any fall could be particularly unpleasant in view of the remoteness.

 Head south across another (smaller) stream and pick up the granite singletrack on the left hand side of the glen, past Dubh Lochan.

This track is marginally rideable at it's lower end, but becomes a carry the bigger the boulders and the higher it gets. Eventually, it tops out near Coire Etchachan the watershed with the way forward taking you into Glen Derry. To the right a valley leads under the flanks of the Stob Coire Etchachan where the Hutchison Memorial Hut is. Over the col, the track changes from granite boulders to peat. How much is rideable will depend on the time of year and conditions underfoot. Lower down the interrupted riding returns. Hurray! With frequent drainage ditches crossing the track and causing you to dismount and walk.

After 2 km, the land-rover track suddenly climbs away from the burn - you have two choices here. Stick to the land-rover track or divert off to the right onto singletrack. As I haven't ridden the single track, I can't vouch for it's condition (although I can't see this being a problem if you've already handled the previous terrain!). However the link to the land rover track has been bull dozed away in recent years and requires a bit of scrambling up the hill to locate it. The land-rover track (and easy ground) heads towards Derry Lodge The singletrack, however, is an absolute gem. It winds it's way through a beautiful Caledonian Pine forest to the old, abandoned Derry Lodge, it twists and turns over exposed roots, darting around trees, with drop-offs and short climbs, a couple of stream crossing and a grassy blast to the bridge over Derry burn.

This is another spot to consider wilderness camping - late in the day the deer gather to drink in the river and graze on the wide, grassy riverbanks. So if you're not camping, cross the bridge and get back on your bikes for the final section. Past Derry Lodge (why was this place abandoned!), ignore the land-rover track on the right ( it leads to Glen Luibeg) And follow the main track towards the Linn Of Dee.   At Derry Lodge keep left and follow the track down Glen Lui until you arrive at a bridge with one branch of the trail heading Southeast and the other to the south and the car park at the Linn of Dee.

Follow the south easterly trail through the forest of Doire Bhraghad joining the metalled road at Claybokie to the west of Mar Lodge. Follow the road towards the Linn of Quoich. From there follow the trail to the right passing various cottages with fine views of Braemar across the river. The trail eventually joins the outward trail that heads up towards Cullardoch at the back of Invercauld House , with a short section on tarmac bringing you back to the car park at Keiloch.

Total distance : 65.2 km

Height Gain : 1,495 m

High Point : 748 m

Low Point : 328 m