Walk Distance: All routes 11km;
Walk Duration: 3 hours (longer in snowy conditions); buggy route slightly less as on a wider and fairly flat track.
OS Map: OS Explorer Map 388 Lochnagar, Loch Muick & Glen Clova; OS Landranger 44 Ballater & Glen Clova;
Suitable for: full circuit suitable for older children – not recommended with a baby in a backpack as is quite steep and narrow in places; buggy route suitable for all ages, babies in backpacks and all-terrain buggies.
Walk features: Beautiful views, waterside walking, wildlife, mountains, paddling, historical feature, visitor information centre, toilets with baby changing facilities, picnic area.
Loch Muick on the Balmoral Estate is a great place for a day out in the Cairngorms and this walk is just one of the many activities possible in and around the loch. Lock Muick is accessible by road from the pretty village of Ballater. The walk starts from the pay-and-display car park at the end of the road at Spittal of Glen Muick (£3 for the day at time of writing) from which you follow the path through the small wooded area, walk over the burn and to the Loch Muick visitor information centre on your right hand side.
As you emerge from the wood just past the visitor centre, there is a track to your right hand side signposted to Lochnagar. If you are completing this walk with an all-terrain buggy this is the easiest route to take. Turn right and walk along this track and on the other side of the glen it will intersect with another track by an old boathouse. Turn left along this to bring you to the edge of Loch Muick where you will rejoin the walk described below (see bold N.b. below).
For those walking without wheels, continue straight on, following the track as it climbs a little and gives you your first, although a little desolate, view of Loch Muick. This first sight can be a little too bleak for some but the magic of Loch Muick is its ability to transform as you walk around it and it really is worth the walk to see it in all its beauty further up the glen, so don’t be put off by first appearances.
As the track levels out, the path continues forward or drops down to the right cutting across the end of the loch. Walk down onto this path and follow it to the loch-side, crossing a small bridge and continuing to the opposite bank. Here, follow the path round and up onto the track above, turning left. N.b. This is the point at which the pushchair route rejoins the main route from the right.
Follow this elevated track with Loch Muick on your left-hand side, enjoying the beautiful views of the loch and surrounding mountains as you wander up the glen. The actual loch-side itself has been fenced off here as part of a conservation project to allow the young beech tree saplings to grow, protected from foraging hungry deer. At one point beech forest was a dominant feature but the trees suffer in the harsh winters and new trees struggle to grow with so many marauding deer close to hand!
This gentle path continues along Loch Muick until eventually dropping down into the trees and brushing the tranquil shores of the loch by Glas-allt Shiel House. Glas-allt Shiel House was built on order of Queen Victoria as a retreat after her beloved husband Prince Albert died. This is a lovely place to stop and have a picnic, a paddle or both. Those looking for a lunch-time diversion can follow the footpath along the burn up to the waterfalls behind.
For those doing the walk with pushchairs or those who have walked far enough, this is the place to turn around and retrace your steps. For those continuing on the full circular walk of Loch Muick and those who fancy wandering to the end of the loch (possible with small children and babies in backpacks), then continue on past Glas-allt Shiel House and along the side of the loch. The path narrows a little as it drops to the waterside, bringing you to the head of the loch and a little shingle beach. There are fantastic views here back across the water and south towards to the mountains. Everywhere you look, paths seem to be calling out an invitation to head up and over the hills above and there are certainly plenty of walking projects here to lure you back on future visits!
Those with babies in backpacks or very little walkers would be advised to turn back here as the full circular walk becomes narrower and quite steep in places from here, particularly in wet or snowy weather.
Those continuing on the full loop should carry on the lochside path to the opposite bank. From the elevated path here you can enjoy some great views back over to Glas-allt Shiel House, nestling underneath the mountains above. Glas-allt Shiel certainly looks a lot smaller set against such a wild backdrop and less tranquil from here!
Follow the path left as it begins to rise above the loch. Following the loch-side, continue along until the path dips in a little away from the loch. Cross over a wooden footbridge before heading back towards the loch again.
The path becomes a track again from here and the walking a little easier and steadier. Continue along the track past the end of the loch and back to the visitor centre and car park from which you started.
There is a vending machine in the visitor centre which sells hot soup amongst other snacks. It also contains some great displays on the local flora, fauna and history which have been designed very much with kids in mind – definitely worth a look, ideally before setting off so the children can keep their eyes peeled for wildlife!
Map of Route:
Car parking is available at Spittal of Glen Muick for £3 all day. Loch Muick is accessible by road from the village of Ballater.
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