Thursday was our free day to walk and we spent quite some time determining which walk to do. An out and back at Loch Muick (pronounced Mick) on the Balmoral estate? A walk up behind Crathie Church? Around Ballater? At breakfast it came to me: we would do the Muir of Dinnet walk around the loch, flat, 3.7 miles, pretty straightforward. Amanda, Martin’s wife, cheerfully seconded the idea and we were off.
Clouds were lowering but it was not raining when we set off from the visitors center on the signposted Duck path that goes around the loch. Along the trail was what I gradually realized was bracken. (On this trip I’ve seen bracken, gorse, monkey puzzle trees, a Vauxhall (the car we rented in Aberdeen), a railway embankment, rooks (heard them, too), and who knows what else from every English book I’ve ever read.) There were lovely views, too.
Moving along… We saw an elegant black slug along the path, wearing sleek black leather above and finely pleated silk below. On the lochs, some kind of ducks – goldeneyes? – birch trees,
stone walls made of rounded stones, and, unrecorded by camera, hares in a field, and birds on a stone wall in that same field that I think were lapwings, I could see a plume on their heads and they seemed to be black and white primarily.
We followed the path around and around the loch, seeming never to get closer to the end. I was looking out for the Pictish cross and we finally found it, quietly impressive partway up a field. I was sure that the path continued below, along the banks of the loch, so off we went. The path became stonier and more boggy as we picked our way along, and we finally came to a broken down fence and thought, this is wrong. Looking more carefully at the map we realized that we should have walked up the hill above the cross, so we retraced our steps and found ourselves on a wide path next to a field (where we saw the hares and lapwings).
As we came to the end of the field, there was a danger sign about ADDERS, the only poisonous snake in Scotland. This has got to be one of the best danger signs we’ve seen over the years.
Of course, by the time we saw the sign, we had already walked through the danger!
On and on we trudged, and although it was lovely it was also the longest 3.7 miles I’ve ever walked. Just at the end it began to sprinkle, so our timing was perfect. Back at the visitor center, we hopped into the car and drove to the Loch Kinard Hotel not far away. A quick peek at the garden revealed these cheerful lilies blooming in the rain.
Inside we had the soup of the day – leek and potato – and shared a cheddar and chutney panino. Very warm and comforting as the rain began to pelt down outside.
Home to the room with its jacuzzi, which we both thought was nice but something we would never use. Well, guess again – we both enjoyed taking hot baths and having the jets swirl about our aching legs. Perfect!
Dinner tonight was booked at the Rothesay (pronounced Rossy) restaurant, started by Prince Charles, with all profits to benefit Ballater, which survived a terrible sudden flood on December 30, 2015. The dinner was quite good and the service very friendly. We found ourselves having sticky toffee pudding for dessert – delicious! And here’s a beautiful bit of salted butter to enjoy: