On the trail of the lonesome pines.

An excellent circular walk, taking in the magnificent Ailnack Gorge to the south west of Tomintoul, and then crossing into the wild and remote Glen Brown.
To download a printable PDF file, including images to help with navigation click the link below:


Distance 18km, 11 miles approx.
4-5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

 waypoints1_2.png The walk starts from the fountain statue in Tomintoul’s main square (half way up Main Street). 
 waypoints2_1.png Head south along Main Street. After about 300 meters, turn right when you reach the signposted road for Delnabo. This quiet little road takes you past the site of the annual Tomintoul Gathering (the large field to your left, surrounded by pine trees). The Games are always held on the second Saturday in July. To your right there are some great views looking back towards the Cromdale Hills. Continue along this road, watching out for the rich variety of mosses and lichens growing on the birch trees. Their presence is an indicator of clean, unpolluted air. 

waypoints3.png Eventually, the road takes you over a bridge across the river Avon (pronounced "A’an"). Ahead of you stand the gates to Delnabo Lodge, leading to a beautiful avenue of trees. Continue down the avenue and past the farm buildings at the end. The fields on either side are frequently occupied by Highland Cows. Stay on the track, heading between some dog kennels on your right and a cottage on your left. The dogs will let you know when you have arrived!


waypoints4.png When you come to a crossroads, continue straight ahead and cross the ford over the wee burn. Deftness of foot may be required after heavy rain! The track then leads up the hill and through the trees on the west side of the ‘Water of Ailnack’. This part of the walk is a bit of a slog, as the path steadily climbs up to the rim of the gorge. There are some pheasant rearing pens about half way up on the left. Watch out for Red Squirrels in the pine trees just opposite! Eventually, the track emerges from the trees onto the open moorland. Continue through a gate (if it is closed, make sure you close it again behind you!). The gradient now eases, and you can see the gorge opening up beneath you to the left. Continue along the track for about a mile.


waypoints5.png Watch out for a tall stake standing on the rim of the gorge, about 50 meters to your left. Only the top of it is visible from the track. This marks the best spot for viewing the gorge. Stop here awhile, catch your breath - and take a few photos! The gorge makes a magnificent sight, with the silver water of the Ailnack way down below you. Looking up the gorge, you can see the rocky peaks of the high Cairngorms in the distance.


waypoints6.pngNow make your way back to the track, and continue heading south for about another 100 meters, until you see Lochan Uaine on your right. This is when navigation gets a little tricky. Looking beyond the lochan, and slightly to the south west, you will see another track running roughly south east to north west. Head for this track, picking out the best route through the heather. Keep well to the left of the lochan, as the area around it can be very boggy. Heather likes drier ground - so stick to where it flourishes!


waypoints7.png Eventually, you will come to what remains of an old fence. Now is decision time. Option 1 is to continue west across country towards the other track (which is still visible from here), turning right onto the track when you reach it, and staying on it until it meets the Burn of Brown down below. This option offers an easier and quicker descent. You will rejoin the described route again at waypoints10.png. Personally, I prefer option 2: This involves following the route of the old fence (heading roughly north west), keeping to the east of the burn. The going is a bit tougher, and the path a little indistinct in places, but this route gives you a better feel for the wildness and solitude of this beautiful glen.


waypoints8.png Make sure you keep to the right of the burn as it appears to the left of you. Eventually, you will cross a shallow ravine, with an underground burn babbling beneath your feet. At this point, veer right, away from our fence and aim for a track which is just visible, following the contour of the hillside in front of you. You will also see another fence coming down the hillside to meet this path. When you reach the path and fence - head left, slowly descending towards the lone pine trees above the burn. These trees are all that remains of what was probably a large forest that once covered all these hills. Watch out for small herds of red deer around this area, which are well camouflaged against the heather. Also, keep an eye on the skies. This is good hunting territory for the likes of Merlin, Peregrine Falcons and even Golden Eagles. Of course, heather moorland wouldn’t be Scottish unless there was a good sprinkling of Red Grouse. They will certainly let you know when you stumble upon them, cackling and whirring as they make their escape over the heather.


waypoints9.png Eventually, the now slightly more obvious path meets up with the corner of a Spruce plantation. Continue making your way down, with the Burn of Brown on your left and the plantation on your right.


waypoints10.png Those of you who chose to take the detour route at waypoints7.png will now have to find a suitable crossing point over the burn (10a). Take care after heavy rain, as the water will be much higher - and the banks a little slippy when you come to make the leap! Continue downstream on the right bank of the burn, picking your way through the boulders and regenerating spruce and pine trees (10b). Eventually, you will come to the end of the plantation.


waypoints11.png Following the fence to your right, continue for another 150 meters until you reach a wide gate. Take the path that leads through the gate. Beware - it can be very boggy around here! You will now be almost doubling back on yourself towards the plantation. Continue uphill. Eventually the path becomes more substantial as it is joined by another track that merges from the right. Go left here, continuing until you reach a crossroads and gate.


waypoints12.png Go through this gate and head towards a young conifer plantation. There is a Scottish Rights of Way signpost at these crossroads. You want to head for Tomintoul! Continue along the track, passing a small cottage on your right. The track now veers to the left. Continue downhill through the trees.


waypoints13.png Eventually you will emerge onto the main A939 Tomintoul to Grantown road. Cross the road (with care) and turn right. Continue for a few meters until you reach the right of way sign pointing down a track. This will lead you to the Old Bridge of Avon. The bridge was built in 1754, forming part of the old military road that lead from Blairgowrie to Fort George on the Moray Coast. It was the only crossing of the river at this point until 1991, when the modern bridge (a little way upstream) was built.

On the other side of the bridge are some picnic benches. An apt point at which to empty the remains of your lunch box! Continue to the road that lies up ahead and turn right. After a short way, a track leads off to the left and up the hill towards some farm buildings.


waypoints14.png Continue along this track, passing a cottage on your left. Beyond the cottage is a small gate, leading to a track that goes left. Go through the gate and follow this track as it winds its way up the hill, eventually meeting another farm track that follows the contour of the hillside.


waypoints15.png Turn right at this junction, passing Campdalemore Farm on your right - and head for the plantation ahead. Continue through the plantation. As you emerge from the trees, there are some stunning views towards Tomintoul, Glen Avon and the Cairngorms beyond.


waypoints16.png Eventually, this track reaches the small car park at the bottom end of the village. At this point, you can if you wish head straight up Main street until you reach the square. Or you can continue the walk along the eastern side of the Tomintoul Circular. To do this, turn left through the gate next to the interpretation board. Continue for about three hundred meters and then veer right at the way marker post towards a gate leading into the birch trees.


waypoints17.png Go through the gate and follow the path as it winds its way along the west bank of the Conglass Burn. Eventually the track reaches a corner with a stile leading over to a bench next to the burn. Rest here a while and take in the views! Then it's back over the stile and head up the hill in front to you, crossing a small wooden bridge on the way.


waypoints18.png Turn left at the end, passing through a first set of twin gates and continue along the track for about quarter of a mile, passing through another set of twin gates on the way, before reaching a fifth gate. Now turn left up a wide grassy track between two fields. Continue until you reach the village, passing the council yard, and on to the square.

Well done. You’ve earned yourself a glass of your favourite tipple in any of Tomintoul’s three excellent hostelries! But first, make sure you pop into Spindrift and tell us how you got on! 


To download a printable PDF file, including images to help with navigation click the link below: