90) Lock Muick, Ballatar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.AB35 5SU
When we planned a visit to the highlands-we had in our mind a true highlands experience? One of the hardest things for us to adjust to since I became a wheelchair dependant person is the lack of freedom and spontaneous way we could explore. Rough terrain, steep inclines and barriers to much freedom on wheels exist but we hoped to explore and get a taste of the true wild highlands.
The walk from the car park at the Spittal of Glen Muick delivers this and more.
We visited on Wednesday 21st September 2022, a day after the new king of Gt Britain and the commonwealth had travelled back to Scotland, to his Highland retreat, that lies within the Balmoral Estate.. To personally grieve the loss of his mother, to debrief, and hopefully relax after the last 10 days of mourning, ceremony and of course the huge state funeral for Queen Elizebeth 2nd.
We covered a route of 6 miles - a linear route that we hoped would take us to Glas-allt Shiel, the former hunting lodge, built for Queen Victoria. The lodge has a few names, Glas-allt Shiel, the widows hut, or widows house. It was built in 1868 and is located at the western end of the north shore, built as Queen Victoria couldn't face using the other lodge at Allt-na-giubhsaich as it was full of memories she shared with Prince Albert.
From the carpark you head down the road into the glen, across a wooden but wide and sturdy bridge, then up to the lodges Allt-na giiubhsaich, I doubt little has changed with this lodge complex since Queen Victoria and Prince Albert used them prior to 1868. The huge rhododendron plants have taken over much of the site. They stand out harshly against the natural fauna of a wild scottish glen!
As you reach the first bothy bear left and follow the path along to the loch, and hopefully to Glas-allt-allt Shiel. Sadly due to a large rock fall we were unable to make it all the way along this path. boulders blocked the path. It was tempting to try and get over them with my wheelchair and Batec, but! as its such a remote location I didn't want to risk toppling out of my wheelchair. So we turned around here and retraced our route, We managed 3 miles there and of course 3 miles back, we were fully immersed in the incredible scenery. I will of course communicate to the Balmoral Estate and ask if they can hopefully make some adjustments and create a more passable route for those like I on wheels.
Tarmac, then well trodden wide unmade paths, some sections are a little rocky but passable with care. Very capable off road mobility scooters may be able to get over the boulder field that is 3 miles up the path.
What might you see?
Stunning scenery, a beautiful loch, heathers and moorland / glen fauna.
Depending on when you visit you may see deer, fox, rabbits, grouse, moorland birds, owls, skylark, swallow, do also be careful and keep an eye out for lizards and adders. We were lucky to see an adult male as it basked in the sun. (adders are the UK's only venomous snake, urgent medical attention will need to be sought should a person or animal be bitten by one). That said the will often sense you are around before you are aware they are, but please be careful.
Additional accessible accommodation info:
Fully accessible holiday accommodation can be hard to find in the more rural areas of the UK. We stopped at the accessible complex called Crathie Opportunity Holidays. The have several cottages that have a full / proper wet room , profiling beds, accessible armchairs and if needed hoists. The cottages are self contained and a fantastic place to base yourselves for a true highland getaway...