Kept awake most of the night by the sound of the rain on the tent, we awakened from what little sleep we had to a brighter kind of day, well what I mean is at least it wasn’t raining. As the tents were fairly dry we decided to pack them up before having breakfast. Breakfast, ah!! well what is breakfast? or should I say what would one normally consider a breakfast to be? Porridge, cereal, toast, coffee or tea perhaps. Well not for us….. cuppa soup, pasta and coffee!!!! It should have been lovely butchers sausages, but they were left in the fridge at home, oh well when in the field we had to adapt!!! but never the less the thought of them was in our minds, from the sizzling in the pan, to the smell and to the taste. Breakfast over we got our gear together, I decided to exchange the plaid for civvies as it had remained quite damp from the previous days walk, but packing it in my rucksack made my load obviously far heavier. Packed and ready we made tracks, taking a slight deviation to view the Queens Well at close quarters, it had also been the intention to visit Balnamoon’s cave, but with the water levels being so high the thought of an escapade to cross two fords and the fact we would have had to back track about 2 miles we decided to forgo the pleasure in favour of seeing it another time.
Some factual information :
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert crossed by Mount Keen in 1861 and the well commemorates the spot where they rested after riding from Deeside, and it bears the following couplet: "Rest, Traveller, on this lonely green, and drink, and pray for Scotland's Queen".
It is also recorded that in July 1618, an early English traveller in Scotland, John Taylor, King James' "Water Poet", with some difficulty found his way by this road to the Braes of Mar: "Up and downe, I thinke this hill is six miles, the way so uneven, stony, and full of bogges, quagmires, and long heath, that a dogge with three legs will out-runne a horse with foure, for we were four hours before we could passe it."
Balnamoon’s Cave is located in relatively close proximity to the Queens Well, approximately 2 miles along the Water of Mark towards the source in which the Water of Mark has to be crossed unless one goes further down the glen where there is a bridge, but there is no obvious path back. The cave is well hidden and even until this day can be hard to find if you don’t know where it is. One thing for sure once when you see the cave you begin to realise and even envisage the hardships of life in the 18th century when Balnamoon hid out in the cave, not so much in a fine summer’s day, but a damp, wet day like we had experienced.
A brief summary of who Balnamoon was :
James Carnegy-Arbuthnott, Laird of Balnamoon, favoured the Jacobite cause and was known as the Rebel Laird. He was Prince Charles Edward Stewarts Deputy-Lieutenant of Forfarshire and an officer in Lord Ogilvy's Angus regiment. He survived the Battle of Culloden in 1746 and fled to Glen Esk where he was harboured by locals until he was betrayed by the local Presbyterian minister. Sent for trial in London, he was acquitted on a misnomer. (In 1745 he had added his wife's surname and territorial designation of Arbuthnott of Findowrie to his own name, from whence arose the confusion).
While outlawed, Balnamoon was actively sought by soldiers of the crown, as well as hired Highlanders. At times of greatest danger, when his pursuers were in the Angus glens, he hid out in a remote cave high in Glen Mark. The loyalty of the locals, the remote location and the difficulty in locating the small cave entrance among the rock strewn mountain sides, kept Balnamoon from being discovered and captured for a year.
Back to our walk, after leaving the Queens Well we continued along the track which runs parallel to the Water of Mark on the east bank, during these few short miles we bumped into other walkers who we stopped and chatted to including a group of cheery ladies with a dog who also offered to take a pic of the two of us. It was only a few miles further until we reached Invermark, the path we were on comes out at the end of the public road from Glen Esk. Invermark is located at the head of Glen Esk the most easterly of the Angus glens which runs about 15 miles from Edzell to Tarfside, Glen Esk’s largest settlement. The glen comes to an end when it meets with Glen Mark and Glen Lee. At this point the most prominent building to be seen is the ruins of Invermark Castle, which lies just over a bridge that crosses the Water of Mark and on the north bank of the Water of Lee.
The castle derives its name from the close proximity to the mouth of the River Mark. The real era of its erection is a matter of doubt and nothing can be gathered from the style of its architecture that tends in any way to unravel the mystery although it is believed to be extended from an existing 14th century keep. Some suppose it to have been built in the sixteenth century, but a minister fixes the year 1526 as the most probable date, but cites no authority. However, this was allegedly the very building in which the ninth Earl of Crawford died in 1558, he was part of the Lindsay family who were very powerful in Angus owning a considerable amount of land in the area. It was certainly noted at a later period, as one of the resorts of his unfortunate grandson, when in hiding from the pursuit of justice for his inadvertent slaughter of Lord Spynie in Edinburgh in 1607 following a long standing quarrel. This also became a retreat for James Carnegie, Lord Balnamoon, who was being sought by government troops after the Battle of Culloden 1746.
It is also probable that its site had been that of previous strongholds, as the position commands the important pass by Mount Keen to Deeside. Although unsuitable for wheeled conveyances, this pass and narrow glen formed a pretty safe and convenient route for the pillaging cateran.
The existing castle is a vaulted tower house and gives the appearance of being disproportionately tall. The only entrance to the castle is at first floor level by way of removable stairs, where the main hall would have been. In 1605 gun loops were added at ground floor level. Currently there is no public access to the castle interior, but the outside is impressive and worth a visit. After taking a few photographs of Invermark Castle we walked on to enter Glen Lee, the track follows the north side of the Water of Lee then Loch Lee from which Invermark Lodge could be seen above us to the right, this part of the estate belongs to the Earls of Dalhousie. A little further on is the now ruinous old kirk of Loch Lee on the left, once part of the biggest clachans in the area it now lies remotely like so many other highland glens cleared of their communities or just eroded over time. It is at the kirk we stop for a while not just to have a break, but to have a look at some of the old gravestones in the kirk yard some dating back to at least the 18th century. Leaving the kirk the path continues to run parallel to the side of the loch until the Monawee Hill 2710 feet shadows the end of the loch with the sound of tranquillity only being disturbed by the cry from the odd sheep and the sound of our boots crunching on the hard core under foot. The day itself was slightly over cast, dry over head with a bit of a heat in the sun when of course it managed to peak out from behind the clouds, but we weren’t the only ones enjoying the day two fishermen near the end of the loch casting their lines from a small boat this somehow added to the peaceful setting. We reached the end of the loch and we became faced with a wee problem, there was a fork in the road and no sign post to indicate the way to Glen Clova we knew it was approximately 8 miles away but taking the wrong direction could add additional miles, we shrugged off our rucksacks and took a moment to study our map, but we faced a bit of a dilemma as our map was quite dilapidated due to have being soaked the day before so it didn’t show us what we needed to see. Just as we were deliberating which route to go luck shown on us when we heard the sound of an engine coming closer and then the wee red van of a postie appeared. Flagging him down we tell him of our circumstance and lucky enough being a bit of a hill walker himself, although a bit unsure of where the path to Clova actually was he indicated by pointing to a gully the direction he thought we should be taking, which happened to be the track on the left. This was confirmed on his return from delivering to the farm when he stated he saw a sign saying Glen Clova just past the farm buildings. We follow the track to the left crossing over a wooden bridge spanning the Water of Lee towards the farm called Inchgrundle, as he said we saw the sign indicating we were on the right route. The path enters a wooded area and begins to incline to what is called the Shank of Inchgrundle, but was quite wet under foot with water running down between the hard core but this enabled us to keep our feet dry to a certain extent. The path followed the Burn of Inchgrundle to our right as we climbed and at that stage we were hoping that the path would remain the same all the way to Clova, but this was short lived and after climbing only a few hundred feet the path evaporated all together into the heather, following the instructions given by the postie and without realising it we had gone slightly off route following the line of the Burn of Tarsen. We had the inclination we had deviated from the direction we needed to go in and altered course. As we knew we needed to reach the top of the hill to get some bearings and possibly a view of Loch Brandy so we kept on ascending over the grouse moor of heather which soon became mixed with soft sodden sponge like vegetation. I felt my socks being saturated with water and decided to remove my boots thinking it was going to be better walking in my bare feet, bad mistake…… as the branches of the heather just cut and bruised them, so I relented to putting my boots back on without the socks, James on the other hand stuck with what he had on persevering with sodden foot wear. Carrying on up the hill now following a mixture of sheep trails and just heather and slightly disorientated, James and I took our minds off the situation by having a laugh at the thought of one of our friends Niven Robertson who walks about almost everywhere shoeless and wondered if he would be able to cope with the sharpness and coarseness of the heather attacking his feet. With no sign of anything like a path we continued to go uphill now having climbed at least 1000 feet we hoped to at least get a glimpse of some point of bearing on our map, but the climb uphill seemed endless particularly as we were just either tramping over heather, sponge like moss or crossing burns. When we thought we were nearing the top there was another hill behind it, this went on for what must have been miles and when we thought things couldn’t get worse it did, the further we went uphill the more bogs we came across, with all the rain that there had been it made the peaty bogs really soft and hazardous which made us not only chose our route ahead carefully, but step, jump or leap between them like little islands, this added a good bit of extra time, time we couldn’t really afford. The deer must have had a laugh at us though as there were plenty the higher we got, big herds of at least 50 running away from us as we got closer, which we were thankful of. That’s the thing with hill climbing the higher one gets the more tranquil it becomes and climates change which brings sites of different species of birds and animals such as hares and black grouse many of which we saw. Anyway between soaking wet feet and enduring the obstacles of bogs etc it was quite soul destroying but we were driven on by the fact there was no feasible place to pitch a tent even if we wanted to. Not knowing exactly how many miles we had actually walked or how many we had to go as well as being slightly disorientated we started taking into account the time and pitching a tent for the night turned out to be a real consideration. Finally we saw a boundary fence in the distance and decided it a good idea to head for it and follow it, this would lead us up hill and we then began to get views of the country side around us, Mount Keen in the distance behind us even the north east coast line. By this time we realised we had no chance of making Glen Clova in daylight so decided it best to find as dry an area as possible and pitch up for the night. Being near the top of the hill we were slightly exposed to the wind which made putting up our tents a bit of fun, not the only fun and games though, as James was putting his tent up one of his poles snapped which would make it impossible to erect it properly, so we thought it the best idea to just use the one tent, with being a 1-2 man tent it now made our accommodation rather restricted to say the least particularly with all our gear as well, but we did it. Being quite windy outside we decided to enclose ourselves in the shelter of the tent and relent to having an early night…… It’s probably one of the earliest nights I have ever had.
Click here for Day 3