Friday, August 07, 2015


Morrone is one of Scotland's smaller hills, notable primarily because of its' location. The starting point of the walk is at a car park at the end of a dead-end-road running from the famous Highland village of Braemar. 

Morrone is a good sized hill, with few exceptional features of its own. What draws walkers to its' grassy flanks is the stunning 360' views the summit provides of mountains in every direction. To the South the Glenshee Hills fill the sky, Eastwards the Lochnagar and Eastern Grampians dominate, while the whole of the Northern aspect is filled with the Cairngorms impressive bulk. The photo above (click on it to enlarge), is of Beinn Mheadhoin ("Byn Veeyan") miles over Deeside to the NE, known for its strange crowning of surreal granite tors.

From the little car park by the pond, a track cuts its way around a fenced wooded area before joining a rough track up to some houses. Once past these dwellings, a green signpost points the way up the obvious track which takes the walker all the way to the summit, via a couple of gates in the deer fencing, a series of cairns and a broad grassy ridge.

Morrone is only a short walk, suitable for families, children etc. It doesn't take too long, isn't very demanding and requires very little hill-navigation. The ability to read an OS map is useful at the beginning of the walk in negotiating the various tracks, paths and building between the car-park and the track, once on the hill itself there are very few challenges.

Like so many other summits in this area (Mt Blair, The Cairnwell), the top bristles with the ironmongery of the mobile phone network. Driving through the ski-resort at Glenshee on the way Northwards, I was aghast at the way the place looks in the summer, when it is very much out-of-season. Take away the glistening snow, and the area is a mess of bulldozers, piles of earth, steel girders, ugly carparks, unfinished drainage works, faded cafe's and industrial detritus. I understand that people enjoy skiing as several members of my family do. Surely though, along with the development of winter resorts, there is a responsibility to leave the hills looking less like a post-industrial disaster area, during the off-season? Today, Butchart's Corrie is The Butchered Corrie.

Hopefully technological advances will mean that grim structures like these on mountain tops will be significantly reduced in size and ugliness over the next decades. Balancing the environment, tourist access for walkers like me, and general economic activity is a precarious business, in which decision makers can almost do no right at times. Some of the metal-structures on the hills obviously make money, and create jobs despite their hideous landscape blight.

Conversely it was sad to see the charred remains of the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel. I remember stopping there as a student for a coffee on my way up to explore these hills for the first time, in the early 1990s. The coffee wasn't great, and the tartan tourist tat was a bit gaudy - bit it was once a thriving little mini-economy. While the House of Bruar is over-sized and has spoiled one of my favourite little corners of Scotland, it successfully milks the massive passing trade on the A9, and has clearly found a niche market. It seems a pity that something smaller, less pretentious and pricey can't be make to work at the Spittal of Glenshee. It was also sad to see the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar looking very closed-for-business at the height of the summer tourist season. The hotel, in the centre of the village, is a huge Victorian pile, which is something of a centre-piece in the place. Apparently, it isn't closed for good though, it has been purchased and is being re-developed.

Dreamy Grampian Scenery in the mist, from Morrone

Morrone is a lovely little afternoon jaunt if you don't have the time or energy for a full day out in the huge mountains which surround it. It is a wonderful viewpoint, rewarding the walker with glimpses of many of Scotland's well-known Easterly mountains. With Braemar immediately at the foot of the hill, there is easy access to the chippy, if like us, your walk involves incentivising children to complete it! It is possible to make complete a circuit over Morrone, by following the bulldozed track made for servicing the radio-mast, back over the Southern, then Eastern side of the hill. We returned directly down the path, as by this stage the lure of the Braemar chip-shop was too enticing.

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