#286 – Morrone, Braemar and the Upper Dee Valley

The view from Morrone looking west towards Mar Lodge, with the Cairngorms beyond

(For the best viewing experience, left-click the images and maps to zoom in, then use your browser return arrow to go back – go on, it really does work!)

Braemar and the Upper Dee Valley is one of my favourite locations in the North East of Scotland – if only one reason had to be given, it would be the availability of a couple of spots where it’s possible to park a campervan overnight without annoying (or being annoyed by)  anyone else (see post #258).

Braemar in the Upper Dee Valley

When we arrived, our favourite spots had already been grabbed by a couple of vans, but I had another likely location up my sleeve, tucked away on the edge of a wood – it was the only place on our six-week autumn trip of 2020 where we encountered the dreaded Scottish midge, and these were few in number and docile by standards.  All we needed now was somewhere interesting for a hike the next day.

The route, anti-clockwise from Braemar

The obvious contender was the isolated mountain of Morrone, standing 859 metres in altitude.    The map shows a path from Braemar up the northeast shoulder of the hill, with what appeared to be a vehicle track descending southwest from the summit.   The Scots Gaelic name Morrone translates as ‘Big Nose’, which given its shape and location was fair enough.

Viewpoint on the route out of Braemar, with a cloudy looking sky

Looking down to Braemar

Glen Quoich, where it joins the Dee Valley

Part of the aim of our extended Scottish trip was to get around to a few locations recommended for their photographic potential – although Morrone isn’t the kind of hill to raise excitement levels unduly, it was said to have great views of the nearby mountains of the Cairngorms.

The view of the Cairngorms from the slopes of Morrone © Alan Findlay

Most of the best photographers, the ones who make a living out of it, will plan a shoot well in advance, researching where the sun will be at different times in order to get the best image.    I’m more of an opportunist – I’ll research some promising looking views, but then travel hopefully.    Sometimes this comes together, other times the light is disappointing or the cloud base intrusive.

The view of the Cairngorms that we had

This might appear a bit slap-dash, but it makes you look for opportunities which might otherwise be missed  – it’s also more fun, a bit like going hunting for the sake of the chase.  On this trip, the nearby Cairngorms were obscured by poor light and low cloud, but fortunately I don’t need to sell an image to pay for dinner.    However, the trip was a good recce for the future, and I’ll probably be back sometime when the light is more promising.

‘Mist’ and the ‘Five Cairns’

Four of the Five Cairns

The view looking back to the Five Cairns

In the meantime, Border Collie ‘Mist’ was having a great time doing her own hunting – there must have been a multitude of interesting scents and smells, going by the way she was ranging.   Then, at around the 740-metre contour, we came across a mysterious looking line of five cairns.    An internet search later provided the solution to the mystery – it’s probably nothing more complicated or mysterious than a load of stones dumped to repair the path!

Near the summit, approaching the communications mast

The summit is much more interesting, though purists might not like the addition of a communications mast and associated outbuildings.  The first structure built here was a radio relay installed by the Braemar Mountain Rescue Association in memory of Brian Goring who died from hypothermia in the Cairngorms in April 1967.

View of the other side of the mast and outbuildings © Gordon Brown

The next addition was a small research station installed in the 1970s by the Institute of Environmental and Offshore Medicine at Aberdeen University, to research the treatment of hypothermia in the field.  This was followed by an automatic weather station, similar to the one on the summit of Cairngorm (see post #253).

Memorial plaque on the radio relay hut © Nigel Corby

All these are sufficient in my mind to justify the summit buildings, but if you still aren’t convinced, ask yourself this question – why do you think there is such a good 4G mobile phone signal in the surrounding area?   There can be little doubt that the combined Morrone installations will have saved lives over the past 50 years.

About to leave the summit, with the view southeast to Loch Callater

We didn’t linger long at the summit – there was a chill breeze, and one of the few sheltered nooks in the buildings was already occupied by a group taking a lunch break out of the wind.   There was just enough time and motivation to grab a quick shot of Loch Callater (see post #259) about 7 kms (4 miles) away to the southeast.

The track heading southwest from the summit

Looking back to the summit of Morrone from the track

The Landrover track that serves the summit installations allowed us to make rapid progress, losing height at the same time as generating warmth – I bet the researchers who worked on the hypothermia project on Morrone could have told us that, but I already had a good idea that might be the case.

Red deer on Braemar golf course

Lower down we joined a quiet minor road, constructed in 1748 as part of the network of military roads built after the rebellion of 1745 but now bypassed by the faster A93 road on the other side of Clunie Water.   From there it didn’t take us long to reach Braemar, passing through the golf course on the way.    The main party on the course was a group of young red-deer males – I’ll bet you they aren’t members!

I bet they aren’t members!

Text and images © Paul Shorrock, except the images tagged Alan Findlay, Gordon Brown and Nigel Corby, which are taken from the Geograph Project and are reproduced here under a Creative Commons Licence.


p.s. More from the North East in the next post.

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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8 Responses to #286 – Morrone, Braemar and the Upper Dee Valley

  1. LOL to the deer on the golf course – I wonder if they’re meant to be there – good on ’em!

    Morrone was the hill I bobbed up on a ‘day off’ in the area and discovered, to my dismay, that there was a Munro Top I thought I’d done but hadn’t. I was down to around 5 to go by then so had to organise another trip up to bag it.

    I have no problem with comms masts/ radomes or any other installation atop a hill – I think it adds interest. And, like you say, the moaners need to think about what it’s doing for them – quite a bit usually!


    • Yes, we had to chuckle at the deer – I guess they will help keep the grass down but I don’t know what the greenkeeper is going to say about the hoof prints!!
      Morrone wasn’t the most stunningly interesting hill, and if I’m honest it was the photographic potential as a viewpoint that appealed initially. Having said that, it was s good walk out and I’ve now got more of an idea of how to get some decent images of the Cairngorms, and it’s going to involve a zoom telephoto lens. I think!


      • Yep – if the ground is damp, the hoofprints will be terrible!

        Morrone is just one of those hills you have to do if you’re in the area – like Creag Choinnich the other side of the village. That is actually a nice walk and, if you descend the back, you can come back round via ‘The Lions Head’


      • Cheers Carol – that’s Creag Choinnich on the list for a future visit then 🙂


      • It’s pretty much a quick early-evening walk in summer


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