Horsing around the Drumochter Hills

The big, sprawling mountains of Geal Charn and A’Mharconaich, above the Drumochter Pass, rise at the very southern edge of the Cairngorm National Park, a little east of the River Spey. The panoramic views, particularly north along the early stages of the River Spey, the sense of space and the chance of spotting some of Scotland’s iconic wildlife means the exertions required to cross these mountains is well worth the effort.

In mountain nomenclature the Gaelic word Geal is only found in and around Speyside and there are many hills named Geal Charn, which simply means White or Pale Peak. From this particular Geal Charn the views north towards the landscape surrounding the infant stages of the River Spey are superb but it is the outstanding view south, along the long, tapering finger of Loch Ericht to the brawny Mamore mountains on the distant horizon that really strikes a chord.

The unusual name A’Mharconaich (pronounced ‘a varkaneech’) has a curious translation from Gaelic as ‘the Place of the Horse’. It is an historic name associated with a time when horses, and not sheep or deer, called the mountaintops and high moorland home (horses must have been a common sight on the Drumochter hills in the past as there is another A’Mharconaich a little north above Dalwhinnie). The view from A’Mharconaich looks south over the great tract of land known as Dalnaspidal Forest. It is not a forest in customary terms (at 3500 feet not many trees grow) but a deer forest, an historic phenomenon particular to the Highlands of Scotland where sporting estates manage the resident deer population – hence the lack of horses today. The summit of A’Mharconaich also grants a magnificent view to the north, along Glen Truim towards Speyside and beyond to the enormous mountains of the Cairngorms.

The Cairngorms at sunrise from A'Mharconaich
The Cairngorms at sunrise from A’Mharconaich
Ben Alder and Loch Ericht from A'Mharconaich
Ben Alder and Loch Ericht from A’Mharconaich

2 thoughts on “Horsing around the Drumochter Hills”

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