This accessible route winds through the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate on the southern edge of the Cairngorms National Park, one of the UK’s last real wildernesses.
1. Ancient pines
Start at the Linn of Dee car park. Take the right-hand of the two footpaths, heading north. This compacted gravel path is challenging for wheelchair users and traverses through dense lichen-wrapped pines, rising to a fenced vantage point to survey, easterly, a gully of ancient pines.
Continue on this path, though wheelchair users will need assistance to descend three steps of approx 400mm depth. Once down, the path leads on through one more wooded section to the T-junction of the Glen Lui track.
2. To the black bridge
You have met the main estate track that leads north to the Cairngorms, but don’t be in a rush. Visit the peat-brown waterfall immediately ahead through a kissing gate. Wheelchair access to this sense-stimulating sight is off a spur path just further north along the easterly tree line, but it’s advisable to have assistance for terrain and safety reasons.
Back on the track – follow this well-trodden route used by hillwalkers and climbers on their way to such great peaks as Ben Macdui, Britain’s second-highest mountain, Devil’s Point and Cairn Toul. The path snakes through what was the Ancient Caledonian Pine Forest. Stay on this track all the way to the Black Bridge across the Lui Water.
3. Golden views
Turn left over the bridge. You are at the start of the wide-open expanses that reveal the majestic Cairngorms – immediately noticeable is the pointed summit of Derry Cairngorm and behind this, Ben Macdui on the horizon. The track, along this part of the walk, is an easy jaunt, but allows you to absorb the richness of the surroundings.
There is much to see along this path through purple heather-clad hills. Here, you may witness red deer stags rutting in autumn – their roaring is chilling. Skyward, look out for golden eagles, the young being driven from their eyrie as summer comes to an end. Black grouse can be heard and seen skimming across the low river level flats.
4. A rare sight
Head on to Derry Lodge, a former Victorian hunting lodge set at the convergence of Derry Burn and Lui Water – this is a fine resting point before the return. Although this is a linear walk, the return journey displays a totally different vista to enjoy and you may spot, although largely nocturnal, the very shy pine marten through the wooded walk back to the car park.
If you are a wheelchair user, I would recommend you continue, after crossing Black Bridge again, on the estate track all the way back to the road, at which point, turn right to the car park.
Click on the map below for an interactive version of the route