Lairig An Laoigh Drove Road
Start location: Derry Lodge (NO 040 934)
End location: Strath Nethy (NJ 024 104)
Geographical area: Cairngorms National Park
Path Type: Drove Road
Path distance: 19km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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This route is a rough, unmade, mountain path, consisting of rough boulders and stones, wet in places. It is well-trodden and, therefore, clearly visible throughout its length, and the line is determined by the major mountain slopes on either side. The major consideration for walkers is the river crossing at the Fords of Avon, which can be impassable in spate conditions.
Just beyond Derry Lodge cross the footbridge* and continue up Glen Derry, at first on the west side of the Derry Burn through a beautiful remnant of the Old Caledonian forest, then on the east side having used the bridge at Derry Dam. At the foot of Coire Etchachan the path to Ben Macdui strikes off to the left. For Nethybridge keep straight on up to the pass (745m) and descend by the Dubh Lochan to the Fords of Avon, where the ford may be deep and dangerous at times of high water.
Keeping north, the path in another 2km passes Lochan a’ Bhainne and reaches the headwaters of the Water of Caiplich, which flows down to Tomintoul. Care must be taken to follow the path when it goes uphill over the east shoulder of Bynack More at a height of 774m. From there the route goes NW across the wide slopes of Coire Odhar and over the highest point of the route at 790m on the north ridge of Bynack More. It is imperative not to stray eastwards from the path in this area. Then descend 350m along the path to the River Nethy, crossed by the footbridge at Bynack Stable. From here a track can be followed WNW past Loch a’ Gharbh-Choire. Just beyond there the Thieves' Road is met and the way divides.
Turning to the right go north past Ryvoan Bothy to Forest Lodge, where there are several roads and tracks in Abernethy Forest, but by keeping north there is no difficulty in reaching Nethy Bridge by Dell Lodge. Turning left instead, the way leads southwest through Ryvoan Pass. This route past An Lochan Uaine, which lives up to its name as the green lochan, to the end of the public road at Glenmore Lodge gives a much shorter end to this long walk - 2km beyond the lodge, Loch Morlich is reached from where there is a bus service to Aviemore.
*In August 2014 the footbridge over the Derry Burn near Derry Lodge was swept away and an alternative route using the path on the east side of the burn between the lodge and Derry Dam was also washed out in parts. ScotWays launched the Donald Bennet Memorial Appeal to raise funds to replace the bridge. Initially, a temporary bridge was installed (late April 2015), but having survived the subsequent New Year floods, it was decided to make this the permanent replacement.
OS Landranger 36 (Grantown, Aviemore & Cairngorm area)
This is an old drove road passing through the heart of the eastern Cairngorms. It would have been one of the arteries of the droving trade and, when droving was at its peak, must have seen thousands of cattle passing every year. The Lairig an Laoigh (Calves Pass) is lower than the Lairig Ghru to its west; its name reflects that calves were driven through here, avoiding the more elevated pass. It would have been used mainly by drovers trying to get to Braemar from Aviemore or Nethybridge.
It may not seem like a very good valley for droving, but that is because until droving died out local people were paid to go into the Cairngorm glens and clear the boulders to the side - clearly a practice no longer followed.