One of my favourite runs ever goes around Loch Muick (pronounced Loch Mick), writes Sarah Briggs. It’s been the first one of any distance that I’ve done after having each of my children; it’s the one I always intend to do when I visit Aberdeen; and even when I was pregnant with child no. 3 and just couldn’t run, I went for a walk up there.
Perhaps it’s the isolation of the glen, with a narrow winding lane a few miles or so leading into it, which makes it so special (there are passing places but you can’t just zoom along with no concern for anybody else who might come round the corner in the opposite direction); perhaps it’s the way the sides of the glen fall into the loch; perhaps it’s the reflections in the water on a clear still day; perhaps it’s the history of this area, once a ‘motorway service station/intersection’ for travellers going over Lochnagar or over to Glen Clova. Whatever it is, it feels to me like one of those special places that need to be visited from time to time.
To get there you follow Royal Deeside along to Ballater (where there’s a fab bike shop and plenty of cafes) and then turn off the A93 to follow the lane along to Spittal of Glen Muick. The pay & display car park costs £4 for the entire day and there are toilets and a sometimes-open-visitor centre, but if you want food you’ll need to remember to bring your own.
The run around the loch – about seven miles or so – is easy to navigate as you just follow the loch, but the terrain varies tremendously. Easy, wide, undulating paths change into rocky narrow single track where you need to watch your footing; at either end of the loch you run across coarse-grained sand; near a lodge owned by the Royal family there is a wood of Scots pine with that lovely carpety feel underfoot; a stony farm track leads along the side of anti-deer-fencing from the lodge back to the top (eastern) end of the loch. There are no steep hills – unless you want to run over Lochnagar to Balmoral – but whatever the weather you’re out in the forces of nature.
I last ran this route on New Year’s Eve. The wind blasted into my face as I headed south-west along the lake, making it hard going; once under the shelter of the hills it was easier and there was an especial sense of achievement when I got to the top (western) end and could look back at the loch, knowing that I was at least halfway round; afterwards the wind was behind me and blew me back to the start.
I’ve also run it in the summer, when the water is calm and the mountains are reflected in their mirror-like depths. Whatever the weather this easy to navigate, stunning run offers fulfilment to the senses.