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Last updated: 14/03/11


Aboyne to St Colm’s Well
6 Mar, 2011

Eleven Club members and one dog attended this Cairngorm Club Day Meet on a glorious spring-like day in early March 2011. Billed as a “Service Bus Meet” (you can tell we are a canny Aberdonian outfit!) around half of those attending travelled by public bus whilst the rest used private cars to get to the rendezvous point at Birse Bridge in Aboyne.


The plan today was to make for St Colm’s Well, high up on The Firmounth.


Crossing the park in Aboyne


Shortly after crossing Birse Bridge a Scottish Rights of Way Society sign sets you on the right course for Tarfside by The Fungle …and this was the path we took.


Towards Tarfside


It was glorious in the forest despite the early frost. Birds were singing in the trees and some very welcome warm sunlight occasionally broke the canopy as we climbed up the track towards The Guard.


We stopped for some tea at “The Seat” one of Sir William Cuncliffe Brook’s many additions to the estate. This large stone seat is a “Rest and be Thankful” – take a trip up and visit it yourself (circa 45mins from Aboyne)


Leaving “The Seat”


After passing “The Guard” (a well built stone house) we pushed on through the forest before stopping for another cuppa at a rather grand (but locked bothy) high on the moor before the drop down to Birse.


The forest


Tea at the locked bothy


It was wonderful stretching out in the sunshine by the bothy…but we could smell fire…and see smoke.


As we traversed the Hill of Duchery all became apparent. The estate was doing some “Muir Burn”. Muir Burn is carried out on grouse shooting estates to give the various heather habitats required by the grouse. The new growth becomes an important food source.


Muir Burn


Our Secretary left us near the top of the Hill of Duchery and nine carried on across a 1km pathless and rather boggy stretch which took us onto The Firmounth. Here we met a group of Mountain Bikers who we’d met earlier.


The Firmounth drops (quite wet and boggy in places) before gently climbing to a long col between Gannoch and The Hill of St Colm and it is here, near the high point of the path that you will find St Colm’s Well.


On the Firmounth


St Colm’s Well


The well is marked by a pink granite boulder inscribed with the words “Well Beloved” and has a cross in its centre. The well marks the boundary of the parish of Birse to the south and Glen Tanner to the north and the inscribed stone is again an example of one of many beautifully inscribed stones to be found on the Glen Tanner Estate – many of which are poetic and some enigmatic in sentiment and all by the stonemasons belonging to Sir William Cunliffe Brooks the laird of Glen Tanner until 1900.


Happy Hillwalkers at St Colm’s Well


Trip time from Aboyne to St Colm’s Well today was 4 hours and 15 mins. It was a glorious spot to sit, have more tea, and relax. One pilgrim passed on route to Tarfside before two more arrived from the opposite direction. Shortly after one Sue appeared with cycle helmet in hand and joined us in the spring sunshine.


The well itself is a short distance from the stone. Its waters are cool and clear. So who was St Colm? Try a ‘google’ search. No computers back in his day though. A follower of St Ninnian – St Colm was a 5th Century missionary who brought Christianity to Deeside.

The small church at Birse was possibly founded by St Colm.



After tea, water (and the odd dram or two!) it was time to head back to Aboyne as we had a bus to catch. We found time however to ascend Gannoch – a hill of some 731mtrs.


A short detour to Gannoch


The views on top were terrific (Mount Battock behind)


Heading back on The Firmounth


It was a big sky day


Braid Cairn from the Hill of Duchery


Looking down to Birse


Carnferg and the locked bothy


On The Fungle for Aboyne


Happy hillwalkers at Birse Bridge


“I’m messy but I’m happy… though I may not look it”



After eight and half hours of walking we were back in Aboyne. And there was even time for a quick drink at “The Boat” – we sat outside though it was toasty warm inside. Those who had travelled by car departed after giving their farewells and all agreed it had been rather a splendid day.


The day for many began and ended on one of these:


Bus at Aboyne


And there was also one of these:


An Aboyne sunset


(Here is a video clip made of the day by Garry - – enjoy. (This will take you to another website))

Authors - Derek Beverley
Photos - Derek Beverley
Video - Garry Wardrope