The Conval Hills

A fellow walker gave me details of her walk she’d planned for the next day; it’s a relatively common and laudable custom among walkers – many lives have been saved thanks to it. At one point I realised that as my diary for that day was unusually empty – unlike the following day – I could actually join her for that walk. She kindly agreed and late the next morning we left the car in the centre of Dufftown, heading southwards along the main road running to Tomintoul. Conveniently there was a pretty wide footpath all the way to the Dufftown Golf Club (and, in fact, a bit further on); we didn’t have to risk being run over as was the case much later on. Our route left the road a couple of hundred yards after the footpath ended, turning onto a farm track going up at a gentle angle, through a couple of gates and sheep-ful fields. After a mile or so we reached the gap between the two hills, Meikle Conval to the left and Little Conval to the right.

The latter was the first to climb. It was significantly steeper than the track that had brought us up, and my slightly rusty gearbox was struggling a bit after the rather flat walks I’d recently done in Poland. The straight path uphill crossed a few times with a more winding and zigzagging farm track. Near the top the path joined the track and a couple of hundred yards further on we left it completely and marched through the grassy plateau looking for ‘the summit’. Eventually we walked down a bit to the other, northern side where a trig point was sitting. After taking photos we headed back and down along the farm track all the way back to the gap to break the monotony of taking the same route.

Climbing Meikle Conval turned out to be a little more tiring than its Little sister. The path was narrow, uneven and boggy pretty much all the way up. Going against the low, very sharp blinding sun added to the difficulty, until the ridge obscured it. But we were making steady progress and eventually reached the grassy plateau dotted with pools of water. The majestic Ben Rinnes seemed to be at our fingertips – a common optical illusion in the mountains. Its northern slope, hidden from the sunlight, looked almost ink-black. But wherever the sun lit the ground around us the rolling hills and fields looked beautiful.

We left the summit following a narrow path running straight down the hill towards a much wider farm track. The latter led us then to the main road between Dufftown and Tomintoul, our penultimate leg of the walk. Walking along it was rather uneasy as we watched nervously for oncoming traffic. Eventually we reached the point near the Dufftown Golf Club where we left the road and followed a much narrower, single track tarmaced back road, gently winding its way back to Dufftown.

The walk was a pleasant little adventure; we made the most of unseasonably good weather.