The Grey Mare’s Tail

The Grey Mare’s Tail is somewhere I’d wanted to visit for at least 3 years. Just a bit too far away to be day trip-able, we’d planned to stop there on our way up to the Cairngorms in December 2020. As you’ll know if you’ve read my blog Christmas in the Cairngorms, this trip was postponed until the end of 2021, but we finally got to stop off at the Grey Mare’s Tail on our way north. After so long waiting, I was worried that the waterfall wouldn’t live up to expectations, but the dramatic cascade which is visible almost as soon as you arrive didn’t disappoint.

The waterfall is located in the Moffat Hills and is owned by the National Trust for Scotland: there is a small pay & display car park close to the falls. There are multiple circular walks you can start from this location, but as we were just making a quick stop on our way up to Tomintoul, we opted for a linear walk from Walkhighlands taking us up past the waterfall to Loch Skeen, before re-tracing our steps back to the car. This was about two and a half miles altogether, and took us just over an hour and a half.

Although this is a short walk, don’t underestimate the effort needed – the path up past the Grey Mare’s Tail itself is a narrow hill path which was a bit of a slog all the way, often wet and rocky underfoot, and by the time we were at the top my thighs were definitely burning and we were both regretting not changing out of trainers!

Once you get to the top of the hill there’s a rocky path which takes you all the way to Loch Skeen. I can’t say much for the views up here as by this point the mist had started to descend – but the views back over the valley from the hillside were lovely, even in the dreary, mostly colourless landscape of winter.

Given that the weather was slightly damp (which was significantly better than the forecast), there were quite a few groups of people making the trek up to the waterfall and the loch. Mostly though there weren’t any people to be seen and the mist gave the walk an eerie sense of quiet – so I was quite glad when a group popped out of the fog occasionally!

By the time we got to Loch Skeen the mist had come down entirely and I could only see the water by looking straight down at the ground – another misty loch where I was expecting the Lady of the Lake to emerge at any second! There were quite a few brave souls who had settled down on the shores of the loch with picnics but we stopped for only a few minutes before turning around to head back down to the car – next stop: Aviemore Tesco, about a four hour drive away.

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are no stiles or road walking on this hike, but you need to keep your dog under close control around the steep drops and you may also see livestock. The big plus for dogs on this walk is Loch Skeen and the opportunity to have a drink and a swim – we didn’t let ours in as it was December and freezing, with a long car drive before they could get into the warm, but we saw plenty of dogs (mostly spaniels) who had definitely been in for a dip! The main difficulty we had was passing other people with dogs and giving Coal enough space to feel comfortable – the track up to the falls is steep and narrow, meaning you often have to haul yourself up the bank in order to avoid passing people closely.

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