(NO: THIS MAP IS NOT OF THE UPLANDS OF MAR: READ ON! CLICK ON IT LATER WHEN IT MAKES SENSE…)
The first time I filled in a route sheet for the TGO Challenge, back in 1994, I struggled with the Gaelic place names enormously. I transcribed names of streams, hills and villages religiously but their names meant nothing to me. Over the years I have come to absorb these name and to understand what they mean which can be a great help when planning a route.
With the good ol’ internet, there are loads of places to get grips with the Gaelic place names; HERE is one of my favourites.
I had come across one term over the years that I had taken to understand simply as a little stream; “caochan”. This year on the TGO Challenge I had a “two caochans” day.
I came across the first little gem, Caochan Crom nan Eag, before it spilled into Allt Spioradail, which tumbled down towards the bothy on the Dulnain in the Monadhliath Mountains. Like a lot of high moorland streams, at its start it comes and goes, disappearing occasionally underground – you can hear the hollow gurgling noises as it rushes through the peat tunnels beneath your feet.
As I climbed up through what is to become the Allt Duine Power Station, a few miles further on I crossed the Caochan Easg an Lochain, gurgling away from its source in Loch a Choin Duibh. It was another gushy little little gem that I could see coming and going as I looked up at it.
I had thought no more about those little streams since then, apart from looking back over my trip when failing to sleep at night (very relaxing, re-walking wonderful strolls lying in bed at night).
And then I found a wonderful website. It’s name is “The uplands of Mar”. I think Chris Townsend had pasted either a link to it either on Facebook or Twitter (thankfully, usually both with Chris). ‘The Uplands of Mar’ is a labour of love compiled by Joe Dorward, who describes himself thus:
“Joe Dorward is a (ruined) writer with a professional interest in technology, and an un-professional interest in the place names, history, and geography of the upland of Mar. He's the happy author of several (out of print) books, and, as the webitor-in-chief, is responsible of most of the content so-far”
What an absolute treasure trove! The site concentrates exactly as the title of the site suggests; on the uplands of Mar, near Braemar. But a great deal of what Joe describes in this one corner of the Scottish Highlands can be readily transposed to all other areas. The site is broken down into Photographs, Place Names, Buildings, Crossings, Biographies, ‘Navig—Aids’ and Transcriptions.
He describes glacial outwash channels, river terraces, terminal moraines and how they are all formed. He even tells you about caochans.
I won’t tell you any more of what you can find on his wonderful site. Go and take a look for yourself. Give yourself some time though as there is tons of good writing and pictures to rummage through.