Start location: unclassified road end, Auchavan (NO 191 696)
End location: A93 at bridge over Cairnwell Burn (NO 146 807)
Geographical area: Cairngorms National Park
Path Type: Smugglers' Path
Path distance: 14km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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The Monega Pass is the highest of the Mounth Roads, reaching just over 1000m near the summit of Glas Maol. It is one of the most serious walks described on this website. It crosses a high, exposed and featureless plateau which in winter is frequently swept by storms. At that time of year the path over the plateau is likely to be covered by snow and completely invisible for several months, and accurate route-finding in bad weather will require considerable skill. Walkers should be thoroughly confident of their ability before undertaking this route at any time of year. The line does not follow a visible track the whole way, and compass work may be necessary in misty conditions.
Travelling south-to-north: from the Glen Isla road-end, the way lies clearly up the glen towards the trees masking Tulchan Lodge. There is a plethora of other signs at the entrance to the Lodge, concerning the privacy of the Lodge, electric fencing, the dates of the stalking season and so forth; the right of way continues past the gate to the grounds of the house and on up the side of the river. At the Society's old cast-iron sign at NO185734, the route leaves the floor of the glen and climbs steeply up the nose of the hill ahead, Monega Hill, giving rewarding views ahead into Caenlochan Glen, which is a protected area, on account of its mountain flora. Once the angle eases, one passes over Little Glas Maol* and along the eastern flank of Glas Maol proper to the remains of the county boundary fence. Beyond the boundary, there is no longer any reliable visible line, though it is easy to see the obvious way ahead, along the ridge towards the prominent little peak of Sron na Gaoithe. In mist, an accurate compass bearing will be necessary in order to identify the start of this ridge. By-pass Sron na Gaoithe on its north-east side, after which grassy slopes lead down to the finish. If this route is done in the opposite direction, it should be borne in mind that there is no visible track, until one is high on Glas Maol. Distance: 14km/9miles. Ascent: 650m/2100ft. Time: 5 hours
Travelling north-to-south: the route begins from the A93 in Glen Clunie 12km south of Braemar, at a carpark near a footbridge over the Cairnwell Burn. Cross this burn and the smaller Allt a’ Gharbh-choire to go southeast up Sron na Gaoithe, where there is virtually no path up the steep and in places rocky nose of this ridge. Continue southeast along a path on the broad crest to reach the plateau 1km north of Glas Maol where the path joins a vehicle track. Follow this track south towards the summit of Glas Maol for about ½km, then bear south-southeast above the very steep slopes at the head of the Caenlochan Glen, traversing 50m below and 400m east of the top of Glas Maol. The track bears southeast along the edge of the cliffs above the Caenlochan Glen over the slight rise of Little Glas Maol, then south (bypassing the summit of Monega Hill) and down to Glen Isla 1km above Tulchan Lodge.The end of the public road in the glen at Auchavan is 3km further. From there it is 10km down the glen to Kirkton of Glenisla.
Scottish Rights of Way Society signs mark the two termini - at NO192699, just beyond Auchavan in Glen Isla, and at NO146806, near the road bridge on the A93 in Glen Clunie, 11km south of Braemar.
*From Little Glas Maol, a short diversion here offers the opportunity to claim an easy Munro, Glas Maol being a full 500ft above the magic 3000ft mark. Turning northeast from the summit, one passes close to the highest station of the Glenshee Ski Centre.
OS Landranger 43 (Braemar & Blair Atholl)
The Monega Pass is unusual in that it doesn't go through a valley but over a plateau and in fact passes the top of Little Glas Maol at 973m. This is clearly boundary country - the New Statistical Account (1842) notes "there is a prop of stones on the western verge of the Glassmile, which is deserving of notice by reason of its locality, resting ... upon three parishes - Glenisla, Kirkmichael and Crathie; and also upon three counties - Forfar, Perth and Aberdeen". This point remains a meeting point for the local authority boundaries of Angus, Perth & Kinross and Aberdeenshire Councils.
Like many of these old routes, the Monega Pass is thought to have been used by droving traffic. It is likely that the drovers would have wished to avoid Gleann Beag to the west due to the steepness of the Devil's Elbow. The Monega Pass was probably also used by various people who wished to avoid the more popular and almost parallel Tolmounth. It seems then entirely appropriate that W. A. Smith's Hill Paths in Scotland (1926) indicates the Monega Pass was said to have been at one time much used by smugglers.
At the north end of the pass lies the Seann Spittal Bridge, the word spittal indicating a hospital or shelter. As it was such a high level pass it is likely the spittal was kept quite busy.
Queen Victoria travelled over the Monega Pass; then known as the 'Month Eigie Road'. This was just two months before Prince Albert's death in 1861.
The Heritage Paths project is pleased to announce that Neil Ramsay (our former Project Officer) and Nate Pedersen (one of our earliest volunteers) have teamed up to write an ebook - The Mounth Passes - with photography by long-standing ScotWays member Graham Marr. If you too are interested in the heritage of these old ways through the Grampian Mountains, we highly recommend it.