Whether you walk, climb, cycle, paddle, ski or take the funicular railway, you really should see the world from the summit of Cairngorm.
This is the largest expanse of high level mountain wilderness in Britain, and is only slightly lower than the over rated Ben Nevis.
This is an internationally important habitat for many rare, Arctic species, plants and animals clinging to the windswept summit plateaux, this is serious mountaineering and serious fun. Spot Ptarmigan and Golden eagles, Arctic Hare and climbers!
Lower down you have much also to explore, including rare Scots Pine Woods - home to Capercaillie, Red Squirrel and Deer.
So, you're staying in Aviemore. Well, the chances are fairly good that you've either come to A- spend some time in the Rothiemurcus Estate or B- go to the top of the Cairngorm. You won't be alone.
I hadn't really heard of Rothiemurcus before I arrived, but I did notice a little loch on the map not far from our accommodation that probably had some promise. Little did I realise its popularity. This is a place for walkers and cyclists and they come here by the hundreds, though not on the day I was there, then it was limited to dozens.
Given that I started just on dawn, there was no-one there when I arrived which was good for the silence but bad inasmuch as I had no idea what to expect or where I might find the best scenes.
As it turned out, I spent the first hour in and out of the eastern edge of the lake, named Loch an Eilein, desperately hoping for some still water to enhance the grandeur of the setting. It was not to be. Not, that is, until I found my way around the end of the lake and commenced the trek down the western side. Then it all fell into place.
The breeze that had tormented the lake's surface all but died away and reflections became apparent, doubling the effect of the autumn tones. For the casual walker, this is as near to nirvana as it gets in autumn.
These shots are from the first part of the ramble.
This is the bridge, one of the most photographed in Scotland. The lively village surrounding it boasts that it was the first ski village in Scotland, has the not-to-be-missed world porridge championships and other attractions that pale into insignificance after that.
Erected by Brigadier-General Sir Alexander Grant of Grant in 1717 for estate purposes to provide passage for foot passengers, horses and stock and for funerals to Duthil Churchyard, hence its other local name "the coffin bridge". The bridge took six months to built and cost ?100. The specification for the bridge stated that it should be of "ane reasonable Breadth and Height as will Receive the water when in the greatest speat." And it is - only the parapets of this bridge were washed away in the muckle spate of 1829.
A bridge for wheeled traffic - a toll bridge - was built in 1791.
Thus I found myself on the trail when these plantation trees suddenly appeared and, not long after that, the mysterious rock pile. Trust me, when you're on your own in the woods in a foreign country, it can be a tad unnerving when such a spectacle comes into view.
In the middle of the loch is a castle, somewhat overgrown by nature these days.
It was built as a defensive site, probably by the Wolf of Badenoch. In the late 17th century the castle's defences were put to the test by the defeated Jacobite forces retreating from Cromdale. It is reputed that the Lady of the castle, Grizzel Mhor, widow of James Grant of Rothiemurchus, assisted the defenders by casting lead bullets for their muskets. In the early 19th century it was used as a kennel for the valuable deer hounds belonging to the lairds of Rothiemurchus.
Beside the visitor centre is a lime-kiln whose size and location suggest that, as well as producing lime for use as fertiliser on fields, it also supplied lime for mortar in some of the larger country houses in the area. It probably dates from the mid-18th century and would have functioned well into the 19th century. Another relic of the 18th century is the corn mill, located upstream from the vehicle bridge approaching the car-park. A low rectangular foundation is all that remains of the building, but the course of the mill lade is clearly visible alongside the stream.
I must admit I cracked up when I saw this. Couldn't stop smiling for five minutes.
You see, in Australia we have something we call bushfires. Now, though American TV announcers still haven't come to terms with it and insist on calling them brushfires, they are a fairly serious thing in Australia.
When the eucalyptus oil hangs heavy in the air on a summers day and a hot nor' wester blows in it only needs a small spark and disaster looms with flames roaring through the countryside with horrific effect. It was with this in mind that I viewed the brooms pictured here and wondered how long you would last in Oz with one of those if a fire broke out.
However, it's horses for courses and, rather obviously, in Scotland the fires are of a slightly more benign nature and you can beat them with a stick, so to speak. Thus we have the brooms pictured here.
So, it was the last day possible to go to the summit. We had waited all week for the cloud to clear but it remained steadfast atop the peak in spite of its continual movement crossways.
So we drove up and alighted in the carpark, straight into one of the fiercest winds I've ever encountered. Opening the car door could only be achieved with maximum effort. Paper and plastic flew by at alarming rates.
We made it to the railway station and relief from the unpleasantness of the carpark was omnipresent in all who made it. The railway is the steepest in the United Kingdom and certainly the highest. It's a cogged railway in true alpine tradition and services the many tourists who come to admire the view and those who wish to ski in winter.
Since walking to the top was not allowed and would have been foolhardy as well, we made do with a cuppa and some cake and checked out the scenery from the balcony. I have to say as a view it was only average, clearly surpassed by the stunning Suidhe Viewpoint that we were to encounter the following day, and, unless I was returning for the purpose of skiing, I wouldn't bother making the trip again.
The clouds had been over the Cairngorm early and their movement indicated that wind was about. This was reflected initially in the surface of the loch and, when the trail diverged inland, it was almost a relief from the frustration of not being able to get a reflective shot, not even in the sheltered corners.
Eventually the trail swung between two lochs and this co-incided with the breeze dropping to nothing and the waters stilled themselves and a mirror appeared (pic 3).
No not the high priced salmon stuff (Spey runs through town).
We went to a trout farm (Rothiemurchus, I think) and spent a cheap, fun time catching nothing. We were told that was impossible, but we managed it!
As a frequent visitor to Aviemore I’ve often seen the steam train as it enters or leaves the station, and wondered about trying it out.
On a cold, wet & windy August Sunday (yes, it’s Scotland) when we’d planned on being at the Grantown Highland Games, we gave it a go.
Definitely a fun way to spend a couple of hours. It would have been better if the low cloud had not been hiding the mountains.
The train runs 10.5 miles to Broomhill (and then back). Broomhill is 3 miles from Grantown on Spey, and they are fundraising to extend the line into Grantown. If more convenient, you can start your trip at Broomhill or Boat of Garten.
We just travelled touroid class, but you can go in 1st or in the restaurant car and enjoy a lunch on the way.
In Aviemore the train leaves from platform 3 at the mainline station, and that’s where you get your tickets. We got a family fare for 2 adults and 2 teenagers. Check the website for timetables and more information.
Someone, somewhere gave permission for someone to build a funicular railway up to the summit of Cairngorm - the 6th highest mountain (OK, hill...) in the UK.
It's in the middle of a nature reserve (or is it a national park) and a very fragile environment. That seems to count for nothing in the face of economic progress.
They've built a "visitor centre" - small exhibition, expensive gift shop, expensive bar/restaurant, viewing gallery - at the top. You're not allowed to leave the building in case you damage the environment! All you can do is spend money in the shop or restaurant and then catch the next train down.
Of course the mountain is covered in hillwalkers, the paths they've created, ski lifts and tows etc., to say nothing of the railway itself. All that must be different in some way that I've still to work out.
I went to see for myself, having heard all about it in the media at the time of permission being applied for and given, and then when it was completed.
Trying to be honest and unbiased, its a disgrace. Its an 8 minute ride to the top. 75% of the year it's raining up there, and 20% of the time it's snowing. You can see about 200m (that's right, we missed the sunny 5%).
It cost £15 for my 14 y/o son and me. I'm sure they have family rip offs, and season ticket rip offs too.
The pictures on this tip were taken from the car park, where at least the landscape was visible (but hard to photograph because the car park swallows up the foreground).
Verdict - glad I went to see for myself, but it's an awful indictment of the human endeavour.
The Forestry Commission is a big presence locally, and it has a small visitor centre at Glenmore.
Useful information about the local habitat and wildlife, plus a good cafe where you can take a rest and get a good cup of coffee.
No charge to go in, but you have to pay to park!
You can see unusual stuff in the area. Ospreys are almost common now. My son saw ptarmigan when he was skiing up on the mountain.
An adventure centre set in beautiful pine and birch woods.
My 15 y-o son spent Saturday afternoon there with his Scout buddies, and loved it.
Check out the website for current prices, opening times & attractions.
He said the food outlets were a bit expensive - fact of life, I'm afraid. He had a picnic lunch anyway. You can always eat before you go and watch the kids chuck it up!
Our second visit here in March 09, about 7 years after the first one.
It is run by The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which also owns Edinburgh Zoo. The main attraction was a newly arrived pair of Amur tigers, from the Russian far east.
You drive around part of the park (bison, wild horses, yak, reindeer etc) and walk the rest.
Very good cafeteria to warm us up and dry us out after exposure to the Scottish elements in early March.
£29 for 2 adults & 1 child.
Something to do? Well, if you’re attending a conference it is.
The centre is part of the Macdonald Hotels complex. I didn’t stay in any of the hotels there, although I have in the past.
It’s a 5 minute walk to the center of the village, so I didn’t eat there either. I did have a couple of drinks in the bar, so I know the prices are a bit wild.
My colleagues told me the food in the food court was just as pricey.
So my advice - enjoy your conference sessions, but eat and drink elsewhere.
Should a coffee shop be on "things to do", or under "restaurants"?
Ah well, here goes...
This place is great. Excellent coffee, plus croissants and other goodies to eat with it. Internet access, lots of seating, right on the main street...ideal place to hang out for a while.
Only slight downside is that parking is very tight there. I usually use the nearby public car park, and fork out a massive £0.60 for the privilege.
Its a frequent stopover for me on the way north/south. Good to break the journey, stretch the legs, get 10 minutes fresh air, and fuel up for the rest of the trip.