Cairngorm view Edinburgh and The Cairngorms
view from near Carrbridge
To celebrate our 10th anniversary we decided to head for Edinburgh and then continue on up to the Cairngorms. On our first evening we visited a comedy club. There was mixed range of talent: the compere’s material mostly consisted of having a go at the audience (you got a feeling of bitter disappointment in life such was the vitriol), and a class act from Canada and his observations on being a foreigner in Scotland. We stayed in a plush hotel for the first night and enjoyed a repeat visit to the Scottish Museum (highly recommended) in the morning.
The journey is pretty impressive on the Edinburgh - Inverness route. After the Forth Bridge, the rolling landscape of Fife and the spectacular views of the coast, the train heads inland towards Perthshire. The landscape abruptly changes just before Dunkeld as you enter the Highlands. The mountains were heavily clad in snow as the train topped the Drumnochter Pass summit, a stark contrast to the almost monochrome brown of the heather moorland. Shortly after, we got off at Aviemore, at the foot of the Caringorms and home of the British ski industry.
Birch woods, Carrbirdge
moss and lichen in the still dormant woods, Carrbridge.
staying in Carrbridge about 8 miles away. Our hosts at the B&B kindly gave us a lift to Carrbridge. The first evening was provided with grand weather so we went for a stroll in the woods around Carrbridge and were rewarded with a grand vista of the Cairngorm Mountains.
Next day the weather forecast was for deteriorating weather, so we stayed off the tops and headed for the Spey valley. We followed the woodland paths again before heading across to the Boat of Garten and a ride on the Strathspey Railway, a preserved steam line. The line had recently been extended, with volunteers relaying the track where there was once just a muddy track remaining. Though the weather held, an icy wind blew across from the mountains. We appreciated the old fashioned steam heat in the carriages! Back in Aviemore, we had time for a short wander around a nature trail above the town (behind the ‘orrible A9) followed by a warming, and very fine, pint of “Stag” from the Cairngorm brewery at the Cairngorm Hotel. Interesting mix of clientele there: a hen party (complete with customised t-shirts for non members of the group to be acquainted with the
lone Scots Pine: the start of the trees
purpose of their gathering) and a funeral party (no t-shirts, just a preponderance of sober suits and black ties).
Sunday turned out to be the best day by far. But unfortunately the local transport network does not take account of this. Despite obvious demand, the bus network is truncated, and Carrbridge is cut off. There is a regular bus from Aviemore to the ski centre, but the train from Aviemore just neatly misses it. Joined up transport thinking has somewhere to go in much of the UK. We do try to provide some info (quick plug warning!) on Countrygoer
to get to the National Parks and some other areas.
So we decided to do the full walk from Aviemore deep into the mountains. We took a track in the Rothiemurchus Estate
, which took us to Loch Einich 500m up. Now it might seem a bit a cop out not go up a peak, but seeing as I forgot the compass and there was heavy snow up there we settled for the more than adequate 21 mile return amble to Loch Einich. The views were spectacular and the sun was warm, though the wind was chilly once we
Boat of Garten station
got into the mountain zone. It was great to walk through the Scots pines, remnants of the ancient Caledonian Forest. As we gained height the scenery got starker and we entered Glen Einich, with some fine post glacial moraines on offer and the odd ford to test our boots’ waterproofing.
As the walk was a bit of a stretch, by the time we got back to Aviemore, we were very glad of the pizza on offer at the Italian restaurant. Though apart from the manager, the Italian was entirely staffed by Poles. In fact it is highly likely that somewhere along your travels, you will be served by Polish people as you make your way across the British Isles. Our friend, Ela, reported that even during last Christmas, the streets of Białystok were positively emptied of young people. Such is the state of things in Poland now.
Feeling suitably re-fuelled, we made our way to the railway station for the train back to Carrbridge. When it didn’t turn up at either of its advertised times (two timetables each with a different time) I rang Scotrail to find put what was up. Instead of telling me about the late
snowdrifts on the ridge of Sgor Gaoith, above Loch Einich
running train, I was given some cobblers about the next train being timetabled to run over an hour later. What peeved me was the lady on the phone indicated I was not reading the timetable correctly, so I took photos of the timetable to be sent to Scotrail in due course. (I reckon lineside engineering made the train late, but if it was a temporary timetable, it certainly was not to be seen in Aviemore).
Monday we went to Perth, as I had a job interview later that day. The interview proved pointless, but it did provide a chance to catch up with John and Lorna at the Bean shop in Perth. They run an extremely fine coffee and tea sellers shop, The Bean Shop
, and have been most kind and friendly to us. That evening, we made our way over to Crieff, a smart little town on the edge of the Highlands, about 18 miles, and 40 minutes away on a bus. However, on a rainy Monday night with only the odd boy racer and grotty kids about (who pulled up some daffodils - Hey! rebel yell, kids!) we didn’t see Crieff at its best. In contrast, the journey back
was through fine sunshine, as we wended our way back via Perth and Edinburgh, and the dash down the East Coast Main Line down to Leeds.
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