Cairngorms

Aviemore Travel Blog

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The trip was always going to start entertainingly because I realised that Cam and I hadn’t checked oil and water in our car since we got it. So it took a few attempts and consults with Cam’s dad before we managed to get the right type of oil on the night before we were going to leave. So we trekked down to the garage wondering how the two of us would get on with basically no knowledge of cars. We got off to a good start managing to open the bonnet and locating where the oil and water would need to go, and even got to filling them both up without a funnel. We were patting ourselves on the back and screwing on the caps when the oil capped slipped and fell into the engine! Oh no we panicked and hunted around in the shadows till we established that there was no way we could reach it without knowing where it was, and we were too worried to turn on the engine in case the oil heated up, so we pushed the car back in the hope that the cap would become dislodged and roll out, but with no luck, then with the change of light we caught sight of it and fished it out – oh what a relief. By now we had been downstairs for nearly an hour and there was still lots of packing to be done, so we trekked back up only to find we had left the flat keys in the car, OK says cam as he dashes to fetch them, forgetting that we needed the keys themselves to get back into the garage – problem number 2. So we were knocking on the doors of our neighbours, and spying on the garage in the hope someone would come or go, but being about 9 on a Friday night we weren’t in much luck. Cam was knocking louder and louder until someone finally answered and gave us a lend of their keys… crisis averted and the trip is still on!


We got away at about 730 in the morning with me driving up the route to Aviemore. We had decided on a few stops that we wanted to make along the way and made it up to the highlands in good time. We pulled into the highland Folk Museum in Kingussie at 10am, but unfortunately it didn’t open for another half an hour, so we headed back to town to get a coffee, but spotted a large and interesting looking sign for the ‘Waltzing Waters’ so we decided to pop our heads in there and a show was about to start. Around 1930, German inventor Otto Przystawik invented the first musical fountains. In 1964 his son, Gunter moved to the U.S. and continued in his father's footsteps developing even more sophisticated designs. Today, grandson Michael Przystawik is company president of Waltzing Waters, Inc., the world's premier manufacturer of musical fountain spectaculars. In 1979, the newly re-routed A9 motorway bypassed some of the tourist-dependent villages in the Scottish Highlands. Businessman Alex Donald knew something really new and different was required to draw tourists off the motorway into the village of Newtonmore. While on holiday in Florida, he witnessed the Waltzing Waters. Stunned by its beauty and emotional appeal, he knew he found the perfect solution. In 1990, Mr. Donald brought the show to Newtonmore and the Waltzing Waters quickly became one of the most popular attractions in the Scottish Highlands. The show went for 40 minutes and was quite an interesting experience.




We headed back to the Folk Museum it is a one mile long, eighty acre living history site. The site was bought in the 1980s but did not open until 1995 since when it has been proactively developed and enhanced. Within sight of the Cairngorm Mountains this interesting and varied landscape site combines farmland, woodland and open areas. These areas are interpreted through re-located and re-created buildings and features, working demonstrations and live interpreters. We walked the length of the site and had a wonder through the buildings where we encountered many traditional towns’ folk and their pets. The stop in Newtonmore had taken us a bit longer than expected, but by now the ashes had started on the radio so we were happy to have a snack and listen to the updates.

It was finally time for us to head into Aviemore, we drove through the town centre (which you might miss if you blinked) before I realised that I had been there before with mum last summer. I suggested that we head up the mountain before exploring the town, so up the hill we went. Cairn Gorm is the most prominent mountain overlooking Strathspey and the town of Aviemore. At 1245 metres (4084 ft) it is one of the ten highest Mountains in the United Kingdom, but not the highest in this mountain range. It has given its name to the whole range, although these hills are properly known as Am Monadh Ruadh (the Red Hills) rather than the Cairngorms. Ironically - naming the range after Cairn Gorm creates a contradiction since Cairn Gorm means Blue Cairn - taking that literally would make the red hills the blue hills changing the old name entirely. This irony appears to have been missed by many for both names were used in the naming of the National Park that incorporates the range.
Our first stop was at Loch Morlich, the freshwater loch at the base of the mountain hosts a beautiful sandy stretch of beach which is recently used for water sports. There were lots of people in the water, but most of the were decked out in full body wet suits, because even though it is the height of summer, we have to remember it is Scotland and it was freezing even on the beach. When examined closely the sand of these beaches contains large amounts of broken glass. However, this glass does not come from careless tourists discarding bottles irresponsibly, but is in fact left over from the Second World War when the area around Loch Morlich was used as a commando school. In particular it was used as a training area for the Kompani Linge (the Norwegian Independent (army) Company, trained by the British Special Operations Executive) because of the close resemblance of the area, both in landscape and climate, the Norway. A memorial to the Kompani Linge can be found outside the Glenmore Forest Park visitor centre.

Cam still had a busted ankle from his injury a few weeks before so as we drove up to the summit of the mountain we ruled out climbing up the last bit in favour of the funicular. Work on the funicular railway started in summer 1999 using a helicopter to help set up aerial cableways used to transport most of the materials in a non-damaging way. And on 23 December 2001, 40 years to the day after the opening of the original chair lift, the CairnGorm Mountain Railway opened for the start of the Winter Season. The project had cost £14.8m, mostly from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and European Regional Development Funding. The railway is operated very differently in winter and summer. In winter the priority is to get skiers up the hill, so the train takes just five minutes to cover the 2km between the two stations, and each train can carry up to 120 skiers. An important feature is the train's ability to operate in winds of up to 85mph. This is a vast improvement on the 25-30mph wind speed limits of the old chair lifts, which meant that they had to stop running on up to 40% of winter days. In summer the journey is part of the experience and the train takes up to 60 seated passengers to the top station at a lower speed to give you a chance to enjoy the views, especially to the north. This is helped by the airy feel to the large carriages, each of which measures 10.5m long and 3.2m wide, and by the panoramic windows on the sides and the roof of the trains. The station at the top of the mountain is the world’s highest underground station, which opens out to a large restaurant and look outs over the rolling hills. In the summer access to the mountain from the funicular station is banned to protect the delicate mountain ecosystem, but there is a very good exhibition about what grows and lives up there. So we got ourselves a hot drink and muffin and got loads of happy snaps of the views. When we had come down from the mountain the first time we headed into Aviemore to find our B&B, after we checked in we took a skip across the railway tracks into town and holed ourselves up for a drink and an meal. We had our dinner at the Cairn Gorm hotel which was a huge old fashioned hotel on one entrance to the town with a big restraint and a bar. We had such tasty and filling meals that I missed out on my pudding. It was just dusk (at about 10.30 pm) when we crossed the tracks again to our side of town.

We were up at 730 for an early cooked breakfast in traditional Scottish style (although the owners of the B&B were from England) with Lorne sausage and black pudding, before packing our things and heading into Aviemore again to check out the hiking shops. We went back for the car, this time Cam was behind the wheel and went back up the mountain intent on doing some walking this time. We stopped in at the cairngorm reindeer herd meeting point which had a group leaving in about half an hour so we decided to check out the Glenmore Park visitor Centre while we waited. Reindeer were re-introduced into Scotland in 1952 by a Swedish Reindeer Herder, Mikel Utsi. Starting from a few reindeer, the herd has grown in numbers over the years and is currently held at between 130 and 150 by controlling breeding. Living in their natural environment out on the Cairngorm Mountains and the Cromdale Hills, this is a fantastic opportunity to encounter an animal living freely. Mr. Utsi devoted his latter years to the practical day to day management of the project, and it was his own zeal and devotion to reindeer that really made the project a success. Dr. Lindgren supported him throughout and continued his efforts after 1979 when he died until her death in 1988. We had a short drive to the next car park from where we had about a 20 minute walk up the mountain to the ranges where the deer roam. We got to hand feed and pet the herd who were surprisingly friendly. Reindeers only have small bottom teeth so there was no danger of getting bitten. Most of the mothers and babies were out in the field, but there were two calves in feeding pens, one was abandoned by his mother last year and the other was only 3 months old whose mother cannot produce milk.

After the reindeers we thought we should see some birds, as we were driving down I spotted my first red squirrel in Scotland. Red Squirrels are becoming endangered here due to the introduction of the American Grey Squirrel who competes for food and habitats. We went down to the RSPB Osprey Centre is situated in the Caledonian pine forest of Abernethy. The beauty of the Osprey Centre and the predominant draw to the place is its running soap opera where the plot is centred upon the intriguing nesting habits of resident ospreys, on this Sunday the nest had been invaded by visiting Ospreys who had scared off the resident family and the chicks. CCTV cameras at strategic locations ensure you are able to catch up with all Osprey Centre action as and when it happens, and the staff are quite fond of adding drama to the story line. There are also lots of binoculars and telescopes so you can see first hand what is going on out in the forest. We took a quick walk out to Loch Garten as we headed back to Aviemore where we grabbed a sandwich and headed back to Edinburgh. On the way home we stopped at Ralia to take one last look back at the mountains
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photo by: mr_brenden