Cairngorm and Loch Laggan

The Pilgrim has gone to that London with Emma to immerse herself in culture and Lady Di’s clothes then win a quiz.

I take them to the station, or, if I’m more precise, take them nearly to the station; there are some temporary traffic lights in York that are causing chaos elsewhere. The short story is that they made it and the above has happened and is happening. The longer story is this…

…as I drive home I decide to go to Scotland.

First stop is a nice little Marsden’s hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond and I book there for the night.

The early morning’s taken up with a gorgeous walk by the Loch. There’s a hoare frost and the trees and bracken are white like a Christmas card. It’s quite still and all of the visual stimulus suggests it is bitter cold but it doesn’t feel it. There’s a white cloud in front of me as I breath out and the occasional mist on my glasses as I walk into it but the birds are singing and there’s the occasional crash landing of a duck as they hit the ice that has formed up to 20 or 30 metres from the edge. There’s plenty of quacking combined with a bolster full of flying feathers and you don’t need a degree in duck to interpret, “What the f…”.

They’re really strange creatures in that the next duck doesn’t learn and hits the ice in an action replay of the last. They even quack the same exclamation!

 

I spend a solitary hour walking and observing with the exception of one lone jogger, I’m the only one out and I’ve forgotten both camera and ‘phone so I’m left with only memories, I really prefer to have a camera of sorts, it’s my hobby; however, just occasionally, I’d really recommend this.

 

Back at the hotel I feel a little bit cheated not indulging in the full Scottish which is a real treat but I have promised myself some inches from my waist so Corn Flakes and a coffee suffice whilst I make up my mind whether to do the full Aviemore – Fort William run or make my way back via a visit to Glasgow, a city I love and have not been to for five years; for no other reason apart from the fact that I didn’t go to the top last time so it remains unfinished business, Aviemore won!

The morning got off to a great start but now the cloud dissolve and I have unbroken blue skies all the way into the Cairngorms and the snow on the tops shows great promise for my first destination.

It’s surreal where the snow is  delineated with the bracken. It’s quite abrupt, one side of the line is a powdering of snow, like fine icing sugar shaken on to a sponge cake and the other side of the line is thick snow. As I ascend the final hill to the funicular railway that will take me to the top I witness this transition. It’s not like a contour line, it varies according to the localised climate, whether there is shadow, in the lea of another mountain, exposed to prevailing wind and many other reasons so whilst it is quite abrupt it does vary in its height as it traverses the hills.

I buy a ticket for the funicular railway, it’s £12 but lasts all day which is great for snowboarders but unlikely to be used more than once by the likes of me. It takes about 10 minutes from bottom to top but it really doesn’t hang about and at the top I immediately zip everything up, don my wooly hat, pull on my gloves and go outside. It’s really cold but no more than I expected and prepared for. I’ve been talking to some skiers and snowboarders. I’d been told they don’t get on but this bunch seem fine and talk to each other about the best tracks. I don’t do winter sports and I must admit to some envy as they set off down the various pistes, all of them stick to the recognised ones which are well marked and also well endowed with snow. I mention the snow situation to a girl who is wearing a onesie with her name and the title “instructor” emblazoned across her breast and back. She informs me that snows here are fickle and the people that use the slopes can be there within 12 hours of a working fall (her term). I’m impressed but by now a bit chilly so take advantage of the cafe.

The cafe is ‘OK’ in as much as the meals are reasonable in both quality and quantity and they’re hot. If you’ve just spent two or three hours on the piste I’m guessing they’re just what you want. There’s also a viewing area that I take advantage of, before I know it an hour has gone by, the scene is both rivetingly interesting and mesmerisingly beautiful.

I spend more time outside and mention that I want to walk down. The instructor lady isn’t happy with this and suggests I walk from the middle station, it’s about half way down but cuts out the necessity to walk through the snow so I accept her advice with gratitude and take the funicular to the point she’s suggested.

The train itself is quite an exciting ride when it leaves the top station, it builds on your anxiety as you accelerate in a tunnel and exit at what seems considerable speed. I’m sure it isn’t but it really does feel like you’re about to shoot off the mountain, take a look at the video and you’ll see what I mean.

The walk from the middle station is easy but pulls on muscles that you don’t often use as it’s all down so I reach the bottom with the muscles above my knees pulling a bit but exhilarated with the walk.

I have a 4g signal up here so I look for accommodation in Fort William and rewarded with Ben Nevis Leisure Club Hotel, it’s got a heated swimming pool and a gym and its a snip at £50 including breakfast.

The drive across to Fort William is sublime with the sun lighting up each of the mountains as it sinks into the west with an added bonus of lighting some of the heavier clouds from the underside so I take the opportunity to walk a segment of the wonderfully named Loch Laggan.

I would urge you to take a look at the photos. They’re not retouched as I’m working direct from my ‘phone.

 

I love my job! 🙂  G..x

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