Car Free in the Cairngorms

A little-explored corner of Scotland

February 2012 - 

Our trip to Scotland had by necessity been fluid in the planning. As always, we'd purchased our train tickets as far in advance as possible to benefit from the cheapest available fares. But with various distractions of the 'day job' and a house move to prepare, we left the finer details to just a few nights before. Ideas for a couple of nights out in a bothy were soon put aside with sight of the weather forecast. Short of public transport options northwards from Inverness, and reluctant to spend too much time or money on travelling across country by coach, we reached a decision - destination Cairngorms.

Heading down

We arrived at Aviemore Station just gone 10am on a Sunday morning and what a joy to see intergrated transport in action with the Cairngorm bus ready and waiting to greet us - and, for just short of £2 each for a single towards Glenmore Village, pretty good value too. We took our place on the bus amongst a mixed bunch of tourist types and walkers.

After only 10 minutes or so and a friendly chat with the driver, we alighted at just the right spot for our intended route. Even before the bus had disappeared around the corner, we were congratulating ourselves on the right decision - it was going to be a great day! Whilst the Cairngorm plateau itself was shrowded in a freezing blanket of cloud, the skies to the north were showing traces of blue and cheered our steps through the forests around Glenmore and over towards Ryvoan Pass. At the bothy we stopped briefly for a nose around, and were pleased to see the vast improvements made since our last visit all of 10 years ago -thanks as always to the efforts of the Mountain Bothy Association.

Meall a Bhuachaille

From the bothy it's a steady ascent to Meall a Bhuachaille along well prepared paths - enough to get the pulse raised, but in no way technical wayfinding. At about 500m the snow line was clear, almost a contour line on the ground, so defined as it was. Underneath though lay intermittent patches of hard ice which required caution in places where the rocks and paving stones had gathered puddles.

At the summit cairn (810m) the views stretched in all directions, with complete contrasts of colours from the solid whites of the main Cairngorm mountains, the deep browns of the heather clad lower hillsides, the dark green forested hills to the east, and the glorious blueness above. Had it not been for the chill of the wind, we could have stayed the day.

Creagan Gorm

Continuing on our circuit, we headed west towards Creagan Gorm, where the path becomes a little less well trodden, and then onwards past minor summits to Craiggowrie. Soaking up the last of the views and a little warmth from the faint sunshine, we emptied the flask and plotted our route back through the forests. We emerged an hour later on the road between Loch Morlich and Colyumbridge with 20 or so minutes to spare. So we opted to walk a little way along the Old Logging Route to find a suitable spot to hail down the bus, which duly arrived on time, and filled with rosey faces and that pleasing hubbub of folk having all enjoyed their variously adventurous days.

Thank you to our friend Alastair from Alastair Robb Photography for the great photo's. good company and excellent assortment of boiled sweets.

For full route details click here.

Where to eat

Active Cafaidh (Gaelic - Café) is situated on the Grampian Street in Aviemore, above the Active Aviemore shop. They offer a range of good quality, hearty foods, including excellent Tartiflette (veg and meat options), cakes and lighter dishes. Free porridge advertised before 10am!

Top tip for buying your tickets

If buying your tickets 'online', purchase them through one of the train companies rather than a third party seller like who often add extra charges for processing payment and delivery.