Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

It all doesn’t end with a damp start

12th September 2009

Before I set off for Aviemore, a look at any forecast could leave you with only one conclusion: that it was going to be a mixed bag. It certainly was just that, but the other thing that was predicted was that Thursday was to be the best day of my stay. By the time that I got up on the said day, it wasn’t looking that way. As if to prove that hill country microclimates can rubbish the very best weather forecasting, incessant light rain was what was visited upon Aviemore when I arose.

That was enough to inspire me that and staying indoors for a little while might have been a good idea so I undertook an out and back trip along the Strathspey Railway propelled by a steam locomotive named Braeriach. Because I was leaving on the Caledonian Sleeper that evening, I had everything with me, so having some respite from load carrying was no bad thing either. Having been put off the idea of steam train travel by a very smoky ride on the Jacobite steam train between Mallaig and Glenfinnan a few years back, this was a far better experience. The cause of all that smokiness was passage through tunnels and none occur on the course of the Strathspey Railway, so that must have been how the air remained clearer. The best part of the journey lay between Aviemore and Boat of Garten but it was pleasant and relaxing throughout with the rain clearing all the while.

That encroaching dryness was enough to send me on another bus back to Glenmore. Under largely grey if bright skies, I reprised Tuesday’s walk over the Ryvoan Pass albeit continuing instead to Strath Nethy by following a Right of Way leading to Braemar. Starting later meant that I had to restrain myself so as not to overdo things and run out of time or energy, an important consideration when maps reveal places like Loch Avon, Bynack More and Bynack Beg. The weather was friendly to midges, so any stops had to be where there was a breeze so as not to get overrun by the blighters. As it happened, the sun was battling gamely with the cloud cover without much to show for it, so there was little chance of that driving away the incessant ones. Still, I was satisfied with my out and back hike that had me rounding Creag nan Gall, passing by Loch a’ Gharbh Choire and beneath Stac na hIolaire. Even with my thinking head on, I was tempted to go further but I still stopped on the eastern side of the Nethy and lingered a while with An Lurg and Cairn Bheadhair looming ahead of me. Looking up along the glen brought my eyes upon the aforementioned Bynack Beg and Bynack More. Seeing a good path ahead of me sowed the seeds of a plan for using it to get to one of the two summits. That meant that there was an air of unfinished business about my venture as I pulled myself away again, but that air so pithily summarises the scope of my Cairngorms explorations so far.

Looking towards Braeriach from above Glen More, Cairngorms, Scotland

It looked as if it were going to be a case of following a by now familiar track back through Glen More until I got near An Lochan Uaine again but I decided on a different route. Very soon, I got to chastise myself for not noting the gradients crossed by the narrow path that I had chosen, especially with what all that I had in tow. However, that is not to say that there weren’t rewards when the sun finally broke through the clouds to give all abroad a blast of heat and the landscape a blast of life with some invigorating views of the mountain after which that steam locomotive had been named. Thankfully, these really opened out for me when kinder gradients allowed a chance for a restorative rest stop. The hard work along the lower slopes of Meall a’ Bhuachaille were more than repaid. It was all downhill afterwards with the forestry track returning me to the Forestry Commission visitor centre where I considered my next steps.

One idea, maybe the more sensible one given the walking that I had been doing, was to the bus back to Aviemore but I chose to make my way back along the not too exhausting Old Logger’s Way instead. In truth, there is nothing old about this new path/track that shadows the road out for much of its length. It is both cycle and walker friendly and anything has to be better than road walking. One thing that strikes me about Aviemore is how cyclist friendly the place is. In a way, this reminds me of Pitlochry, but there’s more about the more northern stop on the Highland Line. Not only does the National Cycling Route 7 pass the way, yet there are plenty of opportunities around Rothiemurchus too. In time, I might even get to shorten distances on two wheels while parking them somewhere secure while exploring higher slopes. Given that my interest in cycling is resurgent these days, you never know what might come of thoughts like these. My progress along the Old Logger’s Way was steady on an ever greying evening and there was some time for obtaining sustenance before catching the overnight train south.

With all of my wandering along Speyside and among the Cairngorms so far, all that I can say is that I have only nibbled at what is on offer. It’s always the best state in which to be leaving anywhere, so any opportunity for a return could make use of ideas involving first Munros, cycle trails and the like. The mixture of weather left me with no complaints at all; anything’s better than constant damp wetting greyness and I got in some good sunny spells. As it happened, I did have Mallaig in mind as a destination for a longer summer trip but decided that I’d rather not see what’s about there in the less than ideal conditions that were predicted so I stayed east after the delights seen at Easter time. That proved to be the right call and my train journey home had a certain feeling of satisfaction about it.

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