Aviemore, again23rd August 2023
Around the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, I made a Scottish Highlands return. Due to intrusions of life and escapades that convey me to foreign shores, I have not frequented a part of the world that I continue to admire as much as I once did, and there is much more to savour.
The reminders come from my dipping in and out of Seton Gordon’s Scotland, a compilation of selected writings from the selected author of some renown, made by Hamish Brown. This follows my devouring of Seton Gordon’s Cairngorms while flying from London to San Francisco last month. That followed much the same format and also involved Hamish Brown.
In truth, I often think of the West Highlands as being the epitome of the Scottish Highlands, though the most recent incursions have used Stirling and Aviemore as bases. The latter of these was where I headed for this year’s visit, partly because hotels in Stirling were fully booked and that possibly was caused by a Harry Styles concert in Edinburgh. The Cairngorms return was a welcome one in any event.
2009 and 2010 was when I last was there, so my going back was long overdue. Then, hostelling became my choice of accommodation, but the latest trip saw me ensconced in a hotel for greater privacy. In many ways, the ground covered in May overlapped with those earlier incursions.
There was an ascent of Bynack More, made in blustery conditions that briefly brought some light rain. This lay in my mind since 2010, and it felt not before time when I did it. This also is my first Munro; it was its relative accessibility that initially put the idea into my head and not the fact that I stayed in a dorm of the same name in Glenmore hostel. The day improved during my walk, and I might have liked lingering around Loch Morlich but for my feeling worn after my exertions.
That was resolved by going back there and returning to Aviemore on foot to take in both Rothiemurchus and Loch an Eilean, though any sunshine was made hazy by a thin cloud covering. There was a reprise on the next day, while walking from Nethy Bridge to Aviemore under clear skies and in warm sunshine. Other haunts like Ryvoan Bothy were passed on my hike and there were ample opportunities for photography too. What I could have done without was a tumble that ripped my trousers that cast a shadow over the rest of my wandering.
That mishap and its aftermath feels brief now and I might have fancied staying longer given the continued sunny weather. The trousers were replaced anyway, and any scuffs that I had suffered were well bandaged. However, the size of the Cairngorms began to enter my thoughts enough for me to consider hiring a bike for future off-road wanderings. Cycling would make a good way to reach Loch Einich, for instance.
Craigellachie National Nature Reserve was not ignored either, especially given its proximity. Now that I think of it, there were four incursions. The lochans are best savoured in the morning light while going above the tree line in the evening time grants you views east towards the Cairngorms and south along Strathspey. This is a wee place that offers so much.
Further Highland returns are possible. Seeing Ben Ledi in wonderful sunshine remains an unfinished business, as does reprising parts of the West Highland Way north of Bridge of Orchy to get better photos. The more adventurous prospect of a short backpacking trip from Taynuilt to Glencoe or Kinlochleven has entered my mind too. What went from being a place to explore to becoming a refuge from life’s woes now becomes somewhere to experience again and anew.
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