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!

A festive escapade

20th January 2024

For various reasons, there has been a festive season getaway for me since 2018/9 when I spent the New Year period on Tenerife. 2019/20 was forestalled by the need to secure some freelance work, and the pandemic intruded after that. Thus, it was not before time that I did something different for the time of year.

So, I stayed in Edinburgh around Christmas before moving to Aviemore for a stay around the New Year period. The forecast was not promising, and hence I kept my expectations low, which was just as well given that only one day came sunny while I was in the Scottish capital. Even with rain and showers, I pottered by the Water of Leith, while the best day was spent going up and down various members of the Pentland Hills: Capelaw Hill, Allermuir Hill and Caerketton Hill. These had not been traipsed since August 2008, and I thought it to be a good idea for a short winter’s day with some ice on the ground and a sprinkling of what looked like snow on the tops.

The arrival of Storm Gerrit made the transfer to Aviemore more challenging. Having got as far as Perth, I ended up returning to Edinburgh for a rethink because of a closed railway line and a flooded road. Handily, the hotel in Aviemore altered my booking for me, and I was able to find a humble abode elsewhere where I could regroup. The next day, I embarked on a long if uncertain journey around Scotland to reach Aviemore. The first leg was by coach to Aberdeen before catching a crowded double-decker bus to Inverness. The latter thankfully got less busy after Huntly, but seeing a southbound railway departure from Inverness started to make me concerned about progress. Everything was OK in the end, though the timing was tighter than I would have liked. What might have been a three-hour journey became more than three times that length; though not waiting for news on railway reopening could have got me on a coach instead, thus avoiding the need to go the long way around.

Thankfully, the weather was less intrusive while I was in Aviemore. A hike into Glen Eanaich followed my gallivanting around Scotland. There was some sunshine too, which was a bonus. Any designs on reaching Loch Eanaich were forestalled by the amount of water flowing in burns; it is one thing to chance a difficult crossing on a one-way passage, but doing it on an out and back hike is quite another matter. In the event, I did not feel denied, though previous thoughts of doing the journey by bicycle evaporated from my mind. The hike is one that I fancy repeating when the waters are lower.

The prospect of rain and the need to attend to a matter lured me to Inverness the next day. What followed was some traipsing along the banks of the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal. The dafter idea of walking as far as the shore of Loch Ness was stopped by a wrong turning that instead sent me to the shore of the Beauly Firth at Clachnaharry. On the day, I thought that just as well, and I picked up on the idea a few days later. Then, I watched my navigation and got as far as Lochend with a walk along the side of the A82 that I had no appetite for repeating. Otherwise, there was much to savour and other ideas like walking to Inverness from Drumnadrochit using the Great Glen Way or checking out the South Loch Ness Trail got deposited into my mind.

Before this, I walked from Kingussie to Aviemore using sections of the Speyside Way as well as the East Highland Way. There was some sunshine but plenty of cloudiness too. Initial progress along the Speyside Way was at a sensible pace, until fallen trees made getting through Inshriach Forest more challenging than anticipated. Crossing one or two fallen trees at a time is one thing, but if five or ten come down together, heading back to a minor road makes a deal of sense. It might have been my stubbornness, but I continued around or over any obstacles in my way. Instead of continuing to Kincraig, I turned for Feshiebridge from where I continued by Moor of Feshie towards Loch Gamhna and Loch an Eilean, where the light really started to fail for the day. Being on familiar ground and having a head torch meant that encroaching darkness was no issue, and I looked forward to a quiet New Year’s Eve after the long hike.

With no public transport services on New Year’s Day, it paid to stay local, and the weather could not have been better. New Year’s greetings abound as I rounded Loch an Eilean and Loch Gamhna before I made for the Cairngorm Club Footbridge to cross Am Beanaidh, the river originating in Gleann Eanaich. My next destination was Loch Morlich, where I made good use of the available light for photographic purposes, dallying longer than on my previous ill-fated encounter when a tumble ripped my trousers. There was no such mishap on my return to Aviemore using the Old Logging Way. Even though the light was failing, I got away without using a head torch when I got under street lights in time. There were no complaints about the day, and staying low avoided the difficulties of snowbound upland travel, though I was amazed by the amount of motor traffic.

The whole Scottish escapade brought many gifts my way, as well as a few obstacles. Rain and storm intruded, but other compensations more than made up for any wettings or travel disruption. They may even have planted other ideas in my mind for future excursions. That is often the sign of a really good getaway.