Thursday, 10 September 2015

A trip to the Cairngorms with SYHA

I'm a big fan of Scottish Youth Hostel Association and stayed in their accommodation when I climbed both Ben Nevis and Ben Lomond. Recently, I was invited to stay at their Cairngorm Lodge and write about the adventures that can be had up there.

It was an early start to the day as we left Edinburgh at 8.30am on Saturday morning in order to face the drive up the A9. Some light entertainment was provided when we noticed the traffic slowing, only to realise that it was because there was a loose cow on the road. It was apparently not bothered about holding up a queue of traffic as it sauntered quite calmly along this busy road. We sat behind it for a few minutes while a couple of farmers tried, pretty unsuccessfully, to herd it out of the way of the traffic. Eventually, it decided that the game was over and retired to the grassy knoll at the side of the road to have a little lunch.

The Cairngorms is a mountain range in the eastern highlands of Scotland and is situated within the Cairngorms national park. Our first stop when we reached the area was to the Funicular railway which takes visitors to the summit of Cairn Gorm mountain. It wasn't possible for us to exit the mountain at the top (you need to be booked onto a walking or cycling tour for this) so we stepped out onto the viewing platform for a bit before quickly retiring to the cafe for a warming bowl of soup. Cairn Gorm, because of its elevation and closeness to the North Atlantic, has a very cold climate, which is particularly illustrated by the low temperatures during the summer so something to warm me up was very much called for. You will notice that I look particularly bulky in the photograph below. I have five layers on. I should have worn six. It was cold, so very cold. Despite the low temperature, the trip up to the top of the mountain was well worth it for the views across the mountain range.

If I had taken the time to do a little research before the trip I might have realised that Cairn Gorm is home to Britain's only herd of free ranging reindeer. But no research was done and so, we were surprised to come down from the mountain and find a number of reindeer pottering around in the car park. We were even more surprised by how close we were able to get and how comfortable they seemed with our presence.

Visitors to the Cairngorms can take part in a vast array of activities from skiing, biking and watersports. Ryan and I decided to stick to walking for this weekend. There are almost too many routes to choose from so we took the advice of the SYHA staff at the Cairngorm lodge and headed down to Loch Morlich first of all which is situated very close to the hostel so we didn't have to walk too far at all.

After dinner at the Cairngorm hotel in Aviemore we returned to the hostel and bedded down for the night. The next day, the hostel staff suggested a nice walk around Loch an Eilein. We parked at the Rothiemurchus visitor centre and set off from here. We walked for four miles around spectacular woodland. At some points the forest floor was completely covered with purple heather as far as the eye could see. Apart from the occasional walker or cyclist, the route was very quiet and I was reminded of just how wild Scotland is, which is all to easy to forget when I'm surrounded by the noise and hustle of a central belt city.


  1. Looks stunning! I can't believe you saw reindeer and had that lazy cow sassing about on the road, sounds so random but so funny!

    1. Haha he was so sassy!

      It got even more random when we found a pub that had a wrestling match going on in the garden!?

  2. Ahh, reindeer! They are so cute. What a lovely surprise!

    I've never been but the Cairngorms looks absolutely stunning. It is so easy to forget how breathtaking and wild Scotland is when you're living in the central belt surrounded by buildings and traffic. Even when I take a train journey out of Glasgow and into the countryside I'm like 'Wow! Look how GREEN Scotland is!'. I will need to get my butt and gear and visit some more of these beautiful places right on our doorstep.


    1. They were so cute but I was slightly terrified of them, although they were actually really chilled and gentle.

      There's so much to do up in the Cairngorms if you ever go.

      I think that I'm always surprised by just how wild Scotland is once you get out of the cities. It's no wonder people come from all over to visit.