The Cairngorms

My first glimpse of the Cairngorms was back in 1952 when I stayed at the Aviemore Youth Hostel with my father and brother while on a cycling holiday. Even although it was July, snow could still be seen on the tops. While at the hostel, I distinctly remember looking into a storage room and seeing a row of skis. Never having seen real skis before, they convinced me that the Cairngorms must indeed be "real mountains."

In the early 1960s, after the area was developed for downhill skiing, I had the opportunity to visit Aviemore once more, this time staying in a caravan owned by a friend. This was my first introduction to skiing and my first close-up experience of the area. However, it was only after an absence of more than 30 years that I was able to visit the area again.

The photographs in this section were all taken in June 2000 with a Minolta SRT101 film camera and the visit to the area was inspired by a number of guidebooks left to me by my late uncle, Mr. Alex McConnell C.A., an enthusiastic lover of the Scottish countryside. He had visited the area in the late 1920s and early 1950s and had inscribed the margins of the book with detailed notes of his trips. These gave me the opportunity to retrace his steps.

As I knew the area around Aviemore had undergone significant development, I opted to use Braemar as my starting point. I was pleased to see that the area around Braemar had not changed significantly and that the descriptions in the old guidebooks were still perfectly valid.

The Cairngorms, which in English means "Blue Mountains," are part of a range of hills in the Central Highlands of Scotland known as the Grampians. The area contains four hills over 4,000 ft. and thus comprises the largest area of high country in the British Isles. It includes Ben MacDhui (4,296 ft.), Braeriach (4,248 ft.), Cairn Toul (4241 ft.) and Cairn Gorm (4,084 ft.).

Between Ben MacDhui and Cairn Toul lies the famous mountain pass known as the Lairig Ghru. This wild and remote valley is one of the toughest and best-known long-distance hikes in Britain, yielding spectacular views along with a challenging sense of solitude.

One of the fascinating aspects of this part of Scotland is the large amount of deer that can be seen. In the Scottish countryside it's usually sheep that dominate the landscape, but in the Cairngorms it's deer that reign! You can also usually count on seeing the ptarmigan or mountain-grouse, which makes its home high in the land above 2,000 ft.

By the way, because of the distances involved, and a lack of roads, the best way to see the Cairngorms is to pack a tent, hike in, and plan to camp out at least a couple of nights.

Invercauld Bridge over the River Dee, Lochnagar in the distance

View to Ben Avon

Glimpse of the River Dee east of Braemar

"Royal Deeside" west of Inverey

Deer at Inverey

Looking east from the Linn of Dee

Derry Cairngorm

Glen Derry

Creagan a' Choire Etchatchan

Descent from Corrie Etchachan into Glen Derry

View from campsite near Loch Etchachan

Creagan a' Choire Etchatchan and the Hutchinson Memorial Hut

Cairntoul and the Corrour Bothy

On the plateau near Lochan Buie after climbing up from the Lairig Ghru

An Garbh Choire from the Lairig Ghru

The Pools of Dee

Loch Avon and the Shelter Stone Crag

Campsite at Corrour in the Lairig Ghru

Ptarmigan in the Lairig Ghru

Glen Lui

Red Deer

home index