Rambling On Blog


As a lover of both mountain landscapes, beautiful lochs and wonderful wildlife the Cairngorms has it all as far as I'm concerned - and it's not that far from the sea either, another love of mine!
My love affair with the Cairngorms started many years ago when I first started to visit this area with my partner Gary and we now visit several times a year throughout the seasons. It's a long old drive from Wales but so, so worth it and each time we visit I get to know the landscape and wildlife a little better. Someone who knew this area like no other was Nan Shepherd and her beautiful book 'The Living Mountain' is a must read for anyone who loves the Cairngorms - or indeed who loves the mountains - as this book will take you there. She describes “water so clear it cannot be imagined,” and "the whole wild enchantment, like a work of art is perpetually new when one returns to it.”

I've seen water like that in Loch Coire an Lochain, below Braeriach, the highest named loch in the UK where the water was as clear as you can possibly imagine. I hiked up there alone, saw more ptarmigan than people and felt pure joy as I skinny dipped in ice cold water in the height of summer at 1000m. For someone who loves swimming in wild places the Cairngorms is about as wild as you can get. The loch in this photo is Loch Avon - pronounced Loch Arn and is situated in the heart of the Cairngorms, surrounded by beautiful beaches of golden sand. I wild camped here last summer after a day's hiking where I climbed Ben Macdui, Derry Cairngorm and Beinn Mheadhoin. Another time I spent 2 nights at Corrour Bothy in the Lairig Ghru and then walked back to Aviemore over the high tops over 4000ft on a glorious day, passing a herd of reindeer as I walked over the Braeriach plateau, and looking down on Loch Coire an Lochain where I'd swam the previous summer. These memories are so special to me and as I did it all alone they are memories that are just mine, which in some ways makes them all the more special.

The Cairngorms is not just about the high mountains though. The lochs, forests and wildlife mean that there are plenty of lower-level walks that really are beautiful too and with the Moray coast less than an hour away I often enjoy some stunning coastal walks. There is the stunning Uath Lochans, Loch Morlich, Loch Garten and Loch an Eilean near Aviemore, Bowfiddle Rock on the Moray coast, the Balmoral cairns and Burn o Vat on the Braemar side, to name just a few. If you like a long distance walk or run there is the Speyside Way which I've ran a part of between Aviemore and Grantown on Spey - I made a wrong turn at one point and went 4 miles out of my way and instead of running my intended 16 miles I ran a marathon distance of 26.2 miles exactly! The only time I have or likely ever will run a marathon. Luckily I have it recorded on Strava to prove it. I had no choice but to keep going at the time as the weather was so cold at -8 I had to keep moving. It took me just over 5 hours and boy was I relieved to be back at the hotel - it's an achievement I'm still proud of, even though it was accidental!

The wildlife in this area is pretty special too with red deer, mountain hare, ptarmigan, crested tit, snowbuntings, dotterel, ring ouzel, reindeer, osprey and eagles. One of the most memorable days for wildlife sightings was when I went up Lochnagar and had sightings of ptarmigan, lots of mountain hare, a herd of red deer and some snow buntings who joined me as I ate my lunch at the summit - I also had the pleasure of about 3 million midges! This was another solo day where I had the joy of a skinny dip in the stunning lochan below Lochnagar and then another (non skinny) in Loch Muick. Just writing this takes me back there!

So whether you love the high mountains, or forests and lochs, the Cairngorms is a magical place to be. I can't wait until I go again! There is still so much to see!