Bye bye Culloden House hotel after a lovely stay there. How on earth did we pack away so much breakfast after that big meal last night? Fresh fruit salad, nuts and seeds, yoghurt, grapefruit juice, then the full Monty – bacon, scrambled eggs(boiled for me), sausage, black pudding, mushrooms, beans, toast, honey and marmalade. Superlative and all of good quality. Gallons of tea. A feast.
The two ladies on reception, one may have been the manager, were not particularly interested in two guests taking their leave and simply chatted amongst themselves, as we settled up. It was a bit odd and ‘off ‘ I thought.I couldn’t catch their eye to say cheerio properly , they were quite uninterested.It was one of these occasions when you wonder if you’ve said something or looked the wrong way and upset one of them during your stay. Fair enough, we headed towards the door when a very friendly voice behind us made us turn to see a sort of kilted concierge chap, who insisted on helping with our bags(we only had one small case, two rucksacks and a couple of plastic bags with various supplies in them.) Very nice gesture.He also offered to take photos of us on the outside steps, and gave us a cheery wave goodbye as we set off in the car, restoring my faith in the staff!
It was a beautiful day, blue sky and sunshine but when we reached Aviemore it looked like a different country.Only 40 minutes south and the whole area was absolutely plastered in fresh snow.It looked stunning. After the fairly uninteresting landcape round Inverness, we were back in the Highlands.The Caledonian Pine forest, so beautiful around here, so extensive, was covered in heavy snow.It was a winter wonderland.Chris had suggested we do a walk to a small hill, Creag a’Chalamain below Lurcher’s Crag.Even under snow, it should be ok given we didn’t have crampons.There wasn’t a whole load of time as Alasdair, my eldest, was coming for dinner later so we wanted to be home by 4pm ish.
Stopped off at Loch Morlich to get some photos as it was looking so gorgeous.Increasingly, I find this loch is more impressive than Loch an Eilein, which tends to get all the plaudits.In decent light the Cairngorm mountains from here look really splendid.Classic Cairngorm.
The Sugar Bowl car park (signposted and with a good map of the various walks in the area) is opposite the walk we wanted to do.The parking itself was iced over and we couldn’t make it up the steep entrance so got parked at the roadside a little further up. Got the rucksacks packed and the boots on. The sun felt quite warm and it was a pleasure to set off on the icy, snowy trail, dodging the worst slippy bits. There are walking tracks all over Rothiemurchus, weaving in and out of the Caledonian Pine forest and through and up the mountains. We’d passed a Husky Dog Sled Race further down, packed with competitors and sightseers. The whole area was going like a fair, full of activity and life.
The track wound its way down through the forest and across a bridge over a tumbling river, then climbed up onto a flattish plateau. From here the views were gorgeous and we enjoyed tramping along the semi soft snowy path with the mountains coming into view.
The only trouble was, walking on snow takes much longer than normal and after an hour, I knew we’d never make it to the top of the hill in the time we’d allocated. We stopped at the high point of the track and just drank in the surroundings. Creag na ‘Chalamain looked about another hour’s walk away, so we’d underestimated our pace given the distance. Annoying and frustrating – failure! I hate not making a summit but there it was. Turnaround time.
Just at that, a herd of reindeer crossed the moorland above us, only 100 metres or so away.
Thrilling to see them out here, a real treat. In fact as our eyes adjusted to the almost blinding light of the snow, we spied the main herd, around 50-60 animals , grazing as best they could on the snowy terrain about a half km ahead.
Back we trekked, enjoying the views now in the opposite direction. Meall a Buachaille, an easy slog of a mountain near Ryvoan; Loch Morlich ringed by Scots Pine. Wonderful.
Got back to the car by 12 noon and it was time to motor south, three hours of driving mostly on dual carriageway or straight-ish fast roads to Glasgow.
With the forecast still pretty good for the next few days and with both of us with no work commitments early next week( it was Sunday) we were tempted to head back north again after saying hello to Alasdair and enjoying some dinner and the evening with him. Which is exactly what we did – high days and holidays continued!
Previous day: Culloden House Hotel and Glen Affric