This is one of the loveliest, easiest and shortest walks in Cairngorm National Park. On an excellent track, in 25 minutes or so, there appears a crystal clear, turquoise lochan surrounded by ancient Scots Pines. The whole area here – Rothiemurchus – is stunningly beautiful.It is also possible to walk on for another 10 minutes or so to Ryvoan Bothy where shelter is available if the weather turns nasty.
It was a drizzly day in the west (we had stayed overnight in Kinloch Lodge on Skye) but it looked drier around Aviemore, so east we headed for our last night away.We also had to book somewhere to stay and after surfing the internet, we settled on the Hilton Coylumbridge, nothing special but in a great location and offering a very reasonable B&B deal of £69 for a double room.
A sad farewell to lovely Kinloch Lodge as we set off at 11am on a cross country jaunt from Skye to Aviemore, chasing the better weather.The real walk I wanted to do was Skye’s Sgurr na Stri , but it needed good conditions as the view is reckoned to be the finest from any mountain in the UK. It wasn’t going anywhere, so we’d bide our time.
Back through Glen Shiel and Loch Cluanie and Loch Garry, then a left turn at Spean Bridge for the lovely drive across the Central Highlands via Loch Laggan and Dalwhinnie.It’s a quieter road, winding at times and the scenery changes from the dramatic wow landscapes of the west to the softer but still beautiful outlines of the Eastern Highlands.
The weather was improving all the time too.
Stopped for a coffee and carrot cake and the best gingerbread ever, black and moist, in The Pottery Bunkhouse cafe near Laggan. It’s a favourite stop, nice women running it, got a lovely scarf there too for £8 and had a chat with the owner.Beautiful location and some interesting clothes and soaps.
But it was a different Cairngorm we arrived at on the afternoon of Tuesday 31 Jan than the one which we’d visited just three days before.Most of the snow had gone and the winter wonderland appearance had gone with it.The big mountains still had snow but nowhere near as much.No wonder our Ski Centres don’t survive easily!
What to do, on an overcast but dry afternoon? It had to be the lovely, easy stroll to the ethereal Lochan Uaine (pronounced oo an yi), or the Green Lochan, the not so lovely English translation from the more lyrical Gaelic.
We parked opposite Glenmore Lodge , a few miles from Aviemore itself and got the boots and warm gear on.Here, we were in the heart of gorgeous Rothiemurchus , with its thick blanket of ancient Caledonian Pine forest, heather moorland and some of the highest mountains in the UK, most over 4,000 feet (1200m +)
The good wide track was quite icy in places but overall, not too bad given the Arctic conditions of a few days before.
I’m always astounded at the beauty of this area, softer than the west but cloaked in bright, open Scots Pine forest with bearberry and crowberry and bilberry growing underneath, heather and grasses and dwarf juniper.The higher terrain is tundra which makes for wonderfully easy high level walking.I always feel we should make more time for it all but the west calls so strongly.
It took us about 25 minutes to wander to Lochan Uaine and it really is an amazing small body of icy cold water. Deep turquoise – hence the ‘green’ name.Very striking, very beautiful.
We thought we’d head back a slightly different way but the signposting was a bit weird and we ended up halfway up the neighbouring hill, Meall a Buachaille! Not on your nelly was I slogging up THAT 800m lump this late in the afternoon(although as we were already around 300m here in Rothiemurchus it wasn’t the full slog.) It was time to check into our hotel and enjoy a drink or two before dinner.And just relax.We’d been on the go, whirling all over the country, for 4 days now and with a combined age of 120, I think we both felt we’d hit a bit of a brick wall.I really wanted to do nothing, apart from just ‘being.’
Ten minutes down the beautiful road from Glenmore Lodge and we were at our hotel for the night, a quite attractive looking low-slung 1960s building (amazing , given the ugly architecture of that era) , glass fronted and in a lovely location set within the pine forest.Inside, the lounge is very appealing, with open fires.Got checked in and our room was nice and quiet overlooking the forest.The public corridors are a bit gloomy and down market but the room was ok for one night.Bathroom needed some TLC but it was fine.
We’re getting a bit too used to popping these champagne corks but it always feels a special moment of the day.Booked dinner for 7pm having checked out the menu – not bad.We rarely used to eat in hotels , if we stayed. We used always to buy in some cold platter type food and just eat in our room but I suppose with age, you get a little better off and don’t mind forking out the cash so much.I think too that restaurant food overall has got SO much better throughout Scotland in the last 10 years, though you pay for it.But compared to what we had during our recent America trip, the standard has been better overall at home though similar in price.
The Inverdruie Bistro offered a very reasonable set price menu about £16 per person for 3 courses.Gravadlax Salmon and Beetroot for me (can’t resist beetroot or smoked salmon); Marbled Game Terrine for Chris.My main – Confit Duck Leg with a honey and oyster sauce, potato gratin (always welcome) and braised red cabbage; Pan Fried Chicken with a Bacon and Tarragon sauce for Chris (I’m sure he would have chosen the beef or lamb but I’d been twittering on about how we seemed to have been eating a lot of red meat recently and must have put him off.) Mixed ice creams and sorbets to finish , which is becoming one of my favourite ways to end a meal as too many places get their ‘proper’ puddings wrong these days, more’s the pity.
A very enjoyable experience overall in the Bistro,slightly marred by a couple of diners with incredibly loud voices.Why , why do some people feel they have to bellow across a two foot table to their partner and share their chattering with everyone else in the vicinity? Incredibly rude and thoughtless.An offence which merits being shot at dawn!
Ah….. weary again by the back of 9pm and lights off by 10.Woke at around 12 by loud voices nearby (those blasted diners again?!) then realised it sounded more like a couple having a real ping pong argument. If I’d heard the accusations getting bandied back and forth it wouldn’t have been so bad but the soundproofing in the rooms muffled the details.I’ve often thought I should pack ear-plugs on trips as I really hate hearing other people at night and hotel walls can be so flimsy.Big advantage of having our own quiet cottage on trips – utter, glorious silence.
Next day: An attempt on an icy Cairn Gorm 1245m
Previous Day: Kinloch Lodge, Skye and a hike in Glencoe