Adoration to the Scottish Highlands: stroll in the Cairngorms

This week Scotland was voted the worlds most wonderful country by Rough Guides. It was no surprise to Christopher Nicholson, whos been enchanted by the Cairngorms since childhood. Plus 10 targets to dine and is necessary to stay in the region

You don’t need to visit a residence to fall in love with it. As a small son, growing up on the edge of London, I was fascinated by the romance of the Highlands. The wild beauty of the glens and mountains offered a stimulating alternative to the straighten world-wide of suburbia. That the Nicholsons had Scottish ancestors, and that I was half-Scottish by blood, persuasion me into the faith that I had a deep connection to the mountains. I toyed with the possibility that some enormous mistake had appeared: I should have been living in Scotland.

Scotland delineate

When I was seven or eight, we started going there on summer vacations. We parked our caravan somewhere- generally somewhere been hit by midges- and start out for the hills. To say that those steps were exhilarating would be an understatement; the capability implicit in the landscape changed me in a profound lane. I was quickly frightened. I still remember the utter fright that devastated me as we clambered through darknes cloud up the vertiginous, scree-laden side of one mountain, unable to see the cliff ahead.

On another summer’s period, we visited Glen Feshie, which skirts the western boundary of the Cairngorms. Part of Scotland’s magic lay in its place name- Killiecrankie, Rannoch, Crianlarich, Ardnamurchan- and I adored the musical racket of Feshie- like fishy; the river Feshie full of elegant silver fishes.

Uath Lochans. Photograph: Alamy

A long, single-track corridor conducts from Loch Insh and Feshiebridge into the glen. On a stormy summer’s epoch, the bracken under the young birch trees shivers with green light. At Achlean, there is a small parking lot. Experience to lace up your boots.

Among Scottish glens, Feshie is unusual for being both wide-reaching and well-wooded, and the obvious alternative now is to walk up the glen and search the old-time pinewoods by the river. Queen Victoria razz here in the autumn of 1861:” Magnificent fir timbers ,” she noted in her journal.

In recent years, deer have been extensively culled in order to improve the chances of young trees. There was many saplings , not only of Scots pine but also birch, willow and alder, and wildlife has advantaged. Treecreepers make high-pitched calls as they hunt for insects on the trunks of the yearns, while batches of tits- among them one of those specialist Highland species, the crested tit- scoot through the highest divisions. Capercaillie have been recorded, and yearn marten are also in residence, though I’ve never been so lucky as to see one.

The crested tit is a Highland species. Photo: Alamy

Not all the change, at least to my psyche, “ve been here for” the good. Long stretches of the itinerary through the glen have been over-improved, which constructs the process of walking- that subtle negotiations regarding uneven field, that sense of physical friendship with the estate- less interesting. Sometimes the wildness finds in short supply.

For that reason , not far after Achlean, I leave the glen on a itinerary that climbs towards the mountain plateau. After a tired pull of more than an hour, it nears a light-green cavern called Ciste Mhearad, or Margaret’s Coffin, where snow often endures as late as midsummer.

One old story tells of a Glen Feshie damsel whose lover was sentenced to death for some unknown misdemeanour. When the laird refused to spare his life, she came up here and killed herself; the snow is her chill. Curiously, seven miles away on the other side of the Cairngorms massif, there is a second Ciste Mhearad, where snow lies even later into the summer.

The plateau then appears, and with such suddenness that it’s hard not to be surprised. A different world-wide opens the way to, a enormous field of chocolate-browns and ochres that pulls invitingly into the distance. A shortish walk over bumpy grass and springy sand brings you to the cliffs cradling the dark water of Loch Einich, while a much longer one manager for the bare top of Braeriach, at 1,296 metres Britain’s third-highest mountain.

To be here on a fine summer’s daytime is a heady suffer. Not today. I reach the plateau to be met by a relentless 50 mph tornado. The blare is straight in my look, and so strong and gusty that it’s hard to even stand upright. I reel along for a while, buffeted this lane and that, then give up.

Scotland’s most isolated corrie, Garbh Choire Mor, on the side of Braeriach, the county’s third highest mountain. Photo: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

I don’t mind; in fact, I cherish the uncertainty of marching up here. It’s the reverse of ordinary tourism- where, by and large, you know what you’re going to get. High in the Scottish mountains the condition is so variable and the terrain so tough that you’re always objection. That mounts the thought on edge. For thinking about the difficult events in life, this is the place to be.

So I vanquish a withdraw. Back to Glen Feshie, where there are plenty of quiet, mystical recognizes to shelter from any gale. I follow a lively burn down to an ancient pinewood. The gradient is steep, and the burn leaps headlong in an irregular sequence of cascades flanked by dark rock-and-rolls that seem simultaneously pink and gold. Birch trees jut out of boulder crevices and lean over the descents. Each cascade superpowers into a deep reserve of froth, faintly light-green water.

I sit on the bank, sorting age-old remembers, and watching structures of irrigate and sunlight. The limitless push of the falling water is counterpointed by the stillness of the largest pines rising above me. We were here when you were a boy, remember? We haven’t croaked anywhere. Whether I ever came to this exact spot I am not sure, but certainly the trees must have been here, and the burn, and the rocks.

Taking off boots and socks, I dabble my hoofs in the chill of the sea. A few buttercups, lodged on the mossy back of a descended fork, glitter like luminous yellowish idols. A pine cone plops into the reserve, cliques in an eddy of foams and, enrolling the swish of current, hurries downhill.
* Among the Summer Snows by Christopher Nicholson( September Publishing, PS14. 99) is out now. To order a copy for PS10. 99, including UK p& p, going to see or announce 0330 333 6846


By Jamie Lafferty

Mountain Cafe, Aviemore


Kiwi chef Kirsten Gilmour is part of the tartan furniture in Aviemore, her inventive menus preserving this lively cafe in the city centre busy time round, and filling a cookbook written earlier this year. It gratifies for most food advantages, but is ahead of the bow when it comes to Highland cuisine. Mains from PS11.

Blair Atholl Watermill


On the countries of the south perimeter of the national park, this watermill turned tearoom offers the chance to load up on carbs before address the Cairngorms. The on-site bakery moves breads, bagels and cakes, and there are light-headed lunches( around PS7)- plus bread-making courses.

Andersons, Boat of Garten


Most guests bypass the minuscule village of Boat of Garten, but family-run Andersons restaurant is worth a stop, with a locally sourced menu that changes every month. Lunch might be haggis and chicken pate, then pan-fried mackerel on smoked salmon and spinach risotto. Two tracks PS12. 99.

India on the Green, Ballater


The mounds of Ballater are a long way from India, but while the recipes have toured across the world, as much make as is practicable is sourced locally. So don’t be surprised to look Indian classics drawn with Scottish monkfish or cutlets. Centrals from PS14.

Boat Inn, Aboyne


On the banks of the Dee, merely over the common borderline, the Boat does vegetarian and gluten-free nutrient as well as pub grub and Scottish price. It also has an impressive wander of plane beers and eight bedrooms( doubles from PS75 room merely ). Two-course lunch PS1 0.50.

The Bothy, near Aviemore


The Bothy at Inshriach offers the chance to go right off-grid. Improved as part of an ambitious artists’ palace assignment, it’s a proper wee-wee cabin in the woods, with a double plot on a mezzanine, and a wood-burner to cook on.
* Self-catering from PS85,

Glenlivet House

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