Our previous day’s drive had skirted the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park. We started the day by continuing the loop around the northern side of the park to the Cairngorm Mountain Railway.
Cairn Gorm is the sixth-highest mountain in the UK at 1,245m. In the interests of conservation, passengers who choose to take the railway up are not allowed out of the station at the top – i.e. you can’t take the train up and walk down. However, you can walk up and take the train down, and this is what we decided to do.
This system is policed by requiring walkers to ring a doorbell to gain admission to the top station. You then have to sign in the visitors book and indicate whether you will be taking the train down or walking down again, which is permitted if you walked up! However, I note that at present guided walks from the top station to the summit are currently available for upward train passengers. This seems to be a trial – see here for details.
We chose the ‘Windy Ridge’ route which was meant to take 90 minutes and was described as ‘moderately strenuous’. It only took 60 minutes, even at a fairly modest pace, but it was definitely moderately strenuous (steep and uneven, but not technically difficult)! We followed this up by taking the path from the top station to the summit, which entailed a further 30 minutes or so of steep steps and stony path before the summit proper was reached. The views were well worth the effort but even on a sunny day in late June it was cold up there and there was still some snow around.
Having taken the funicular railway back down the mountain, we followed up the morning’s exertions with a trip to the Cairngorm Brewery. Good fun and good beers; I’d especially recommend the Cairngorm Gold and Blessed Thistle. After this we visited Tesco in Aviemore for some more mundane supplies before driving a little way up towards the north-east coast (i.e. east of Inverness).
N.B. It may seem as if we skipped over the Cairngorms a little quickly, but we drove around about two-thirds of the perimeter of the national park and unless you are going to do some serious walking, there isn’t much else you can do.