Tuesday 27 December 2016

A Cairngorms Winter Sunset

Venus high in the sky above the Cairngorms after sunset

Small undistinguished hills can be superb viewpoints. Tom Mor is such a one. It lies close to my home, a rounded heathery bump at the end of a broad undulating moorland ridge sporting a communications mast and two large well-built cairns. One of the latter has a tall weathered post sticking out of it. A similar post lies next to the other cairn. I guess they were built to note or celebrate something significant but I have not been able to find out anything about them. Both mark excellent viewpoints for Strathspey and the Cairngorms though and are large enough to shelter behind.

Strathspey and the Cairngorms from Tom Mor

I was glad of the cairns on this cold and frosty late December day as a bitter wind swept the summit, stinging my face and numbing my hands. Down in the glen the air was calm and the ground slushy with thawing snow after several sunny hours. Up here the remaining snow crunched underfoot and the wind ensured the thaw had ceased, even though up here is a mere 484 metres. Tom Mor is only a little hill.

Keeping warm on Tom Mor

I'd climbed to the cairns in the hope of a fine sunset and I was not disappointed. Below me the wide fields and woods stretched out to the Cairngorms, the silver slash of the River Spey pointing to the mountains. As the sun sank into clouds far to the west a golden glow spread over the horizon. The land looked dark and cold, patches of pale snow giving it a chilly feel.

The sun about to set

Hunched behind one of the cairns I kept warm with hot ginger cordial, snatching photos round the corner of the stones and watching the sky darken. I could feel the temperature dropping as the sun lost what little power it has this late in the year. Soon the night cold would grip the land.

Last sunshine, the summits of Sgor Gaoith and Sgoran Dubh Mor on the left horizon

Soon the piercing cold and the darkening sky persuaded me it was time to leave. I plunged down steep heathery slopes towards the frosty calm below. Soon the first bright star shone high above the mountains in the still blue sky - no, not a star, a planet, Venus, known as the star of the evening. I followed it home, shining before me the whole way.

Venus over the Cairngorms

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