Monday 17 August 2020

An Evening in the Cairngorms


Yesterday the sun shone. In the distance the Cairngorms were etched sharply against the blue sky. The air was hot and heavy. And I was trying to write a review of waterproof jackets. Concentration was hard. Too hard. How could I think about waterproofs in weather like this? I couldn't. I gave up and decided to go for a walk instead. It was late when I set off but I was happy with that as it meant the hottest part of the day was over and developing clouds meant there might be a colourful sunset.

As I climbed to the Cairngorm Plateau the clouds thickened with masses of shimmering mackerel clouds above sheets of grey. The air was humid, sticky. The midges were out. Two walkers ahead of me abandoned their ascent and turned round. "The flies are horrendous", said one. But once I reached the crest of the ridge there was a breeze and the midges faded away. Two descending rock climbers stopped for a chat. One showed me his orange helmet. It was spattered with black spots. Dead midges. 

Once on the Plateau I wandered up Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and then over to Stag Rocks. Despite the hot weather there were still substantial snow patches in Coire Domhain and on the headwall of the Loch Avon Basin. I could see the white water and hear the rushing of the Feith Buidhe and the Garbh Uisge as they tumbled down the rocks towards Loch Avon. Closer by ring ousels perched on rocks just below me and a family of ptarmigan scuttled across the stones.

As I looked down on the loch the sun sank below the thicker clouds and started to light up the slopes of Beinn Mheadhoin. Two tents were pitched on the sandy beach at the head of the loch. Midgey down there, I thought. Earlier I'd spotted a tent pitched high on the Plateau. That was the place to be.

As the low sun strengthened colour began to return to the land and the sky. I set off up Cairn Gorm, looking down on a hazy Strathspey as mist began to form. Further north lay a blanket of low cloud.

To the west layers of mountains were sharp and clear, Ben Nevis and Creag Meagaidh standing out.

I reached the summit of Cairn Gorm half an hour before sunset. The north-western sky was turning a brilliant searing orange. The air was still and quite cool now. Alone I watched the glorious sunset.

As the colours began to fade I started down. Ahead of me throughout the descent was a gradually narrowing band of colour. The details of the landscape vanished into darkness, leaving pale Loch Morlich and the lights of Aviemore dominating the view. Above me an owl circled, hoping, I guess, that I would disturb some prey.

I couldn't have had a grander evening. Refreshed I returned home and my thoughts turned back to waterproof clothing.


  1. Superb photos Chris;all the best from Mark & Helen xx

  2. Beautiful Chris - my idea of an ideal evening out too!