Postcard From Aviemore

A Postcard from Aviemore.

So… we’re sitting in Nero enjoying a latte and Americano respectively. We just exchanged some stuff in John Lewis and Next, both shops accepted the returns with both politeness and grace, always worth knowing.

I’m looking out of the window and the day here in York is grey, it’s also damp and looks like more rain. The weather in the Cairngorms is overcast but looking up and may include some sun in the next couple of days. It certainly can’t be worse and I’d like to take a few photos in the snow.
“I think I’ll go to Aviemore”, says I.
The Pilgrim is stirring her Americano ☕️ (hot milk on the side) with her left hand, anti clockwise so as not to oppose the Coriolis effect here in the Northern Hemisphere and thus save energy. You can’t remove the geographer from a highly trained Pilgrim with 40 years experience.
“I’ll go about two o’clock…”

…The Pilgrim has stopped stirring her Americano and removed the spoon, she is clearly thinking.
“You’re going to need a nose-bag, I’ve got a granola bar and some chocolate, oh, and a drink, you’ll need a drink”.
“I can always go to a cafe”
“Yes, but you might break down!”, was her practical and considered reply.

That was yesterday and after an uneventful drive to Perth and a night in the Holiday Inn, I’m heading towards Pitlochry currently transitioning from moonlit dark to a promising, glorious day. The sun has started to strike the tops of the mountains and highlight castles giving a ‘Simpsons’ feel to the start of the day, the colours are surreal and, in this case, unretouched. 

The day is being switched on incrementally, the shadows are becoming more pronounced and they shorten in direct proportion to their definition. The colour of the light this far north seems more orange but that observation needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt as my colour blindness has led me to make the odd mistake. It has to be said that the invention of the earth-leakage-trip has seen my life extend beyond my thirties when I first wired a shed. I’m a little more careful these days and usually employ someone that can see red and green colours in their full glory!

As I pass the sign for the Cairngorm National Park and officially enter The Highlands the daylight is as good as it’s going to get all day and the mountains stand in magnificent three ‘d’.

There’s a small line of traffic potentially being held up by a Tesco van ambling along at the front but with a backdrop like this, who’s in a hurry anyway. I take the opportunity to stop in every other lay-by, they all appear to be situated more for the view than the potential for breakdown or fatigue. I’d have been happy stopping at them all but I have a plan to spend time in Aviemore then head to Braemar with a couple of detours into the more rugged areas of the Cairngorms.

TomTom has defined a route along the A9. There’s a little bit of traffic but nothing challenging, the most important thing is that there’s no snow and no forecast of snow. Slightly ironic as I was coming up here to wallow in the stuff and make a few photographs. I don’t ski (currently) but I do enjoy seasonal snow, the sort that starts on Christmas Eve then leaves around 12th night, I would like that snow immensely. Since that’s not likely to happen then a 5 hour run in a warm car seems a small price to pay for what I see now.

I glide into Aviemore and park in Tesco. It’s a bit cheeky but I do use them in England so I’m comfortable. Their toilet is in the foyer of the store, a design commendation that I’d love to see others adopt but can’t see it happening.

Coffee is consumed and maps consulted for the next stage up to the ski slopes. I repeat, there is no snow but there may be the odd skateboarder and there is always the funicular railway that runs to the cafe in the sky throughout the whole year.

The road to the ski lifts is quiet in as much as I’m the only one on it and I nearly chicken out and turn around. The views on the way up are wonderful and the car park is easily negotiated. There’s an honesty box to pay for your stay but I see no queues to subscribe to it!

I make my way to the station and have the luck to bump into a couple from Leeds who have just been to the top who explain to me that it’s definitely worth going up but not today, they’ve been several times before but today the top is shrouded in thick cloud and there is nothing to see.

So plan ‘B’ is invoked, errr, well actually, I haven’t got a plan ‘B’ so I retire to the cafe to create one over a coffee and some warmth.

I return to the biting cold, I’m wearing decent clothes and a hat that really does look ridiculous, I look like an “Ice Road Trucker” on their day off but it means I can walk about a bit and explore.

An hour later and I’m back in the car heading towards Braemar. The clouds are few and far between now and the journey is on beautiful single-track roads that are populated by me and no more than half a dozen others. It’s a pleasure to drive and even more delightful to stop whenever and wherever I wish, and I do. I’ve travelled these roads before and they’re less pleasurable when there’s the summer rush but today, a delight.

Braemar is shut save for a craft shop but that’s alright. The Pilgrim supplied me with a nose bag and there is still the odd temptation in there. Some chocolate, a few nuts and a swig of blackcurrant, she’s a star!

There’s not much of a signal in Braemar so I’m struggling to sort out a hotel for tonight, not that it’ll be an issue, there’s none at capacity and the prices are keen to reflect this.

I stop near Glenshee to take more photos and on return to the car notice there’s a 4g signal. This baffles me. No signal for the people of Braemar and a full 4g signal for the heather and the sheep!

I use the moment to go online to book a hotel for the night and find the ones outside Edinburgh are £70 to £120 and the one that I go for in the centre of the city, Holiday Inn Express on Picadilly just off Princes Street is only £55. I’ve stayed there many times before and jump at it. (It’s also very close to a John Lewis, this could be messy)

So it’s Thursday night so it must be Edinburgh. Enjoy the snaps…G..x

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