A short stroll in the Cairngorms

South to Loch Etchachan

I know a couple of blogging acquaintances are currently undertaking long backpacking trips into the heart of the Cairngorms, but as I work in the area I’m able to take short frequent strolls there. It doesn’t equate in any way to the wilderness experience the backpackers will get, but still, it’s nae bad for a ‘Sunday afternoon’ type stroll.

I had originally planned to tackle Beinn Mheadoin, but I was delayed in leaving Glenmore as I waited for my son to come to drop off a few large plant pots and to rig up a support and notice board in my ranger tent. When I set off I was not feeling 100%, so decided to have a short day and save the longer route for another day.

The ski ‘resort’ area on Cairngorm will always be an eyesore to me in summer, but as I have occasionally skied there (rather badly) I realise it serves a purpose in winter and supports the local economy. I’ve not ridden the purple funicular railway up the hill and may do so one day if ever sharing the experience with non-walking visitors.

Cairn Gorm:  the purple funicular railway

My ‘easy day out’ route started with a simple plod up the Fiaciall a Choire Cas and ascent of Cairngorm. The top was surprisingly empty of people. There were a fair few folks out and about on the hill, but the cold wind meant they didn’t linger long.

The top of Fiacaill a Choire Chas

Cairn Gorm weather station

After a few quick photos I dropped down to the bealach and walked around the rim of Coire an t-Sneachda.

Coire an t-Sneachda

I’m told this is the top of Aladdin’s Couloir:
Coire an t-Sneachda

and on to Cairn Lochan.

Heading to Cairn Lochan

Cairn Lochan summit cairn

Some of the snow was still a bit icy – as I found out as I slithered my way across a small patch on my descent! Mind you, I should not have been surprised as it was freezing cold down at Glenmore on Thursday night. I got chatting to a guy from Carrbridge who I met on the top of the Fiacaill ridge and he told me it had been -2°C in the village on Tuesday night.

Coire an Lochain

I find short, easy walks, gives me more time and inclination for studying and photographing the flora and fauna. I heard several ptarmigan throughout the day and was delighted to get a close view of this one on the ridge.


I was found lying flat on my belly on several occasions as i snapped both Stag’s Horn Club Moss (here creeping over Ling)

Stag's Horn Club moss (Lycopodium clavatum)

and Alpine Cub Moss

Alpine club moss (Diphasiastrum alpinum)

Club mosses are not in fact mosses, although they resemble them, but are considered to be evolutionarily more advanced because they are vascular, that is they have specialised fluid-conducting tissues. They were a dominant plant group in the Carboniferous period, when they grew to the size of trees, and contributed to the coal deposits then being formed.

Now, you may well be asking what’s the wee flower under the Alpine Club Moss?

Cowberry ( Vaccinium vitis-idaea) or Bearberry (Arctostaphylos)?

I’ve not decided if it’s Cowberry or Bearberry.

I saw several flowering Cloudberries. This is a moorland relative of the common bramble or blackberry. Unlike the blackberry, the fruit is orange in colour, although it is said to only flower and fruit infrequently in Scotland. I’ve previously seen flowers and fruits on Cloudberries growing on Meall a Bhuachaille at Glenmore.

Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)

On the lower slopes I came across this one wee clump of Marsh Marigolds growing beside a small burn. This flower resembles a buttercup, and is from the same family, however the flowers of Marsh Marigold are larger than those of a buttercup (about 15-20mm diameter) and they are also more golden yellow in colour. The dark green leaves are large and kidney-shaped with a glossy appearance.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

4 comments on “A short stroll in the Cairngorms

  1. The sentence “but as I work in the area I’m able to take short frequent strolls there” must be a great one to be able to type Sheila! Makes me jealous anyway.
    Hope that you are enjoying your seasonal job at Glenmore. Great to see some photos and descriptions of the smaller things below our feet when out walking the hills. Will make me pay more attention to what is around me when next out.

  2. You may have gathered from my blog, but I love walking in the boglands on the vast open moorland of Scotland more than I do the tops! Ok – you get the grandest views from the tops and also far easier walking too. But the bogs are where I fioind my ‘wilderness’ experience.
    As I mentioned to a fellow bog hopper, Nick from Holland, on the recent TGO Challenge “Not many people come here – this is magnificent country!”.

    He replied that he could see why… But I think it got through to him eventually.

    Its the sound of the wind in the deep heather, the amazing quietness deep in a peat-hag and the fantastic colours of the tiny flowers and mosses.

    It does it for me!

  3. I picked up the book you left at Cairn Lochan, after helping a couple whose dog was crag fest half a mile back, so it was an eventful walk. I had been taking pictures of the plants and didn’t know what they were so was really pleased when you named them.
    We love Scotland and are now looking into moving there, my partner is looking for some kind of conservation or ranger work, which I know are like gold dust, but you never know we might just see you one day. Keep up the blogs they are great

    • Hi Amanda. Thank you for posting a ‘Journal Entry’ to say you picked up the released book on Bookcrossing and welcome to my blog!

      Maybe the serendipity of you finding the book, was a payback for the help you gave the other couple of hillwalkers.

      Maybe we’ll meet in Scotland one day!

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