Saturday, 19 December 2009

Sub-zero Strathspey

The last outdoorsey trip of the first decade of the 21st century, and 2009, was a weekend mountain bike trip to Aviemore and the Rothiemurcus forest.

My best friend Pauline had travelled up on the early train on the Saturday morning, but I didn't follow until the 1630 train out of Edinburgh. The reason for this was because I had a prior commitment to help the kids from Portobello High School, who have been involved in the Young Enterprise Scheme since August. Saturday was their official trade day when the product they had designed and produced was to be ready to sell alongside twenty other schools. The venue for this year was not a good choice by the Young Enterprise organisation, being indoors at Balerno High School. Zero passing trade! However, I was very proud of my group who used their initiative and ventured outside into the village itself to sell their recipe book at the farmers market. No other school company did this. They were awarded 3rd place overall by the judges of the day.

The train journey up to Aviemore was very comfortable due to the enormous amount of space I had to myself. Because of the particular departure time I was aboard the National Express East Coast London to Inverness train, a proper train, as I like to call it.

It was dark by the time I arrived and met Pauline, and we cycled the short distance to the campsite on the outskirts of Aviemore. The ground was bare, and solid, and getting the tent pegs in was an effort due to hard and freezing earth. During the night the temperature plummeted, and by day break was still only at -5. The inside of my tent had a coating of ice from my breath condensing and freezing during the night!

As I impatiently waited for my water to boil on the stove, I was joined by a puffed-up little Robin, who delighted at munching on the bits of cheese we threw out for him. Undaunted by our presence he happily hopped in and out of our tents, rummaging for more scraps.

We left the majority of gear behind in the tents, and set off on the seven miles up to Glenmore. However, just two miles on we stopped at the Rothiemurcus cafe, called the Ord Ban, for a cappuccino, and to warm our frozen fingers by the log-burning stove.

A great frosty cycle to Glenmore followed, from where we trundled down to the shores of Loch Morlich to sit and have our lunch, all wrapped up, watching people walking theirs dogs along the frozen edge of the Loch. Next stop was the small cafe at Glenmore, that has been run by the same people I think since as long as I can remember. It was recently featured in Autumn Watch by the BBC for the fact that it has frequent visits by an enormous variety of birds, a number of red squirrels, and, in the dead of night, pine martins.

My favourite Scottish mammal has to be the cute red squirrel, and they visit the bird feeders all year round at the cafe, and you are almost guaranteed to see them. On this visit I was not disappointed, as two of them scurried about. And yes, this is one of my photographs! This is how close you can get to them.

After a warming bowl of soup, we headed out on the bikes round Loch Morlich on great forests tracks. The scenery was stunning, with spectacular ice crystals built up on every blade of grass and pine needle. Nature is truly amazing.

The track goes in many directions, branching off to the Lairig Ghru, or further on, to Loch an Eilein, but we veered north out of the forest, to eventually pop out at Coylumbridge and back onto the cycle track. A fast ride back to Avimore to pack up the gear and then we headed for the 5.30 train home.

Very cold but spectacular weather and scenery.

The company was OK too I guess.

A wee treat to finish in this 25 second video from the weekend;

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