Friday, 15 March 2019


Some people celebrate their birthday with a party and lots of friends. Others go out for a civilised, slap-up meal, whilst some are happy to let it pass as just another day. 

I've rarely done any of the above, and this years birthday at the weekend was no exception.

Poor planning on my part saw me working on the Saturday, taking my Film Academy students through to tour the studios at the BBC in Glasgow. I can't complain though, it was a fun day out.

As we headed home on the coach I was keeping a careful eye on the time, keeping my fingers crossed there would be no delays on the motorway. I had a train to catch, and very little time between our scheduled return and the departure time out of Edinburgh Waverley.

Two hours later, having changed into my hiking gear, and picked up my loaded rucksack, I was sat sipping a cup of tea watching the sun set behind the bridges crossing the Forth from the comfort of my seat on the north-bound Scotrail train, on my way to Newtonmore.

I had to change at Perth as the train I was currently on did not stop at Newtonmore. Now, normally this is an annoyance, but on this occasion I was glad to leave an overbooked train, full of drunk and foul mouthed people, drowning their sorrows of a Scotland rugby defeat at the hands of Wales.

As the train rose higher and higher through the Drumochter Pass, snow was falling and gathering in the mountains beyond.

I pulled into Newtonmore to be met on the platform by Pauline, who had traveled up on the Friday. The temperature was well below freezing, and as we left Newtonmore the tracks under our feet became increasingly icy.

In the hills above Newtonmore we pitched our tents, then marveled at the star filled sky. As I zipped up my tent for the night, snow was gently falling.

We awoke to a light dusting of snow, and with our tents packed away, headed off toward Kingussie with a strong breeze blowing spindrift around our feet, with more snow starting to fall.

The first part of our day was following the Wild Cat Trail, a fun, marked path above Newtonmore, that both Pauline and I have walked several times with different people.

We walked along with the satisfying crunch of fresh snow under our feet, past trees that were delicately outlined with fresh snow.

The surrounding hills looked monochrome with their new dusting, highlighted now and again as the sun broke through.

Ahead lay Creag Bheag, our only hill for the day, just short of 500m high. As always, Pauline knows the best route up, and after a brief stop to refuel we were walking through woods above Loch Gynack, the path twisting through the beautiful birch trees, their lower trunks surrounded by mossy rocks. There was no snow on the ground here, in sharp contrast to just a few miles back.

The path then turned sharply south east, and rose steeply toward the summit of Creag Bheag, up a robust path, purposely made from large boulders and rocks. As we ascended the temperature dropped and snow flurries began to fall. Some parts of the path higher up were covered in ice, and as we reached the top the wind was blowing full force. We sheltered a while in a little stone built circle, with an outlook over Kingussie and across to the snow-capped Cairgorms on the horizon.

Once down, and lunch consumed, we started our descent into Kingussie. Now the snow was in full blizzard mode, but the path, then track, then road, was well defined.

In need of a hot drink it was disappointing to find everything was closed in Kingussie. Everything that was apart from the Star Hotel, caught in a time warp, with its worn tartan carpets and dark wood paneling. A request for a latte was met with bewilderment by the bar staff.

We settled on a pot of tea for two, and as our dripping wet gear slowly dried on the hotel radiators, we watched the clock slowly tick away the minutes until 4pm, when Joe's fish and chip shop would open!

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