31.8.09

A Highland adventure pt 2

On Thursday 20 August, after a hearty veggie brekky at the Rossmount Guest House, I got a lift to the station as it was raining (again). I was heading south to Aviemore in the the Cairngorms National Park. I had two objectives here: one to ride on the steam Strathspey Railway, the other to ride the Cairngorm Mountain Railway. I arrived in good time for the 12.30 train so popped into a cafe to update Facebook etc. The train to Broomhill and back was pulled by Hunslet 0-6-0ST no. 3777, running in pseudo-BR livery as 68030. Various anonymous tanks were scattered about the railway. At Broomhill, I didn't get a chance to see it change ends as the passing loop is beyond the station, but made a little Flip video back at Aviemore. Some Scottish station names read like Dr Who characters: The Boat of Garten on this railway; Muir of Ord on the Kyle of Lochalsh line!

I still had a good part of the afternoon left so I caught a bus to the Cairngorm base station, where the woman in the ticket office kindly let me leave my case (no left luggage at either Aviemore station). The ride to the top of Britain's sixth highest mountain took 8 minutes. At the top we were not allowed out (walkers who walk up are allowed to ride back down) - just onto a windy observation deck where we could see reindeer but not the railway! I also saw the sun for the first time in Scotland! I had a home-made cheese scone and cuppa tea at the UK's highest restaurant (1097m) and went back down again, this time getting a good view of the rollercoater-type drop. At the bottom I visited the camera obscura (called The Dark Room) and waited for the bus back down to Aviemore. The fast bus ride round the hairpin bends was probably the most scary bit of the day! And so to the Ravenscraig Guest House, which at £40 a night was much more than the Inverness B&B, but had an en-suite bathroom and had won a green tourism award. I popped down the road to the Winking Owl for a pint of Fringe Benefit and a pretty ordinary haddock, chips and peas.

Next morning, the breakfast was pretty amazing: porridge with nuts and fruit compote followed by a huge cooked veggie breakfast I couldn't even finish. I'd accomplished both my Aviemore targets, so headed to the station to get the first train south. I'd been told Aviemore was a bit tacky, but it just wasn't very olde-worlde, and exactly what you'd expect from a place catering for outdoor activities, with shops selling sports equipment and warm clothing. First train was to Glasgow, so I imagined maybe getting a train to Oban, even a ferry to Mull. We passed through Perth and Stirling - I could have visited either of them but knew nothing about either. At Glasgow, I couldn't see any interesting connecting trains, so after a cappuccino at Costa, travelled on towards Edinburgh. I thought about jumping out at Linlithgow and visiting the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway but Sam texted me to say I'd missed the last round trip. So, it was on to Auld Reekie, a pint of 80/- at the Malt Shovel, a slow walk to Tollcross and a pint of Darkmoor at the Cloisters (where it was throwing it down outside) and, when Sam arrived home from work, some not very good (but not really awful) free comedy at the Illicit Still.

68030 at Aviemore
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