Monday, August 31, 2009

Newtonmore Part 3

When Travel Buddy and I were at the Macpherson museum, the Macpherson there asked us what our plans were while we in Newtonmore. We said we had been planning to hike, but probably wouldn't because of the rain. "Rain?" he said. "In Scotland? No!" And we all had a friendly little chuckle. Because it rained on and off the entire time we were in the Cairngorms.

Since we couldn't hike, we decided to explore a couple of nearby towns. We had heard Kingussie (pronounced Kin-GUSSIE, or if you're Scottish, Kin-GOOSIE) had some nice shops, and it wasn't very far by train. Kingussie is much larger than Newtonmore, but I wouldn't say it is a grand metropolis. We went into about four stores (including the grocery store, I believe, because of our aforementioned obsession with the availability of food), and after that it became clear that there was actually very little to do in Kingussie.

Also it was raining. Here's a picture of the obligatory war memorial in the rain. Have I mentioned yet that every town, village, and hamlet on the entire island has one of these? It's enough to make you a pacifist if you weren't one already.

The town of Aviemore (Avvy-MORE) is one stop further up the line from Kingussie, so we hopped on the train again. Aviemore seems somehow more closely surrounded by mountains, and is more tourist-friendly than Kingussie and Newtonmore. And it has a nice train station.

In Aviemore we caught a bus (on our second attempt) to Cairn Gorm to take the funicular up the mountain for which the entire range is named.

Fun fact about the Cairngorms: cairngorms means "blue hills," but the Gaelic name, Am Monadh Ruadh, means "red hills." This is apparently a matter of some controversy. The day I was there, they were decidedly brown, so I can't weigh in.

I don't ski so I can't be sure, but that horrible ugly thing in the landscape looks like a ski lift line to me. I must say I was slightly taken aback that after being repeatedly lectured on the ecological importance of this mountain and how no one was allowed to walk on it, touch it, breathe on it, or blink at it, they cheerfully informed us that it's open for skiing in the winter. Hmph! I guess they have to make money somehow, but the wires and fencing aren't doing the already gloomy landscape any favors. Next to outer Mongolia I imagine this is one of the most depressing places on earth. (And yes, I absolutely want to see outer Mongolia someday! It's right under Iceland on my list of miserable places to visit.)

The base of the funicular railway. Right above the building you can see the tracks going up and over to the other side of the mountain.

Cairn Gorm has the seventh-highest peak in Great Britain and a sub-arctic climate. The trees grow along the ground like vines and play dead for most of the year. There is a nice display right when you walk in telling you how many people die on the mountain every year (an average of fourteen, I think) due to unpredictable blizzards, yeti, and, I can only assume, depression. This is what we saw at the viewing station:

And then it brightened up infinitesimally and we saw this:

The viewing station is not at the top of the mountain, which is a good thing because I think if we'd been any higher, we wouldn't have been able to see anything but clouds.

To be fair, these pictures do not convey how grand and dramatic the view really was. It was kind of like being in the Earth Science edition of the Total Perspective Vortex.

It was very cold and windy at the top, so when we got back to the hostel we made a fire and played board games. And if you think I'm not going to do an entire post on the board games we played, you are terribly mistaken.


Katie said...

Oh my goodness. You don't want to go to Iceland? Seriously? Now I don't know who I can get to go to Iceland with me. I think Iceland is going to be AWESOME. Mind you I think Mongolia would also be amazing. Anywhere with yurts and Ghengis Khan is bound to be amazing. Plus they have throat singing. Kansas, Nebraska, I would understand. But Mongolia? Iceland? People who make sweets like this obviously have their act together. AND they have super hot water. Who cares if it's a little barren if there's good chocolate and heat?

Anonymous said...

As always, I love your photos - even when they depict somewhat gloomy places. The commentary is so titanically droll! Do you have pictures of the board games, too?

Simon said...

KP: No, I DO want to see Iceland! And Mongolia! Not to mention the Orkneys. And Finland. If it's cold, dark, and northern, I want to go there.

Anonymous: You know you should always feel free to sign your name. Every time we get an anonymous comment Ivan has to e-mail me and say "Is that your father?" And I have to say "There's about a 75% chance, yes. But maybe not." Anyway, I did of course take pictures and have put them in my next post for your edification.

Anonymous said...

Simon, do you not recall our titanic conversation last month?

Simon said...

I have a very poor memory!