Day 5 – Sunday
There are many attractions local to Aviemore, signs that we passed numerous times already as we drove around the Highlands. It was time to see what was in our backyard.
First on the list was the Loch Garten Osprey Centre in Nethybridge. I had no idea what we’d find there, as the sign by the road just said “RSPB Osprey Center”. I assumed that it would just be a simple building that showed the life of Ospreys and maybe a place where Ospreys were known to frequent.
We barely found a spot to park, the lot was so full. The forest was healthy and the number of birds we saw in the first five minutes was impressive. The bird feeder probably helped considerably. A short walk down a nice wide dirt trail led us to the simple building that I had expected. Except that what was inside was much nicer. There was a small gift shop in the back corner, but the main wall was pocked by viewing windows, each one manned by telescopes or binoculars. Above the windows was a large screen showing live video feed of the subject of the view ports below: an active osprey nest with three chicks squirming around in the sunshine. In one corner a volunteer was giving a detailed talk about the life of the osprey. Another corner was dedicated to teaching children more about the birds as well.
The fat and graceless wood pigeon
The osprey suffered greatly in Scotland at the hands of the estate owners and game keepers. The birds were seen as a threat to the pheasants and other game animals and were shot and poisoned until none at all were left in Scotland. Fortunately some osprey eventually found their way back to the Highlands after people realized the error that they had made. Nesting birds are now found throughout the Highlands, although many efforts are still made to encourage them.
We listened to the volunteer finish up her talk and then we peered through the telescopes and watched the live video feed. White boards on one wall listed the number of fish eaten this year and the time of day each fish was brought to the nest. Dan and I were both impressed by the information available. We looked around for quite some time before decided to walk around the grounds to see what else was in the area.
View of the osprey nest via the telescope
Live video feed screen
We followed a nice loop trail that wound through forests and along lake shores. We saw many birdwatchers, but not a lot of birds. I like birds, but I don’t like to hunt for them. I guess I’m a fair weather birder? It was a nice walk and we enjoyed the silence (with occasional bird calls) and beauty. I admit that it reminded me a bit of the forest off the coast of Cape Flattery in Washington State.
Giant ant hill
After our walk we decided to walk some more. We drove back through Aviemore and up into Glenmore Forest Park. It looked like there would be a lot of trail options as well as some good views. The road started in the lowlands at the Spey river and climbed gently through thick woods. The high level of tourism in this area was evident by the number of businesses that catered to them. Camping options, water sports, tree adventure sports, mountain biking, hunting and shooting guides and even a reindeer ranch. We drove past them all and kept on going. Periodic pullouts hinted at various trailheads, but we wanted to go higher and we kept on driving.
Finally we found a trailhead called “Snow Bowl”. We parked the car next to five or six other vehicles and started on the trail. A short forest walk led us to the edge of a valley. We enjoyed the beautiful clear day and kept following the trail higher and higher. We had no idea where it would go but were happy enough to continue walking.
The trail didn’t lead to the top of the mountain, but it did lead to a car park just below. The car park served a large snow lodge, built to serve the many skiers that frequent this area in the winter. But now the skiers and the snow were gone and the car park was almost empty. A few other hikers were on other trails and some people were in line to take the funicular that lead to the top of the mountain. Dan wanted to hike to the top, but I was done with hiking. We agreed to meet at the top: Dan via the trail and me via the funicular. The only problem was that Dan would have to hurry. The last funicular down the mountain left at 4:30, it was an hour plus hike to the top and it was already 3:30.
I bought my ticket and waited for the funicular while Dan took off at a smart pace up the trail. I looked for him while the car slide up the tracks, but due to the contours of the land, he could have been anywhere “just over the rise”. The funicular trip took all of 8 minutes, so I explored the museum at the top, the gift shop and the restaurant. Then I sat back and waited.
View from the top of Cairn Mountain, looking west
Much to my surprise, Dan appeared not much after that. His bright red jacket gave him away before he was close enough to be recognized. He had hiked quickly and we still had 10 minutes before the funicular returned to the lodge.
Here comes Dan!
Walking back to the car
Our weekend was over and it had been a good one.