A touch of Southern flavour

June 29, 2011

The former Southern Region General Managers Saloon, now called ‘Caroline’ made its way to the North of Scotland this week. It ran from Inverness to Aberdeen and Edinburgh via Elgin yesterday with DRS Class 37/4 No. 37 423 providing power. The train paused at Nairn and Forres to allow passing moves with west bound trains, allowing plenty of time to take pictures. At Forres, it met 57 001 hauling the Royal Scotsman. Thankfully the weather was good and photography was a breeze!


Another walk on the wild side of Scotland.

June 21, 2011

The classic traverse:  Lin of Dee to Cairngorm, a walk slightly longer than I would normally tackle in an eight -hour window but made possible by one of the Moray Mountaineering Club’s monthly meets. So Sunday arrives with fine weather and a apparently good conditions to tackle some of the more challenging terrain in the Scottish Highlands. The walk started from Lin of Dee in the Mar estate near Braemar with a finish at the Cairngorm base station, around 15 miles to the north as the crow flies.

Decision time at Derry Lodge! Turn left for the low level walk into the Lairig Ghru and access to Munroes such as The Devil’s Point and Cairn Toul. My walk, with half of the club’s party, was a high level one to the east of the Lairig Ghru to take in Derry Cairngorm and Ben Macdhui.

Looking towards the west and the distant south end of the Lairig Ghru on the ascent of Carn Crom on the way to the first Munroe: Derry Cairngorm.

Looking south towards Lin of Dee, the starting point of the traverse.

North and east towards Glen Derry from Carn Crom.

The summit of Derry Cairngorn is visible in the distance. For the start of the trek, visibility was perfect.

From the top of Derry Cairngorm with Lairig an Laoigh in the middle of the picture and Beinn a’ Chaorainn to the left.

From Derry Cairngorm to Ben Macdhui with the weather closing in fast, a character of the Cairngorm mountains which can prove very hazardous, even to well-equipped walkers.

Orientation table at the top of Ben Macdhui, Scotland’s second highest mountain.

Crossing the plateau between Ben Macdhui and Cairngorm itself, a fairly long but easy walk with the cloud clearing temporarily. Some of the group made their way down to the base station via the Fiacaill Buttress whilst I completed my walk by scrambling my way over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda towards Cairngorm.

Walking towards Cairngorm along the top of the ridge at Stob Coire an t-Sneachda.

Looking back towards Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and the Fiacaill Buttress as the cloud moves in again. Map and compass navigation beckons!

At last, true mountain weather at the summit cairn of Cairngorm itself. Damp, raining and time for my traverse is running out. All that remains is to descent carefully to the base station to complete the traverse which amounted to around 20 miles af climbing, walking, scrambling and boulder hopping allowing for detours, ascents and descents. A long day that finished up in the bar at the Cairngorm Hotel in Aviemore to swap tall stories with my fellow walkers.

A new role for a former Freightliner Class 57.

June 15, 2011

Not normally associated with prestige passenger trains, 57 001 was photographed at Nairn yesterday (14.6.11) on the Keith-Kyle leg of the Royal Scotsman. Not only is the Class 57/0 rare traction for the Aberdeen-Inverness line but the contrast between its old life and the Royal Scotsman could not be more marked.

Rock gardening

June 12, 2011

A passion of mine, and a tradition in the family, is the creation of rock gardens. One of the projects for this year is to complete a rock garden started to cut back and landscape a low bank overlooking the house, together with a scree garden beyond. Thanks to piles of stone left over from old building work, half buried in a remote corner of the plot, creating the garden has been less expensive than it might have been had I been forced into buying quarried stone. Anyway, reusing old material is far better than buying new given the environmental impact of quarrying.

The scree garden progresses, based on a shallower slope. It is inspired by the fantastic scree and rock garden at the St. Andrews Botanic Garden which has low growing plants creeping over scree and flat stones. The flat stones remain to be introduced and the foreground with its pile of cobbles is where the next extension of the garden will be made.

Inspiration comes from the wild too, including Orkney which has some fascinating wild rock gardens on the cliffs of Marwick Head. Small, hardy rock plants grow all over the cliffs, right up to the extreme edge, a precarious existence.


Plants, such as Thrift hang on to narrow ledges and even with overhanging rock above. The merest spot of soil or weathered tock is enough to support plant life.

Nature shows that I have a lot to live up to with my garden creation. Anyway, it’s a fine day, so back to work, hauling rocks to the rock garden!