I killed the engine and stepped out my car. After the busy A9 my senses were soothed by pine scent and a luxurious silence, broken only by birdsong in the treetops. Not a soul about, and no other noise. To think I'd been in London a week ago! The contrast could not be greater. Dead pine needles littered the forest path and I walked away from the road, enchanted.
In the Abernethy forest:
This is a secret area, little visited, yet full of wildlife. The Abernethy forest is only a few miles from bustling Aviemore and the busy slopes of the Cairngorms, and is known as the place where ospreys reintroduced themselves to Britain in the 1960s. Apart from this, it is little visited. But it is more than just an osprey hide: this is the largest ancient Caledonian pine forest remaining, and is home to many creatures like capercaillie, red deer, crossbill and, higher up, grouse, ptarmigan, and mountain hare. I stroked the plated bark of the pine trees and lurked in the evening light by Loch Mallachie, watching the geese and ducks on the water.
Cairngorms from Abernethy roadside:
Next morning, after a late night in a secluded hostel with a pair of friendy Scousers, I wandered up Geal Charn, a small hill above the Abernethy Forest. The sandy banks of the Dorback Burn were teeming with rabbits, and lapwings circled and called from the surrounding fields. Once onto the heather the going was harder, grouse exploding at my feet, but I eventually reached the top to a wide view of monotonous moors, striped with muirburn, and the snowy Cairngorms in the distance. The Cairngorms are considered to be hills with long approach walks. But they are usually tackled from Aviemore or Braemar. To approach from Abernethy - or Tomintoul or Glen Avon - now that would be a proper long walk in!
May 1 on the Pacific Crest Trail, 35 Years Ago
6 hours ago