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Scotland: The Cairngorms National Park



I woke up about 7 because it was very sunny, with the sun streaming through the bedroom windows. I was able to get back to sleep until 10:30. Then, at 11:30 it was cloudy and it began to rain.

We stopped at the Aviemore post office to change dollars to pounds since no one here is interested in American money.



Then, we went on to Cairn Gorm Mountain through Rothiemurchus Forest with a reindeer center, a sled dog center, clay pigeons shooting and Segways.  Stretching from the River Spey to the high mountain plateau, Rothiemurchus sits within the Cairngorms National Park.

We also went by Loch Murlich (Scottish Gaelic, Loch Mhùrlaig), a freshwater loch in the Badenoch and Strathspey area of Highland, Scotland near Aviemore. The loch is home to a watersports center with kayaking, sailing and windsurfing among the activities available. There is also a yacht club and cycling routes around the loch. The loch is at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains, just a few miles from Aviemore and were planning to go back another day but we didn’t make it.

Cairn Gorm (Cairngorm) (Gaelic: An Càrn Gorm, meaning Blue or Green Hill) is a mountain in the Scottish Highlands overlooking Strathspey and the town of Aviemore. At 1245 metres (4084 ft) it is the sixth highest mountain in the United Kingdom. It has given its name to the whole range, although these hills are properly known as Am Monadh Ruadh (the Red Hills) rather than the Cairngorms. Cairn Gorm is the most prominent of the Cairngorm mountains in the view from Speyside, but it is not the highest.

The mountain road was quite twisty and we had to go through a few snow gates but we got to the parking area – and it started raining.

We took funicular up, as far as it would let us go.  In the winter, skiers can go higher.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cairngorm_Mountain_Railway

The funicular railway operates by ‘hauling’ up one carriage using electric motors to pull the haul rope as the other carriage descends at the same time. The system is powered by two stationary in series 500 kW electric motors, a gear box and a ‘soft start-soft stop’ control system which can increase the electrical frequency and vary the current and voltage to control the carriage speeds as they approach or leave a station. An hydraulically operated ‘counter’ rope is connected to both carriages to maintain haul rope tension. The two carriages are permanently connected by the haul rope and the counter rope and can never operate independently.

The funicular railway system is normally operated from a manned control room within the Ptarmigan building but can also be operated from the Base station control room or from each railway carriage. There are dedicated sophisticated computer control, instrumentation, communication and safety systems for the railway which have a range of back up systems and there are also standby generators and manual back up systems for moving the carriages.

At the top, they had a very nice display, including a replica of the funicular car – complete with working horn, which children delighted in honking over and over.

There was a short video and information about a huge snowstorm which had covered the funicular and the first floor of the station.

We also learned about the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui.

From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Am_Fear_Liath_Mòr

Am Fear Liath Mòr (Scottish Gaelic pronunciation: [əm fɛɾ ʎiə moːɾ]; also known as the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui or simply the Greyman) is the name of a presence or creature which is said to haunt the summit and passes of Ben Macdui, the highest peak of the Cairngorms and the second highest peak in Scotland (and also in the British Isles).

It has been described as an extremely tall figure covered with short hair, or as an unseen presence that causes uneasy feelings in people who climb the mountain. Evidence of the existence of this creature is limited to various sightings and a few photographs of unusual footprints.

It is traditionally seen as a supernatural being, but Am Fear Liath Mòr has been compared to the Yeti of the Himalaya and the Sasquatch or Bigfoot of North America. References to wild ‘Greymen’ in Scotland and similar creatures elsewhere in Europe, sometimes called Wudewas or ‘Wood Men’, date back to the 13th century, and are believed by some to represent relict hominids.


We went through the giftshop – of course.  You always have to go through the giftshop to enter or leave anywhere that tourists might be.

We had lunch at the The Ptarmigan Restaurant, which is the highest restaurant in the UK.  The Ptarmigan offers great panoramic views down to Loch Morlich and across to Ben Nevis (Ben Nevis is an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic name “Beinn Nibheis”. “Beinn” is the most common Gaelic word for “mountain”) and Ben Hope (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Hòb).

I had Mac and cheese with slices of tomato and chips (fries) and Tom had chili over rice.  The TV was showing Benedict Cumberbatch complaining about fans taking cellphone pictures while he was acting in Hamlet.

The TV also showed stories on milk prices, nightclub owners complaining about losing business to festivals, the  Ferguson shooting.

We went to the observation deck.  It was still raining but I went out, anyway.

We had to go back through the restaurant to get to the funicular and ran into the waiter from yesterday. What are the odds of that?

We took the Funicular down instead of walking, since it was raining so hard.  Just before we got to the bottom station, we stopped.  The operator said it was because the other car wasn’t at the top yet, which is when I learned that funiculars could be operated by a counterweight.


From https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funicular

A funicular (/fjʉˈnɪkjʉlər/), also known as an inclined plane or cliff railway, is a cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope, the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalancing each other. Funiculars of one sort or another have existed for hundreds of years and continue to be used for moving both passengers and goods. Its name derives from the latin, funiculus, diminutive of funis, meaning “rope”.


We drove back through the pouring rain and it was nap time!

We woke up about  7pm and went to reception for to report that the  sunroom heater stopped heating, then off to Tesco for groceries.  This time, we took bags since they weren’t eager to give us any yesterday.

Then, back to reception to find out about where the laundry facilities were.

Our dinner was soup and potato salad since we’d had peanut butter sandwiches earlier.

On TV – same Benedict story as we’d see on the mountain, followed by tattoo fixers.

I’d planned on going to bed but then there was David Attenborough showing us the animals he’d take if he had an ark.  We’d talked about him earlier since he had been prominently featured in a brochure onRothiemurchus and here he was on tv.

Then, there was a show on hormones, including Dr. Harvey Cushing, then a show on tower (bell) ringing. Aach.

I finally got to bed at 1:30am

All pictures



So far this year its been mostly work, snow, ice, work…

I did get to go to a Rare Disease Conference at the NIH last month.  That was just a day trip but it was a good one.  I always like going back to NIH.  I spent so much time there when I was being diagnosed with Cushing’s and post-op that it feels like a second home to me.

We had lunch in the real cafeteria – more memories.  When I was an inpatient, my DH and young son would come visit most nights and we’d have a late dinner there.

Last November 30, my son and I got to play a 2-piano duo in the Steinway Hall Rotunda in NYC.  As it turned out, we were the last ever people to play there before they moved to a new location in Manhattan.


Steinway Hall, November 30, 2014


Here’s a brief video of him playing his solo and one of us playing 2-pianos:




We are currently getting ready to play a duet (1 piano) at the temporary location for Steinway in early June, 2015 …the same day we leave on a cruise to Bermuda.  Talk about a tight schedule!

After the November recital, we went to see the Intrepid in NY Harbor.  Across the water, a couple berths over I saw a cruise ship departing.  I didn’t know/didn’t care where they were going but I found out.

For Christmas, everyone’s gift was a cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda.  More on that later.

Also, this summer will be a trip to Scotland to see and hear the Edinburgh Tattoo.  This has been on my bucket list for a long time.  My grandfather was in the Black Watch and I just love to hear bagpipes. Even my cellphone ringtone is Scotland, the Brave.

A bit more about him here.

This weekend is a Handbell Festival in Maryland – kind of exciting, too :)




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