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A Walk on the Wild Side

Sunday 12th July was our 37th wedding anniversary. Our wedding day in 1983 recorded the highest temperatures in over 100 years, with guests sticking to the varnish on the church pews as it melted!

This year the temperature didn't quite reach those dizzy heights but it was a beautiful day for a walk and so we set out across the Rothiemurchus estate which stretches from the River Spey to the high mountain plateaus of the Cairngorms. This private estate has been in the ownership of the Grant family for eighteen generations since Patrick Grant was designated the lands by James VI in 1574. The estate is now owned and managed by Johnnie Grant, 17th Laird of Rothiemurchus.

The estate covers 10,000 hectares of lochs, rivers, glens and mountains - a truly wild landscape that offers spectacular scenery. At its heart is Rothiemurchus Forest, now owned by the Forestry Commission after being sold by the Grants in 2014 for £7.1million. The forest covers an area of 30 square kilometres and is believed to consist of more than 10 million trees - Scots Pine but also birch, rowan, willow and juniper bushes which grow everywhere ( I collect the berries in autumn to add to venison in a casserole). In line with national forest policy much of the land is being allowed to regenerate, after generations of grazing by sheep and deer and felling operations during two World Wars.

A network of signposted forest paths take walkers and cyclists off on many routes but today we took the trail for Loch-an-Eilein - Gaelic for Loch of the Island.

Along the route we were blessed with beautiful views of the plateaus of the Cairngorm range, and even some snow surviving in the corries of Braeriach - in mid-July!

Particularly clear today was the mountain pass known as the Lairig Ghru - Lairig means hill pass and Ghru is probably derived from the River Druie which flows through it. The mountains have always acted as natural barriers and passes through them have provided important communication routes ever since man inhabited these mountains.The Lairig Ghru provides a route for travellers between Strathspey and Deeside and became particularly important in the 18th Century as a drove road for the men of the north east to drive their cattle down to the markets or "trysts" in the south at Falkirk and Crieff.

Today the Lairig Ghru is left to walkers and it's one of the "must do" routes in Scotland. Like "bagging" the Munros (mountains over 3,000ft) every Scottish hill-walker worth their salt has to tick this one off their list. I did it the week I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter Jenny and like to remind her that she must be one of the youngest to complete the route!

Sorry - Braeriach is the mountain with the corries not the one in the foreground - I never can get my mountains right!!

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