Strath Spey 2021. Day 3: Loch an Eilein.

Tuesday 28 September 2021.

(Cairngorm National Park, Scotland)

We hadn’t quite decided whether today would be hiking or biking, but after getting up leisurely, and having looked at the weather forecast which was for intermittent showers, we decided to hike. That said, we also decided that a half day outing would be enough, and settled in for a leisurely morning, with a lat breakfast followed by the customary unpacking and re-sorting of the suitcase. This wouldn’t have been necessary but, last night when I wanted some warm clothes to go star-gazing, I couldn’t find the things I was looking for. In the process, I may have ended up completely disturbing everything in the entire case…

After getting ourselves sorted with clothes, rucksacks, packed lunches, hydration packs and having chosen a route, we set off. Or at least, we got outside the front door. It was cold! The app said 10C, feels like 7C, and it wasn’t kidding. Or, if it was, it was being generous… It was very windy and that was bringing the temperature down. After weeks of mild weather, it was quite a shock. Still, I’d put a warm coat and gloves into my pack, so I was at least prepared. We drove to Rothiemurchas and, after calling int to the visitor centre to check where we needed to go, found our way to the car park for the Loch an Eilein hike.

This route is supposedly about 3 miles, and without much elevation gain. We set off and headed clockwise around the lake. The walk started passing the very end of the lake and I was grateful that I hadn’t packed my swimsuit and didn’t need to find an excuse not to get in. The wind was whipping the water up and white crested waves were rolling in at speed. Combined with the cold, it was not appealing. I did stick my hand in though and had to admit that the water didn’t feel as cold as it looked. 14C maybe?

Our walk continued on, over a small bridge and up into the woods. I assumed it broadly followed the lake shore and so we took a path to the right, which had beautiful views of the sun dappled water. I then checked the route to discover that we should have gone left. Oh well. We back tracked and rejoined the main route which climbed up and down, rolling through pine forests. The trees cut out the wind, and although there were frequent rain showers, they didn’t really penetrate far below the canopy. The air was strongly scented with pine, and the old needles softened the path underfoot. It was, in short, absolutely lovely.

After a while I announced that I was getting hungry, and as Andrew concurred, we decided to look for a suitable lunch log. Within ten steps we spotted one, a large tree, used by so many over the years that the wood was polished smooth, offering a lovely view across the lake. Lunch butties eaten, it was back to sauntering through the woods.

After a while we reached a decision point, to either continue back towards the car, or take a detour around an adjacent loch, which was what we decided to do. This would add around 45 minutes to the walk and was noted as being often muddy. Signs pointed out its unmaintained status. For the most part, it wasn’t too bad, although i can imagine that if there had been a lot of rain, it would certainly get extremely squelchy underfoot. As this was the only section of walk that wasn’t sheltered by the trees, when the rain came through we noticed it, but it wasn’t long before we were back under the protection of the trees.

After completing the loop of Loch Gamhna, we re-joined the main trail and walked back towards the start, but before we got there, we passed an island with the ruins of a castle on it. Overall, it was a very pleasant hike, with lochs, forests, pine scent, and a castle – what more could you want? In total it was 5.6 miles with 300 feet of elevation gain.

Back at the car we decided to detour into Aviemore for a few supplies before heading back to our cottage. Nipping in to a supermarket is so much more fun on holiday for some reason. Maybe it’s because you get to choose the things that you wouldn’t normally buy…more snacks and chocolate, anyone?!

Back at base, we relaxed with coffee and homemade double-choc muffins, before showering and settling down for a relaxing evening, with a nice wood burning stove for warmth and atmosphere (at least until we were too warm to add another log!).

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