The Internal Combustion Engine and other Mishaps – The Cairngorms

This post nearly started like one of those spam emails – we are marooned in somewhere many miles from anywhere, please send shed loads of cash. Well do feel free to send cash if you like but – everything crossed – we may not be marooned. After overnight rain, today we moved north eastwards from Killin, retracing our route from yesterday, past a mist-shrouded Loch Tay, looking beautiful in the morning sunshine. The clouds grow increasingly darker as we approach Aviemore on the A9 but we have arrived in the Cairngorms and the smell of resin from the pine forests is noticeable. Our destination is Grantown-on-Spey. This is the point at which our plans were abandoned in 2014, following the grinding almost to a halt of our car. The gory details are preserved online. This time however we reach the site without mishap. Here we do not get to choose our own pitch and are directed to ‘red1’. Red1 it seems lacks the advertised television signal and wi-fi. It isn’t that I mind being without these things (some would dispute that when they see my wi-fi withdrawal symptoms) but when you pay extra for a site because they advertise these amenities, it is a little galling. Tackling one at a time we try retuning our television, more than once, quite a lot more than once, to no avail. Our neighbour comes to help. It seems he can’t bear the thought that we might have to miss Coronation Street. He fiddles with our aerial, tries his aerial on our television, proving that it is our aerial that is at fault. To be honest we aren’t much bothered about the television and were about to head out but we wait whilst he fiddles with our aerial again and we do have television of a highly pixilated, frequently freezing sort.

Leaving the lack of internet for a while, we leap in the car for an afternoon excursion, pleased that we were allowed on site early and thus have gained an extra half an hour; although most of that has been lost with the endeavours of our helpful television not-quite-fixing neighbour. Chris turns the ignition, the car revs alarmingly and an ominous red light appears on the dashboard. What have we ever done to Grantown-on-Spey that it should be the scene of our holiday dilemmas? We set off slowly in search of a garage. At least this time we are not four islands and nearly a hundred miles from the van and we are within walking distance of a shop. The man at the garage seems bemused but says he can ‘run it through the computer’ in two hours time. We return to the van with heavy hearts. If I am going to be marooned I need internet and after a certain amount of tweaking, the site warden manages to connect me to the outside world. Two hours later Chris returns to the garage and to my surprise is back again very quickly. It is a something or other and we may need diesel cleaner but we can carry on driving. I am not sure the mechanic realises quite how far we intend to carry on driving before we reach the civilisation that is a Landrover garage but we decide not to waste the day.

By this time it is gone 3.00pm but we go back past Aviemore to Ruthven Barracks, designated as a ‘must see’ attraction. The nearby town of Kingussie is a centre for shinty, a Gaelic form of hockey. We park alongside the two other people that have read the same guidebook that I have and ascend the hill in a decidedly bracing wind to the ruined barracks. It was built on the site of a castle after the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. In 1745, Sergeant Molloy and twelve redcoats held out against Bonnie Prince Charlie, with a force of 200, with only one casualty. They surrendered the following year when the barracks were burnt. Even allowing for the theory that people were shorter in times gone by, some of the doorways seem more suited to hobbits but I guess the floor levels have risen with accumulated mud. The barracks are quite impressive but I am not sure I would rate them quite so highly as the guidebook suggests.

286 Loch an Eilean 16 May 2016As we have come quite a distance to spend not very long looking at the barracks we decide to stop off at Loch an Eilean on the Rothiemurchus Estate on the way back. The original plan was to walk four miles or so round the loch. By this time it is not only 5.00pm but very cold and drizzling so, despite having made a financial investment for car parking, we just take a very short walk along the loch side to see the castle in the middle of loch. We try and fail to find the monument to Major General Brook Rice who drowned in the loch whilst skating. This is allegedly the number one picnic place in the UK. I debate whether this is a self-styled title. I am sure it would be very lovely if the temperature were fifteen degrees higher. Having satisfied ourselves that we have actually done something today, we head for home. The weather forecast for our booked trip on the funicular railway tomorrow is not encouraging, ah well, this is Scotland and rain it must.

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