This is considered the wildest part of the British Isles. These mountains were once Himmalayan size, but water and wind have slashed them down to a height of 3-4,000 feet. The Scottish and British folks I hiked with seemed self conscious, saying Americans and New Zealanders respond, “These are mountains?” I assured them they shouldn’t listen to people with these attitudes, these mountains are fabulous.
There are no fossils in the mountains – they predate the oldest life on earth. This land is similar to sub Arctic terrain – ecologists say that as you move upslope in mountains, habitats more and more resemble those you’d find as you move increasingly north. Soils here are nutrient poor, and winds slash the ground. As a result, plants grow close to the Earth; some are smaller versions of plants that live in lower habitats. U shaped valleys and lakes, both cut by glaciers are all around. Alpine hares peek from behind boulders as winds seem to blast from twelve directions. Ptarmigans, ground nesting birds guard their chicks that peek from behind rocks while white gulls fly overhead. I spent time in the high country, then hiked through a stream cut canyon at the base of the high peaks. Hike here, but be prepared to scramble through windy damp terrain.
The next day, Kate and I visited an osprey center on the shores of Loch (Lake ) Garten. These fish hawks were hunted to extinction in Scotland. About fifty years ago, a pair that was migrating from Africa to Northern Europe noticed great nesting spots and settled here. Others mated with their descendants, and there is now a healthy population in Scotland. People now appreciate and care for them. This center builds nesting platforms, and encourages many people about these birds and other wonders of Scotland.
The first shot shows a dude hiking in the Cairngorns. The second is the canyon at the bottom of the ridges, and the third is Loch Garten.