Aviemore & Nairn

After a very wet day trapped in the house (where mum spent most of the day reading this website), we headed east to avoid more rain. The long drive up Loch Linnhe, then the Great Glen and Glen Spean brought us to civilisation once more at Newtonmore, and then a few miles later at Kingussie we stopped for the first time to explore Ruthven Barracks. After that, we headed north through Strathspey to the Caingorm Mountain Resort and then into Aviemore. A detour brought us to the unexpected delight of Carrbridge, after which we passed through Grantown and then across wild moorland to Nairn. Our penultimate stop was at Clava Cairns on the outskirts of Inverness, and then finally in Beauly for tea.

Ruthven Barracks

The Barracks at Ruthven near Kingussie were built in the wake of the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion and completed in about 1719. In 1724, General Wades Military Road arrived at the site, and soon after the stable block was added to the rear of the main barracks. Twelve years later, after the second uprising in 1745/6, the barracks were destroyed by the retreating Jacobites, and have stood in their ruinous state ever since. It is perhaps, therefore, testament to the builders that they still form such an impressive sight in the landscape!

The site was originally that of a castle built in c1229, although the mound is natural - a result of the Ice Age! Between 1229 and 1746 a substantial village existed on the nearby hillside, overlooking the Spey, but after the barracks were abandoned, the planned town of Kingussie across the valley took over.

Cairngorm & Aviemore

The Cairngorm Mountain Resort is a Ski centre on the slopes of the second highest mountain range in the British Isles - After Ben Nevis of course! The Road climbs to a staggering 2000ft or more, and from the car park a Funicular Railway then takes skiers and tourists alike (Depending on season) up to the top station, not far short of the summit of Cairngorm. Unfortunately, the views have none of the beauty or grandeur of the West Highlands.

Far down in Strathspey below, Aviemore has been an important resort, especially for winter sports, since the 1960's when the vast hotel complex was built. It is now also the western terminus of the Strathspey Railway - a private steam railway to Boat of Garten, with aims to extend to Grantown on Spey. The town is pleasant enough, but belies its 1960s origins a little too obviously.

Carrbridge

Heading for Grantown, I spotted a sign for '18th Century Bridge', and a few minutes later we were in Carrbridge, admiring this peculiar structure, Back in Somerset, the packhorse bridge is a relatively familiar idea, if not sight on Exmoor. However, in Scotland it is unexpected. The old bridge in Carrbridge was built in 1717 primarily to allow funeral parties to cross the river when it was in spate. However, it was also part of an important trade route north and south, as evidenced by the fact that the A9 would later pass next to it. Despite being damaged several times by floodwater, the arch itself still stands, and the bridge was still being used long after the parapets were swept away!

Nairn

We never did stop in Grantown, instead continuing northwards to Nairn. Here, we stopped briefly to look at the small harbour - now a marina - and the sizeable beach which bares a remarkable resemblance to that back at Burnham, except that Brean Down is missing at the end of the view, and 'Wales' goes the wrong way!! Having stopped in Nairn before, I know it is a pretty little town, but it was getting late in the day so we headed on, hoping not to be home too late as I was due in work at 6am the next morning!

Clava Cairns

Just outside Inverness, and not that far from Culloden, the Clava Cairns are a neolithic burial ground consisting of three main cairns, each ringed by standing stones. There is also a smaller, later cairn structure. Two of the cairns are passage graves, with all sorts of peculiar patterns (both inscribed and structural) identified by the archaeologists over the years. Some relate to the colours of the stones, others to the way that the stones are taller near the entrance than at the back. Of course, they have both become roofless in the intervening 3 or 4000 years!
The other main cairn is a doughnut shape, without entrance, and may have been more of a ceremonial site than a burial chamber, although I think some remains were found within. The stone infill is apparently shaded differently, in segments (ie different colours), and where the 'boundaries' of these segments reach the edge, stone banks extend to the stone circle outside. I don't think anyone really understands why! The picture on the right are a mix of this visit, and my previous one.

Beauly

We eventually arrived in Beauly, at tea time, and found that almost everything was shut. Well, when the Priroy in Beauly is shut, that is almost everything. The big gates were all padlocked, even though someone was still wandering around inside, but we couldn't be bothered to find another way in. The picture on the right is from my previous visit. The Priory was founded in 1220, and then abandoned in the reformation of 1560. The church remained in use for the townsfolk, but the other buildings were robbed to build Inverness Castle in 1563. The church later became derelict when the town could no longer afford to maintain it.