Well the A9 is an awful lot easier and faster than I remember from the last time I drove up to Aviemore. That was about forty years ago. Storm “Ali” was the reason for the change of plan. I was originally heading for Oban on the West Coast, but the forecast was dire. 60mph winds and torrential rain. Aviemore however was supposed to miss the worst of the weather.
Because of much faffing around – which I won’t go into – I ended up spending the morning in Dunbar, which I hadn’t planned to do. However Dunbar is a pleasant little town to visit. The harbour with the ruins of Dunbar Castle is attractive. The John Muir Country Park and the John Muir Way are also worth a look. (Though the full John Muir Way starts in Helensburgh, on the West Coast.)
It was lunch time before I made the decision to head for Aviemore rather than Oban.I suppose it is the beauty of your transport also being your bed and breakfast, it doesn’t matter where you decide to go, you will always have somewhere to sleep and, provided you have remembered to stock the fridge, something to eat.
I arrived at Rothiemurchus Camping and Caravan site about six p.m. It took me about ten minutes to set the van up for the night. Then settled myself down with a beer while I decided what to cook for supper. While I was eating my supper I checked the weather and found that Aviemore was about the only place in the Highlands that was not going to have 60mph winds the next day, so I decided to stay an extra night.
I started what was to become my daily morning ritual today. If I was staying at a campsite with showers, get up, stick today’s clothes, my wash bag and a towel into a carrier bag, stick my hoodie on over my pyjamas ( or my rain jacket if it’s raining), walk to the shower block, have a shower and sometimes a shave, change into today’s clothes and come back to the van to cook breakfast. If you are friends with me on Facebook you will have seen my daily breakfast updates.
After breakfast I had to decide what to do with my day. Using the magic of the internet I tried Google and typed “Things to do in Aviemore” It came back with a few suggestions that would have been great if I was ten years old, a few that might have been good if the forecast on the top of Cairngorm hadn’t been for wind gusts up to 100mph and the Strathspey Railway.
I like steam trains, in fact I like steam. It might be partially due to the fact that inspecting steam boilers has kept a roof over my head for the last thirty years. So I settled on a trip on the steam train. I caught the 12:30 train from Aviemore, which also came with the option of having a light lunch (soup, sandwiches and a pot of tea or coffee) which cost £24 return (including the train fare). The standard train fare is £15 return, so if you are feeling a bit broke you could always take your own flask and sandwiches, like a true train spotter. The journey through the pleasant Strathspey countryside takes about an hour and three-quarters.
Walking back to the Starlight Express the heavens opened and although it was only about a couple of hundred metres at the most and even though I was wearing my new Goretex rain jacket (bought specially for the trip), I got soaked from the waist down. Again the beauty of a camper van revealed itself. All I had to do was pull the blinds across find some dry clothes and change. Brilliant. I did go and buy some waterproof over trousers as a future precaution. I never needed them.
After I had dried off and done my shopping, I decided to take a trip to Grantown-on-Spey, the centre of the Speyside Whisky Trail and salmon fishing. I didn’t do either but I did discover a lovely walk from the town down to the river.
After my walk I drove back to the campsite, made myself dinner and settled down to work out where to go the next day. I had bought my self a map of the highlands because I discovered SatNav’s are very good for guiding you to a destination, but absolutely useless at helping you decide where you might like to go.
It was decided, tomorrow it was onwards and upwards to John O’ Groats.
An aside: My spell checker suggests Satan’s as a replacement for SatNav’s.