Cairngorms, camping, cycling and some reindeer

A long weekend spent in the trees, hills and sub-artic ‘tundra’ of the Cairngorms. Nearby the campsite there were exciting animals to be found, the likes of which we thought we might never see ‘in real life’. We both have a particular fondness for musk oxen, bison, elks and the like and lo, there they were just ahead of us!

Not to forget the vicuna, a smaller more dainty cousin of the llama and alpaca.

Above the campsite I witnessed a sundog for the first time one morning, and a red squirrel eating its breakfast just feet away the next.

We cycled around the lochans and through the trees – unintentionally going more off road than intended. There is so little of this remarkable native woodland left in the country that it’s easy to forget you’re in Scotland. If it wasn’t for the placenames and local accents around us, I could have thought I was in Canada or Scandinavia.

That feeling was emphasised further on the Monday morning when we did what most people do on a Monday – took some reindeer for a walk.


(Boris and his banana nose)

The reindeer have been in the Cairngorms for over 60 years, breeding and thriving in the sub-arctic environment. It was a magical experience getting to spend time in such close proximity to these placid, intelligent animals. They hardly make a noise save for occasional snuffling and the distinctive click of their heel tendons. While the nature of our visit was pre-determined, it’s a tantalising thought to be walking in the hills and come across a reindeer herd just grazing and going about their business in their natural environment. As I said, it’s easy to forget you’re in Scotland sometimes.


Just off the coast of Argyll, tucked away in Loch Linne is a small, verdant island called Lismore. I recently visited for the first time and took mere minutes to become enchanted.

Fantastic textures on a little used pier…

Decaying paintwork in Balnagowan

Birds foot trefoil just about to bloom

There is so much to see on Lismore. As a result of some very inclement weather days out and about were limited (I have a high tolerance of rain and wind, but I have my limits and these were met on days 1 and 2). Happily, the rest of the time made up for it. We explored just about every corner of the island on a combination of bikes and on foot. Everywhere we travelled we were met with a smile or a wave, or on occasion a look of slight pity on long uphill stretches… There’s a fantastic community spirit on the island, which, for being small, is really admirable. The smells of wild garlic and salt water haven’t left me yet. I already can’t wait to go back.