Heading up North – The Cairngorms


Yesterday we packed the car and headed up North, driving from Edinburgh through the wild mountainous heart of Scotland, towards Skye. As we travelled from East to West, climbing higher into the hills, the snow became thinner, and the mountain tops looked as though they had been dusted with icing sugar.


The roads are spectacular, carving their way through mountains, glens and lochs, in dizzying twists and straights which leave you wondering which direction you are pointing.


It’s been so cold the deer were low on the slopes, searching for sweet green shoots.


We stopped at the Commando Memorial, which overlooks the harsh mountainous training ground used by the British Commandos during World War II. Potential candidates travelled up from as far as London, on a 12 hour train journey, and then had to walk 7 miles with all their equipment, to the training camp. Many were weeded out and set home at this point. Those who were left learned how to survive on next to nothing amid these mountains. Many current day commandos who have lost their lives in recent conflicts choose to have their ashes scattered here.




We continued on the twisting roads, hugging the sides of lochs and reservoirs, further and further west, dropping down towards the sea and warmth.



The sea is spread out in the shape of Loch Alsh, with Eileen Donnan Castle at its head, guarding the ancient passage inland. Away in the distance are the mountains of Skye. We were nearly there


About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home on the shores of Loch Ness deep in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, my son and a couple of dogs. I love art which is here now and gone tomorrow...like food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist and Cancer Support Specialist in Maggies Highlands
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55 Responses to Heading up North – The Cairngorms

  1. tree girl says:

    Do you think there were trees in these landscapes in the past? There seems to be so few trees.

    I saw a documentary a while ago that said that a lot of forests in the UK were decimated by the need for wood, for housing, cooking, and weapons. It said that much of the wood in the UK was exported to Italy to make the city of Venice.

    • There were more trees, but the mountain tops have always been bare above the tree line….too cold and windy….some of the peaks still have patches of snow even now after midsummer has passed. I was researching tree cover across ancient Scotland for a book I’m trying to write, and up in this area it was mostly Scots pines and birch trees, covering about 50% of the lower ground. People have been clearing wood to make fields for at least 6,000 years here!

  2. Beachbums1 says:

    So beautiful! I love reading your posts. We’ll be in Scotland as of next Sunday for a week long road trip beginning in Edinburgh then heading to St Andrews and up to Inverness. Wish I had a few more weeks to explore the countryside. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed ~ any advice on what’s an absolute “don’t miss”?

  3. Carl Milner says:

    Stunning clarity, the air must have been so clear, but that final shot of Eileen Donnan Castle with the daffodils is a cracker …thinking of making a visit north of the border as well, just discussing it tonight with my wife and friends we have up there.

    • The air was crystal clear, it’s always so fresh up here, but in the cold there seems to be an extra sharpness. I’ll look forward to seeing some photos of your trip. Which area will you visit?

  4. dorysworld says:

    What amazing scenery and such a beautiful road … I really am going to have to head north very soon.

  5. Beachbums1 says:

    You did find the clear blue sky! We must be just ahead of the sunshine ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I love that drive. Skye is my favorite place on the planet. It’s so gorgeous I get teary when I start to get close. I’ve never been in the winter … I think I’ll change that next year. I’ll be there this summer for sure. Beautiful photos … what kind of camera are you using? Here’s a link to some of my photos from Skye. http://giftsofthejourney.com/2010/03/05/reaching-for-more/

    • So glad to evoke such happy memories for you. That is a wonderful post you have given the link for. Worth a visit ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m using a Canon 650D for all my recent photos, and I love how easy it is to use along with the great ( I hope) results.
      Often the weather is great up here until July and August which tend to be wetter and plagued by midges! If you look at my next post you’ll see lovely sunny images of the village my mother grew up in. This is why we visit several times a year ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Lucky you with the weather too! Wonderful colours and great hills and mountains.I cannot recall that castle though…have to go back to the diary for that year. Looks great, though!

    • The weather has been glorious up here for about 6 weeks apparently, and now the ground is so dry that there have been several very bad wild fires. We spotted several as we drove around, and all of the paths up into the mountains had extreme fire risk warning signs. It’s very unusual up here for this time of year.

  8. it looks almost like another planet entirely! so harsh and so pretty. and that last image is so perfect (despite the scaffolding. :P) so dreamy. i would LOVE to roadtrip there. but you totally drive on the wrong side of the road so i don’t know if i dare. ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. sunlitrain says:

    These are breathtaking!

  10. kimtisha says:

    Oh this looks like a perfect road trip for the Harley. Just shared this post with my husband – he’s game! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • If you think this looks good wait till you see the photos from the trip over to Applecross we did today. People travel from all across Europe to bike this road ๐Ÿ™‚ But the roads all around here are well loved by bikers….and on Skye

  11. frizztext says:

    Eilean Donan Castle – you must be lucky, you could see it …
    I only tried to write about …

    • We see it several times a year …..And this shot isn’t brilliant as the castle has scaffolding on its west face at the moment….it somewhat spoils the silhouette! Your post is nice, thanks for the link ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Lynne Ayers says:

    Oh I so love the scenery of Scotland. I’d love to do this drive. Also want to include the area around Inverness as family comes from Nairn, Turriff and Peterhead. Enjoy your trip!

    • You could easily head across to Plockton and Skye from Inverness, on a day trip. We do it the other way often to visit friends while we’re up here. You are going to have a wonderful trip ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Saurabh Vyas says:

    Really nice images.. Wonderful colors and compositions!

  14. Amy says:

    Gorgeous driving scenery! Thank you for taking us with you, Mackenzie!

  15. Caro Woods says:

    Such clear blue sky and no low-lying snow! Stunning! And not a soul in sight – except for the bronze statues standing sentinel over the mountains….how wonderful. Thank you.

  16. Gilraen says:

    Wonderful, beautiful, magnificent. No word suffice for the beauty of the road to Skye through the mountains.

  17. I am envious, have a great time

  18. Wow! Spectacular images.

  19. eldinsmille says:

    Is this castle where “The highlander” was shoot?

    • Yes, I think a few films have been shot from here. They say its the most photographed castle in Scotland. I’m not sure though, I imagine Edinburgh Castle gets more visitors, and so more photos ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Wow … each of these is a beauty. What wonderful country (but, you know that). More … more! D

  21. atmospheric all the way ๐Ÿ™‚

    • And I’m not really convinced that I’m doing these mountains justice. They just sweep you up and you feel so small and so remote, and very calm

      • i can imagine the difference, :), i remember the Welsh ‘mountains’ , the odd house on a hillside, each with their own cloud, lol, the way the sun and clouds battle, shedding their shine n shade upon the slopes, wild grass ‘flowing’ like a sea in the breeze ๐Ÿ™‚

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