Another day off and another day out. That’s what this Helpx experience should be like. We are happy to work hard to earn our keep but it’s the well deserved days off that really make it all worthwhile.
We’d been given the Wednesday off and decided to return to the centre of the Cairngorms mountains and make an attempt on another Munro called The Cairnwell. Actually that wasn’t the main reason for our return, we’d seen the Glenshee chairlift at the ski centre previously and remembered that it was open throughout the summer. Who can resist a chairlift?
The Old Military Road
We covered the journey up to Glenshee along the Old Military Road in a previous post (Braemar and the Snow Road) but it seriously must be one of the worlds greatest drives. Also referred to as the Snow Road it climbs like a rollercoaster through mountains and past lochs from Blairgowrie right up to Glenshee where it becomes Britains highest road. We obviously drove in summer but it must be just as spectacular in the winter. What a drive that would be!
Glenshee Ski Centre
Our plan was to park at the ski centre and then get the Cairnwell Chair Lift all the way to the top before walking back down. The lift is open all summer and for £6 each one way a real bargain. There are actually over 20 lifts at Glenshee but the Cairnwell lift is the only one open outside of the ski season. I’m not sure how many people actually know that one of the lifts is open outside of the ski season as our hosts back in Pitlochry, Tina and Norman, certainly had no idea and as far as we know no other Helpxers had ever ventured that way.
The Cairnwell – our second Munro
In Scotland any mountain over 3000 feet is called a Munro and ‘bagging Munro’s’ is a very serious sport. We managed to climb our first last year at Schiehallion over near Aberfeldy (Schiehallion: How we bagged our first Munro) but The Cairnwell would be our second. A lot of serious ‘baggers’ don’t like this one as it’s not a huge climb from the high start point and the chairlift makes it very easy. Neither of us are that serious about anything so we happily ‘bagged’ it.
Our last chairlift was in Whistler (Alpine Adventures on Whistler Mountain) so it’s been far too long. The views as we headed up away from the ski centre towards the peak just got better and better and being the only people riding the lift made it feel even more special. There is something very special about the slow and steady climb of this chair lift and the quiet all around as you gently make your way up and over craggy peaks and rocky outcrops. Relaxing and exciting all at the same time.
It was an easy dismount at the top before a short climb right up to the top of The Cairnwell. Unfortunately they’ve built a few ugly-looking radio masts and shacks at the summit but they sort of gave it character and the views back down Glen Shee were breathtaking.
Being a little overcast it was perfect weather for hiking so we set off across the ski fields and past smaller ski lifts and T-bars towards the neighbouring peak of Carn Aosda. It was fascinating to see all the ski runs with no snow and we stopped time after time to try and figure out which run might go where. So difficult with fences and poles and shacks all over the mountain.
As we wandered down the stoney path we saw only a handful of other walkers as the scenery changed with every turn we made. Stunning is the only way of describing it and we just had to stop and sit and enjoy our packed lunch. A fabulous location and so beautiful.
It took us just over a couple of hours to reach the car park but we continually wandered off-piste and got distracted by the views so I’m sure it could be done a lot quicker if you stepped out. Not really our style though. As we passed the lower ski lifts and huts we did wonder how this would look in the height of the ski season. How different would it be? Hundreds of skiers everywhere and lifts criss-crossing the mountains. So difficult to imagine.
The Wee House of Glenshee
All that was needed after such a fabulous climb was a visit to the quaint little Wee House of Glenshee located a few miles back down the Old Military Road before the Spittal of Glenshee. It’s a gift shop, a craft shop, a pottery shop, and a tearoom all rolled into one. So a couple of huge slices of cake and some coffee just couldn’t be resisted.
Another wonderful day out exploring more of this incredible country and with a week left before heading south we were hoping for maybe another opportunity to go somewhere new.
When the weather is this good there really aren’t many places in the world that can compare with Scotland.