As the funicular climbs steadily up the mountainside, I count the number of tall mountains I have visited during my travels: Mont Blanc (4,810m) in France was my favourite and the highest I’ve ever been, but there have also been the Eiger (3,970m) and the Männlichen (2,343m) in Switzerland, Sass Songher (2,625m) in Italy and the Zugspitze (2,962m) in Germany. And let’s not forget our own Table Mountain (1,084m) in South Africa. So, of course, Gareth and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel to the top of the UK’s sixth tallest mountain, Cairn Gorm (1,245m), while exploring the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. It also happened to be my first time ever in a funicular, since I ascended all the other mountains in cable cars.
Finally, after slowly making our way up the dark tunnel towards the top of the mountain, the funicular stops and people spill out its doors. Confusion reigns as snowboarders and skiers alike compete to get to the slopes first. Gareth and I take a moment to let them all pass. The wind bites through our thick winter coats and we open the first door we see, leading into the cafeteria. It must be lunchtime and there isn’t an open seat in the house. We make our way to the back and end up on the terrace where the wind howls around the corners and threatens to steal my hat. The cold soon drives us back indoors.
The stairway up leads to a curio shop, followed by an exhibition that seems dull at first, but turns out to be quite interesting once we start reading all the informative displays. Who knew that the mountain is home to the “Gray Man”, a yeti-like creature that has been terrorising mountaineers since the 1800s? Luckily our visit was terror-free, apart from a split second on the descent when the funicular exited the dark tunnel into the blinding white light of the sun reflecting off the snowy slopes.
A few minutes later we find ourselves beside Loch Morlich, feeding the ducks. The sky is overcast, but the weather is fine and the lakeside is quiet. I gaze back up at Cairn Gorm peak, the hustle and frenzy of its slopes almost forgotten in the solitude of the beautiful lake at the foot of the mountain.
For more posts in the Winter Escape 2012 series, click here.