By Susan McCrone, December 2017
We turn off in Carrbridge following the road alongside the river. Heading out of town, we drive along the single track road through woodland and expansive Juniper stands, eventually coming to the end of the tarmac. Here we park up with views of river, floodplain, hills and moor.
Following the path past an old, disused house towards the river, we find it full and turbulent with snowmelt.
We savour the views over the flat plain to the hills in the distance which still carry some of the snow which fell a few days earlier. Wandering along the side of the river we can see many trees which have had the soil washed away at their roots as the direction of the water has shifted this way and that. They now lie prostrate, bleached and bare, along the river’s edge.
Juniper and Scots Pine are dotted here and there, with foxgloves and other plants nestled in the protection they provide from the biting wind.
We head back towards the car to follow another route we spotted, and head for a hillock clothed with heather. Scots Pine stand tall and sure, and many of the Juniper are adorned with an abundance of yet-to-ripen berries.
Proceeding along the side of a burn (stream) we pick our way through the deep heather. Amazing mosses, lichens and algae greet us as we head along the wee valley created by the burn. Turning along one of the deer tracks come across a wider path which we follow deeper into the moor. A red grouse suddenly breaks for cover, startled by our presence.
We see many dead and dying trees, but also a profusion of Scots Pine seedlings tentatively sticking their heads above the heather and cowberry. They seem unsure of whether they are ready yet to face the cold winds which whistle across the moor, and the deer which are happy to graze on their tender tips.
Eventually we turn around and follow the track back towards the car. The wind is behind us now and the views open up before us as we head back towards the river and the panorama of higher hills further to the west.
Back in Carrbridge we stop to savour the vibrant energy of the river as it passes beneath the Old Packhorse Bridge. Built in 1717, it was badly damaged by flood waters in the 18th Century and again in 1829. A newer road bridge now carries the traffic through the town, but the characterful old bridge remains a poignant and popular photographic opportunity for visitors.
Next, we cross the road to the Carrbridge Hotel. Our favourite refuelling spot if we’re out this way, with a great Sunday carvery, great service, and, they let us take our wee dog in with us.
Fully replenished we head homewards. It’ll be getting dark soon as the sun sets early at this time of year in the Highlands. Have we got enough time to go home via Dulnain Bridge and visit Archie?