Sunday, February 16, 2014

Valentine's Weekend Adventure in the Scottish Highlands

2014 is here and in full swing, so this past weekend Christian and I decided to take a break from all of the madness for a Valentine's weekend getaway to the Highlands of Scotland. 

The forecast in the Highlands was calling for snow, and when we left Edinburgh on Friday afternoon we headed straight into the storm. What normally is a 2 hour 45 min. minute drive turned into a 4 1/2 hour journey, but it was worth it! Saturday was supposed to be more cloudy than Sunday, so we decided to save our highlight for the last part of our trip. Our first stop was Loch An Eilein right outside of Aviemore. The loch is at the base of a mountain with a 3.5 mile hiking path, and we geared up for a leisurely stroll. 

Walking through the forrest was really fun, and we were really happy the weather cooperated - no wind or rain! 

We spent the rest of Saturday walking around the town and checking out the ski resort. Up onto of the Cairngorm mountain it was FREEZING! Lucky I had 3 layers of clothes on to help keep me warm. 

Sunday we woke up to sunshine and we were super excited to trek to our next stop on the weekend's itinerary. While researching things to do in the national park, Christian read about a Reindeer hill walk that I was really excited about. We left our hotel early to meet our guides at the Reindeer centre and we headed up the mountain in convoy until we couldn't go any further. From there we headed on foot for a hike into the mountain to find Britian's only wild reindeer heard. The views during the hike were breathtaking! 

Christian and Me with Loch Morlich in the background

The temperature on top of the mountain was right around 0 degrees celsius

Most of the hike was without wind, but when it did kick up I was thankful for my heavy duty windproof jacket. The snow waist deep in some areas. 

The group heads into the mountain

I had to take a break and enjoy the snow. It has been a few years since I have experienced a proper winter!

We also took a minute to think forward to our big day! It's hard to believe its almost 2 months away! 

After about a 1.5 mile hike we rounded a turn and then saw the heard. I was so excited I seriously wanted to run towards them, but obviously couldn't in order not to scare them. 

We got closer and closer, and our guide started "calling the reindeer" by making a low bellowing sound to let them know we were aproaching. Our guide let us know that they know this noise means food is coming. 

Fun fact: Reindeer are called caribou in North America and have hair on their noses to prevent frost bite.

When we arrived our guide told us not to move and the reindeer would come right up to us. I didn't really believe it would happen and the next thing I knew this little lady was right in front of me. The heard was only female and baby reindeer. The male reindeer were in their own herd on the other side of the mountain. I was really surprised how little they were, and expected them to be a lot more timid. 

Christian made a friend!

Then came the fun part, feeding time! 

For those who wanted to you could take a handful of food and feed the reindeer. I absolutely loved this and it was a unique experience I really never will forget! We were encouraged to use our bare hands and get on their eye level to avoid them wanting to compete with each other. I was a little nervous on the first go, especially seeing the antlers, but they were such gentle animals! 

Before I knew it she was eating right out of my hands! Their noses were so soft and they had a very thick soft coat. We learned that their coats are one of the best insulators of all animals, and with such cold temperatures I am glad they have them! 

Next Christian had a go. He commented on how easy going the heard was and gentle they were taking the food. 

Nom Nom Nom....

I fed the deer around 10 times until the food ran out. It was fun to try and walk around with food in your hands because they all followed keen to get the grub from you. 

Up close and personal with a Reindeer! 

I noticed that there were a few baby reindeer that were all white. I learned that these albino animals were deaf and sometimes miss the "call" to come and eat because they are too busy sleeping and don't realise the heard has left. However these deer are lucky because they can blend into the snow easier that their peers from their wolf predators. 

Look at that face! I would have taken her home as a pet if I could have, but I don't think my employer would appreciate a Reindeer in student accommodation! 

Sadly after about 45 minutes it was time to leave the heard and head back to the car. The sun was out and we really enjoyed the hike back. I also had so much adrenaline from being close to the deer, and would recommend this for anyone visiting the Cairngorms National Park. 

Christian with the heard in the background

The blue skies and sun made it ridiculously bright on the snow. My face feels a bit sunburned from the excursion. 

Christian enjoying the snow


After the excursion we headed back down the mountain and down the road to our last stop on the trip. You can see the snow covered hills in the background of this picture.  

Mr. Miyagi, who safely got us up and back from the highlands!

Our final stop was half way back to Edinburgh at the Falls of Bruar. We headed on a 45  minute hike up to the falls. We had to be careful of steep drops as the sign warned us when we began.

Christian taking a break at the lower falls. 

The picture on the left is the picture of the falls in the distance. When we got closer we took pictures of the gorge below as shown in the picture on the right. 

The hike was a really nice way to end the weekend. We got everything we had hoped for, a bit of snow, a bit of sun, and a bit of adventure. So many more exciting things to look forward to in 2014! 

Until next time, we'll see you on the internet.