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Issue 15 - Room with a view

Scotland Magazine Issue 15
July 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Room with a view

CairnGorm Mountain has reinvented itself as a destination for all seasons. Dominic Roskrow reports

Damn the tabloid journalist in me! I just can’t help myself. Tell me that winters just aren’t consistent enough to make skiing in Scotland worthwhile and every pun tumbles out like I’m Lou Grant or someone – you know the sort of thing; the situation being ‘snow joke’, the resort having ‘snow future’ and weather being a ‘no show means no snow’ ad nauseum. And it cannot be denied that at least where the weather’s concerned, there is a problem.

For Aviemore, at the heart of Scotland’s ski industry, patchy and/or unpredictable snow patterns make life very difficult indeed. And up CairnGorm Mountain, something of a rethink has been necessary.

This year for instance, the snow threatened not to come at all. Then the whole winter’s worth turned up in February and was still there way into April, making the season a distinctly skewed affair.

But if there’s an air of despondency over the resort, it was well and truly hidden when I visited. Indeed, Aviemore is undergoing a quite astounding facelift. And up on the mountain, while watching determined late-season ski enthusiasts battle wind, ice and cloud, I’m told that three times as many people now visit the mountain facilities in summer as they do in winter.

The purpose of the trip is to see the stunning Ptarmigan (pronounced tarmigan) Restaurant, which is open on a daily basis throughout the year for family meals and light bites, but which transforms itself in to something very special over the summer months.

“When you see it during the day it’s pretty much what you’d expect for a food area serving tourists,” says marketing manager Tania Adams. “But during the summer months the restaurant is transformed on certain evenings into a more formal restaurant. And people can come in here and watch the sunset overlooking the stunning views. It is very special.”

The Ptarmigan is about 1100 metres (3600 feet) above sea level. Its emphasis is on top quality Scottish produce, much of it produced in the valley below. A special banqueting team will put together a menu that might include breast of wood pigeon, venison, guinea fowl, pheasant or locally produced fresh fish.

You reach the mountain ‘summit’ by way of the highest funicular railway in the United Kingdom, a fun journey from the car park which gives you access to some of the most stunning views in the Highlands.

They call it a high speed railway line, but everything is relative, and a better description is ‘leisurely.’

Once you reach the top, there are gift shops and an interactive mountain exhibition. And there are plans to develop the centre further as the demand for it grows.

“It’s a stunning location and a great way to dine during the summer months,” says Tania. “And the mountain is playing its part in raising the profile of the whole region.

Absolutely true – snow doubt about it. Damn.


Ptarmigan Restaurant
CairnGorm Mountain, Aviemore, Inverness-shire
For evening reservations Tel: +44 (0)1479 861 261