The Cromdale Grahams are a couple of hills close to home. They are known primarily for their history, which saw the Battle of Cromdale take place here. They’re also known as having 2 quite large monuments on the summit. One to celebrate the coronation of Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII, and the other to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The hills are now though becoming more well known as a place to spot Scotland’s wild reindeer herd.
I had waited some considerable time for a high pressure system to come this way over the winter. Tackling these 2 hills at any other time of the year is hard going. Between the 2 hills lie 6.5 km of bog and peat hags. I wanted solid ground underfoot and good winter light during the day to photograph the reindeer – if they made an appearance.
Starting very early in the morning from the village of Cromdale, I hoped to be up on top by sunrise. A good path leads up to the Piper’s Stone, and from there the going turns rough.
Ascending steeply through knee high heather toward the ridge, I spot 2 reindeer some distance from, and ascending parallel with me, albeit a lot quicker. I increased my pace hoping to catch up with them on top. The light was slowly turning purple, pink and then orange as the sun was nearing its rise.
Were the 2 reindeer going to be in view?
Would I be able to get some worthwhile images, after I had carried the weight of my professional camera gear up here for this day?
The Jubilee Cairn
Summit trig and Jubilee Cairn
I arrive at the summit just as the sun rises behind the Cairngorms and casts a golden glow all around. Looking back I spot movement in the distance near to the Coronation Cairn. It’s the Reindeer.
Reindeer in the distance
Descending quickly I make my way over towards them, hoping they would remain there.
The Coronation Monument
At the monument and my first sight now of the herd.
The rest of my walk lies beyond the reindeer and to the far end of this hill in the centre of the image. The Corbett of Ben Rinnes is on the right.
Reindeer are very docile animals and it was such an amazing sight to get so close to them.
I spent quite some time around them taking photos before I finally managed to pull myself away. I still had a fair distance to hike yet, but it was difficult to leave this scene behind me. Leave I did though, and as I made my way over the frozen ground to the next Graham some 5km in the distance yet, the sound of the red grouse accompanied me.
Near to the summit of this hill I come across another, smaller herd of reindeer, and I very happily begin snapping away again.
Very reluctantly, I pack up and retrace my steps for the long descent back to the van. As I reach the road the sun is almost setting and this glorious winter day is almost at an end.
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