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Explaining Scotland

Proud as punch!

How many famous Scots could you name? Do you know, the longer I live in Scotland, the more prominent Scottish people I am aware of and the more often I hear Scottish voices in the media and the arts. Are there a disproportionate number of talented Scots? Or are they just more vocal? Now with so many Scottish voices in the media, online etc surely we can persuade one of them to join us in the hills. Who would you suggest? Who fancies a snowhole?

Our 20th anniversary approaches this year (2018) – perhaps we could persuade a famous face to join us in our celebrations though I think maybe we’d be aiming a wee bit too high if we tried to tempt one of these people to join us. You never know though – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Famous Scots – in film


This Bathgate boy became the 10th and best loved Doctor Who actor; a national treasure.  He received such high acclaim for his Richard II with the RSC that he’s repeated his performance multiple times.  Not forgetting Broadchurch, if you’ve not seen or heard about this UK TV series then you must have been living in a cave!

famous Scots


Almost unrecognisable in her most Hollywood of roles in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Karen first came to our attention as Doctor Who companion, Amy Pond.  Watch out for more, am sure she’ll be on the small and big screens for a long time to come.


Best known for his roles as Mark Renton in the 1996 film Trainspotting, the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and as the young Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in an adaptation of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.  Whilst made a good decade or more ago, I’d highly recommend you watch him in two TV series’ – the Long Way Round and the Long Way Down.

Ewan’s also making quite a name for himself as a voice in nature programmes.


Star of stage and screen, James first came to public attention in the hit Brit show, Shameless. He gained rave reviews for his role in The Last King of Scotland in 2006 and of course, for all your X–men franchise fans, he was a young Charles Xavier. Don’t miss his character’s 23 different personalities in the 2016 film Split.

Famous Scots – in sport


Sharing the record for being Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, Glasgow-born Katherine is now championing the charity International Inspiration which promotes access to sport and physical exercise for lower income families around the world.  2017 was a busy year; appointed chair of UK Sport and awarded a damehood for services to sport and charity.


Not surly at all, now we know he’s just ‘dry’.  Born in Glasgow, Andy has won three Grand Slam titles and two Olympic singles gold medals. Former Wimbledon champion adopted by the British Isles as an undoubted sporting icon.  Andy is the UK’s most successful player in the Open Era.  Not forgetting mum Judy Murray is a proud high achieving Scot too!

famous Scots


Multiple world track cycle champion and Olympic Games gold medal winner. Born in Edinburgh, Hoy is Scotland’s most successful Olympian; the first Brit to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games since 1908; and the most successful Olympic male cyclist of all time. Not bad, not bad at all!

famous Scots

Famous sports personalities from Strathspey

We’re supposed to have more Olympians per head of population than anywhere else in the UK. I suppose this can be attributed to having skiing opportunities on the doorstep as the majority of our semi-famous sports personalities participate in the winter olympics.

CRAIG MACLEAN – Craig is Grantown on Spey’s olympic gold meal winner. He is one of the very few Olympians who has competed in both the Olympics and the para-Olympics. Craig was forced to retire from cycling at the peak of his career with undiagnosed coeliac’s disease. He has since gone on to show a commitment to the sport above and beyond what most of us would consider by enabling

ALAIN BAXTER – there was a great deal of controversy locally when Alain Baxter was stripped of his Olympic medal, but even though he had a lot of support he never had his medal reinstated. Such a shame when there have been a significantly less British medals in the winter Olympics. How much support do our skiers receive now?



A true ambassador for athletics.  A Scottish record holder, silver medal winner at the Commonwealth and European champion.  I’m sure Eilidh is here to stay; we wish her the best for the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin in August!



Mhairi became the youngest MP in Britain for 350 after winning the Paisley seat at 20-years-old.  She has promised to make waves through the Commons by ensuring the voices of Scotland are heard, and famously called Westminster ‘the old boys club’. 


 Not to mention Ken Bruce (radio 2 DJ), Sean Connery (actor, James Bond) and Sam Heughan (actor – Outlander) nor all the chefs who’ve risen to prominence.


For details of historical famous Scots try the VisitScotland site where they also have an eBook about famous Scots with a more comprehensive listing than we have made.



Rowan Lingard is a volunteer here at Fraoch Lodge in the Cairngorms National Park. She joined us through the Workaway scheme and is helping out through July 2018 – harvesting raspberries and mangetout peas, weeding the garden, tidying up in the house, clearing up behind the dinner chaos and generally making our life a little bit less fraught. Here’s a wee potted history of how Rowan came to be working with us:

Rowan is an ex-director in an events planning business taking time away from the London rat race. She now has her own digital services business www.rowanvpaservices.wordpress.com however, she is trying to develop a business teaching English as a foreign language.

These are Rowan’s impressions of the Cairngorms National Park, which seems to be much undervalued by a huge number of visitors to Scotland and definitely doesn’t rank as highly as Skye on most people’s radar.

Everywhere you turn is a photo opportunity in the Cairngorms National Park


My first experience of ‘the Cairngorms’ was an Edinburgh to Inverness train journey on a clear blue skied May day on my way to Loch Ness.  My previous trips to Scotland had only taken me as far north as Falkirk, Queensferry and the beautiful Forth Bridge – yes, a bridge can be beautiful.  These stunning majestic mountains of the Cairngorm Region come into view after leaving Pitlochry with Ben Vrachie to the right, leading on to the Pass of Drumochter (Scottish Gaelic: Bealach Druim Uachdair) which is noted to be the highest point on the UK mainline rail network at 452 metres.  The hillside incline takes a sharper approach.  The mass of land becomes obvious.  Me and my train suddenly feel very small.
I feel like there is a magic and a mystery of how these ‘hills’ were formed. Calling the Cairngorm Region a number of hills is one of hell of an understatement. The landscape just keeps going. The size has the same awe inspiring quality to when I first saw the Grand Canyon and the one same question – how?

How old are the Cairngorms? A completely different question from how old is the Cairngorms National Park.

Of course, I revert to Google. Research has proven that these mountains were/are some of the oldest in the world. Dating as far back as 400 million years ago, it is believed they were part of an enormous range higher (and much older) than the Alps stretching from North American to Norway.  Today, the best viewing point of the ancient landscape is the high Cairn Gorm plateau.

Over the last 2 million years, it is reported that Scotland has experienced up to 18 distinct Ice Ages. In the National Park the signs of ice age action are steep glens and corries. Now a translation for the non-local: Glens are deep and narrow valleys, and corries relate to the Scottish Gaelic word for pot or cauldron so a bowl-shape within the rock formation. Found throughout the range, at the peak of a mountain or in a valley; frequently resulting in a cute little lake from melted snow or ice. Ah hands up, don’t shoot me, sorry I’m in English-woman in Scotland. I meant cute lochan not lake.
On this first occasion I didn’t get off the train till Inverness, sailed straight through just gazing out the train window absorbing the ever changing scenery.  I finally returned to the area in July.  I am volunteering at the friendly and homely 5* hostel Fraoch Lodge with my hosts Rebecca, Andy and Gregor in Boat of Garten.  
Resident in the Cairngorms National Park

Fraoch Lodge basking in the sunshine of the cairngorms national park

Exploring the Cairngorms

On my first full day off, I knew I had to go up!  The quickest way is by the highest of all railways in Britain; the funicular mountain railway.  The funicular operates at 1097 metres above sea level on Britain’s 6th highest mountain – Cairn Gorm.  If you didn’t already know, this Scottish Gaelic name of An Càrn Gorm translates to ‘Blue or Green Hill’.  As expected the flora had changed considerably since May.  A myriad of greens, greys, browns and purples.  Land covered in multiple grasses, moss, heather, bracken and trees.  We’ve had a surprisingly hot summer but in the Cairngorms the old adage of ‘4 seasons in one day’ can apply.  My day was a little moist.  No real rain but misty tops of hills certainly added atmosphere to this tranquil wilderness.  This combination of factors make for one hell of a dramatic landscape.
walking in the Highlands

Posing amid the grandeur of the Cairngorms scenery

I’ve read the land owners and estate managers make great efforts to balance tourism and conservation of this natural heritage.  It astounds me that people settled here several millennia ago; I can only imagine the hard work it must have been just to survive.  No ‘popping to the shops’ over this terrain back then.  Walking through this rugged region is the best way to immerse yourself.  To surround yourself.  To connect to the past.  No camera can truly capture the breadth and depth of the panorama.  The eye can absorb the wonder of each hill and peak, of each colour and change in the landscape.  Whilst every where you turn is an unforgettable photo opportunity to share with friends, family and social media.  The Cairngorm Region is truly spectacular.  Tell them nothing beats seeing this in person.

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