Review: A Year in the Life of the Cairngorms, Chris Townsend

Chris Townsend has produced a superb photographic record of a year in Scotland’s Cairngorm mountains. Hikers, trekkers and baggers who love this part of the world will find all kinds of memories rushing back!

5 stars.

Chris Townsend is one of the UK’s most respected outdoor writers and long distance trekkers. He is also a very fine photographer and this wonderful collection of Cairngorms photographs showcases the very best of his work.

The Cairngorms Mountains are the UK’s only example of high, arctic, habitat. For Chris these are his local mountains and he knows them as well as anyone; he has used his local knowledge to superb effect in this wonderful large scale book of photographs.

As the title suggests Chris follows the seasons and his does so with superb observational skill. Whenever I stroll through this area I’m tempted to think that the hills always look the same, well at least when there is snow on the ground. Changes in the seasonal flora can be subtle here and Chris captures this well. A picture of the higher Feshie seems to show the barren scree that always shoots to the front of the memory; but look carefully and the summer growth of green, on the trees, lichens and grasses, are beginning to assert themselves.

There is, of course, plenty of snow on show. You’ll also find wonderful photographs high hills, treeless uplands and plateau, lush pastures and caledonian forest.

I sometimes think that the Scottish Highlands have been photographed to death. All too often collections and calendars are full of images that “sparkle” too or are saturated to a point that they seldom resemble my mind’s recollection of the landscape. For me, it is a great compliment to say that these photographs are all ‘natural’. There’s no over-the-top processing on show here, just an honestly rendered record the Cairngorm year. This is pure photography at its best.

It could be argued that taking stunning mountain pictures is relatively easy; the trick is to be up there overnight to catch the sunset and sunrise. The trouble is you have to be up there in all weathers and, well, most of us simply aren’t there that often and that often! Few photographers and snappers are as dedicated as Chris.

The collection is complete with a superb essay on the Cairngorms, their history, culture and geography.

Over the last couple of days I’ve fund myself constantly returning to this book. It beings back many memories, of trudging through snow, splashing on sub block to deal with aqua blue skies and stunning sunshine ,struggling through mean gales and driving winds, taking a break while watching rainbows form, rushing of hills to avoid lightening, watching the early morning movement of the deer and chilling out with a stroll through the Rothiemirchus forest.

Anyone who has walked through these mountains will find this a book to treasure. And if you’ve not been yet, but always wanted to, I can’t think of a better book to entice you more! I wish I’d been able to reproduce some of the images here, but then again you;ll just have to go out and buy a copy of the book

No doubt, as I write, Chris will be up in the mountains again, with a collection of new gear to review and his trusted Canons at the ready. Keep on snapping Chris and thanks a lot!

A Year in the Life of the Cairngorms is published on the 4th August and, of course, can be pre-ordered.


  1. chris yapp says

    not another book ?i have n,t finished the last one on scotland yet . ihope this ones just as good

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