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A Year in the Life of the Cairngorms [Hardcover]

Chris Townsend
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Aug 2011 A Year in the Life

The Cairngorms contain the greatest area of land over 4,000 feet above sea level, the largest Caledonian pine forests and the biggest national park in Britain. This spectacular land of mountains, lochs, rivers and woods is wild and beautiful. The mountains form a series of vast sub-arctic plateaux ringed by big granite cliffs, deep lake-filled corries and long glens. High rocky passes cut through the mountains while pine and birch forests cover their lower slopes. For much of the year the mountains are snow-covered, a white wilderness that can be harsh and savage but also dramatic and awe-inspiring. For the photographer the severe weather and rugged terrain are challenging but also very rewarding. Photographer and author Chris Townsend has lived in the Cairngorms for 20 years and photographed them in all seasons, walking over the summits in summer, skiing over them in winter and camping out at all times of the year. The results are shown in this collection of evocative and impressive images.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln; 1st Edition edition (4 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071123146X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711231467
  • Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 27.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Townsend is passionate about mountains, wild places and long distance walking. He writes regularly for TGO magazine and has a blog at

His long distance walks include the first hike along the length of the Canadian Rockies, the first continuous round of all the 3000 foot summits in Scotland, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the length of Norway and Sweden, Land's End to John O'Groats, the Pacific Northwest Trail, south to north through the Yukon and the Arizona Trail. Chris has also led ski tours in Norway, Spitsbergen, Greenland, Lapland and other areas and treks in Nepal.

Chris is involved with several outdoor and conservation organisations and served as the President of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. Chris lives near Grantown-on-Spey in Strathspey in the Cairngorms National Park.

Product Description


The images are evocative and impressive but they don't portray an imaginery nirvanha, they show the Cairngorms as they are - rough and rugged, wild and hostile and how nature, left to itself will provide all the beauty you could ever want… As a coffee table volume you can't argue with its merits, especially at the price, but as a docummentary record at a time when Scotland's wilderness is under threar as never before it could turn out to be priceless.

(My Outdoors)

Anyone who has walked through these mountains will find this a book to treasure. Abd if you've not been yet, but always wanted to, I can't think of a better book to entice you more!

(Andy Howell)

Will inspire many to dedicate the time needed to experience this magical range in all seasons and weather conditions.


His majestic photographs - telling the story of a single year, but doubtless assembled over many - represent the kind of riches that no amount of budget fligts to exotic locations could ever buy.


Beautifuly-presented coffee table book.

(Aberdeen Press & Journal)

An absolutely stunning evocation of Scotland's most extensive upland areas and one of the last true wildernesses in the country.

(Undiscovered Scotland)

Capturing such a huge area in all its moods is difficult but this book is the answer and there is perhaps no better interpretation in any of the books I have seen.

(Highland News)

For those of us who have been lucky enough to visit the Cairngorms, the book will revive many memories, while for those who have not it may just provide the inspiration to come and see this amazing place.

(TGO: The Great Outdoors)

Intimate and subtle.

(WALK magazine)

About the Author

CHRIS TOWNSEND is a writer and photographer specialising in the outdoors, especially the hills and wild places, and has completed many longs walks of over 1000 miles. He is the author of 18 books including the award-winning The Backpacker's Handbook, Scotland (World Mountain Ranges) and The Munros & Tops (the story of his walk over all Scotland's 3000 feet summits, the first time this had been done). Chris is passionate about the conservation of wild places and currently serves as the President of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful edition to a growing library 23 July 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is Chris' first photo book and its a wonderful addition to his range of walking books.
You won't find info on walking or route planning or what sandals to wear.
But you will find 112 pages of wonderful imagery taken as most of would like to see the mountains but all too often leave missing the best light or simply not being there at all. But this book helps address that. Chris does not use big massive expensive pro spec cameras and lenses, but the gear he does use, he uses superbly. I am sure he puts many of us to shame.
Each page as no more than two photos on it, many pages have one big photo and there are several double page spreads of photos.
The book is neatly divided up into four sections, introduced by an introduction. After that, there are chapters on Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
Every photo has its own caption, so it might inspire people to go out and see the same view as in the image.
There are no cameras / lenses listed nor any exposures etc. But that is a minor point.
Buy this book for the wonderful images.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patience rewarded... 9 Jan 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I came to this book a little later than I would have chosen: it was a present and it was made clear that there were to be no sneak previews. In the event I used the waiting time to good effect; re-reading another book about the area: Nan Shepherd's classic The Living Mountain. Superficially the two books have little in common: one is a work of tight prose without illustration (other than a single line map), a book written in, and for, a different time; the other (Chris's book) is a collection of narrated, high-quality images, preceded by an introduction and arranged in order of seasons. There is however an important area of overlap: both are works - reverential is not overstating the case - in their regard for what the authors would see as their hills of home; adopted hills in Chris's case, but he is into his third decade of living in close proximity, walking and skiing them at all times of the year (and all times of the day). It is unlikely that there are many around who could claim to know these mountains more intimately.

Whether you know nothing of the Cairngorms, a little and would like to know more, or are already a devotee, there will be something of interest in this book. Many of us will never have the time or the opportunity to explore the hidden places of the mountains to anything like the depth and regularity of the author, and relatively few of us would have the commitment to confront the often hostile conditions which would be encountered over the full course of a calendar year. Luckily Chris has done most of the hard work for us.

This is considerably more than what is sometimes referred to as a 'Coffee table' book - a collection of plates with captions.
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