Plans for Cairngorm dropped

June 6, 2016 Nick Kempe 2 comments

The Strathie carried an article last week that Natural Retreats, the company that operates “Cairngorm Mountain” on behalf of Highlands and Island Enterprise, has dropped its plans to rebuild the Day Lodge complex by the Coire Cas carpark   This would have included new facilities, such as a conference centre.   This is to be welcomed.  It would have been a tourist facility in the wrong place.

Day Lodge 3rd June. The altitude of the
Day Lodge Friday 3rd June 2016, not a sensible location for a conference centre
The funicular was practically empty - its amazing that anyone would take a journey even further into the cloud
Funicular 3rd June.  It was practically empty – why would anyone take a journey even further into the cloud?  As in the Alps, the cloud drops and so do visitors.  The problem at Cairngorm from a tourist viewpoint is the number of days the summit is in cloud.



The decision by Natural Retreats I am sure is partly driven by money.  They have realised, after a winter season, there is no point throwing good money (they had talked about investing £10m in buildings) after bad.   Their focus, in terms of buildings, now appears to be on internal refurbishment of what is there.   While this is to be welcomed its only part of what needs to be done.


The external environment in the ski area continues to be a disgrace for a National Park.

The chairs from the former Coire na Ciste lift have been simply dumped along with other rubbish


Buildings currently in use may be being upgraded but what is being done about the abandoned ones? Restoration?
Buildings currently in use may be being upgraded but what is being done about the abandoned ones?





If the Coire na Ciste building, as the signs indicate, is not safe and cannot be restored it should be removed



There were no fewer than three skips at Coire na Ciste but unfortunately the commercial rubbish that should have been in them wasn’t.





















In Coire Cas there are plenty of signs of a similar lack of care which are unfitting for a National Park.   This is not a good visitor experience, particularly in summer when the  extent of the rubbish and neglect is more obvious.IMG_6116

Old cables straddling the burn – would it really be so difficult to remove these?

Many of the eyesores pre-date Natural Retreats but some are much more recent. Could they just not clear up as they undertake work instead of treating the natural environment as a poorly run building site?


The cloud parted for ten minutes. Expensive machinery is simply left outside to rust. There must be a better way to stop this looking like a building site. What do visitors on the funicular think when they look across to this?   There needs to be a store for machinery but it needs to be big enough and in keeping with the natural environment.  Why not bury it into the hillside?
The concrete plinth and all the industrial waste should be removed and a new place found to store spent fuel (in the red and blue metal containers)

Keeping the ski area in a manner fitting for a National Park – or indeed for any quality tourist facility – should have been part of the HIE lease with Natural Retreats.  I have asked HIE for a copy of the relevant parts of their lease.  If there are conditions about the general state of the environment they need to be enforced.  If not, HIE should pay for the cleanup, after all its the landowner.   The Cairngorm National Park Authority needs to use its powers and influence to get the external environment tidied up as a pre-condition to agreeing anything else.


I believe Natural Retreats’ decision to drop its development proposals provides a great opportunity to re-consider what could be done to improve the Cairngorm ski area  and  make it more financially viable within a wider context of how Cairngorm and Glenmore should be managed.  A draft strategic plan for Cairngorm and Glenmore, which was put out for consultation earlier this year,  treated the ski area in isolation from Glenmore.   This has been a problem ever since Highlands and Islands Enterprise purchased the ski area from the Forestry Commission.  What we now need is some joined up thinking and I would suggest the current model, in which Natural Retreats is expected somehow to make the ski area become a financially viable operation in itself, needs to be rethought.    I will outline a vision for how this might be approached in a post later this week which will focus on the potential of the natural environment at Cairngorm as a means of making the ski area into a sustainable tourist attraction.

2 Comments on “Plans for Cairngorm dropped

  1. Don’t worry, in a couple of years there will be no skiing at Cairngorm and all the expensive equipment can be removed. Natural Retreats have obviously decided that maintaining and developing skiing just isn’t worth it for them and they’ll not need much more than a large coach car park as somewhere for the tourists to alight before boarding the funicular.

    Those of us who live and work in the valley will obviously be concerned that this could put at risk many existing businesses who need the combined winter/summer throughput to survive.

    Frankly, it’s time that Natural Retreats admitted defeat on this and handed it over to someone who cares more about the people in the area.

    1. I agree the expensive equipment does not appear well cared for – it must corrode twice as fast at Cairngorm as in the Alps – and this is something that needs to be fixed. I am surprised that HIE has not put conditions in its lease about how equipment, both new and no longer wanted, is cared for/stored or disposed of and have asked them for a copy. If I get it (public authorities tend to refuse to divulge leases on grounds of commercial confidentiality) I will publish it on parkswatchscotland. Meantime, I agree we need a vision that embraces both summer and winter use.

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