A Year in the Life of the Cairngorms by Chris Townsend is an absolutely stunning evocation of Scotland's most extensive upland areas and one of the last true wildernesses in the country. Five of the six highest mountains in Scotland are found in the Cairngorms, all over 1,200m high, together with 45 other Munros. In all, some 260 square kilometers stand at a height of over 800m, and the Cairngorm Plateau itself comprises some 20 square kilometers of land at above 1000m in height.
These facts and figures come from Chris Townsend's interesting and informative introduction to this book, in which he describes the landscape, the natural history, the geology, the history and the weather of the Cairngorms. But this beautifully produced and presented book is less about Chris Townsend's words about the Cairngorms than it is about his photographs of the area. It is very easy to take photographs of Scottish mountains, and in an era in which almost everyone carries at least one camera and often more, many thousands of people are doing so just about every day of the year. It is, however, very difficult to take really good photographs of Scottish mountains: and rare indeed to find a collection of photographs that convey with such passion the true character and beauty of mountains in all their moods and at all times of the year.
You only have to leaf through this book to realise that what it amounts to is a detailed portrait of an area that the author knows intimately and loves deeply. And as you do so, it is impossible not to begin to understand the fascination the landscape holds for Chris Townsend. The book is divided into four main chapters, one for each season of the year, and the result is, as the title suggests, a portrait of a year in the life of the Cairngorms. The area will be new to some readers, who will certainly find themselves attracted by the insights into what it has to offer. Others might have glimpsed parts of the area: but even those who thought they knew the Cairngorms well will find the quality and variety of images on offer here mean they emerge better informed and more than a little inspired.