A View from the Perspective of the Cairngorm Club by Ken Thomson

© Sandy McIntosh

Why do North East hillwalking clubs – or at least some of them – join the Trust? After all, their members can – and often do – join as Individual NEMT members, and thus benefit from personal copies of Mountain Views, Lecture invitations, etc. In the case of the Cairngorm Club, organisational membership costs about £275 annually – a useful sum to the Trust, but one which must be justified to Club members each year.

The Cairngorm Club, established in 1887, is based in Aberdeen and is the oldest existing mountaineering club in Scotland. With about 350 members in recent decades1, its activities range from weekly climbing meets on local cliffs, through day and weekend hill meets each month, to regular newsletter and journal publications. It has a well-appointed “hut” near Mar Lodge west of Braemar, and an extensive library, now kept at Kings College. Over the years, the Club has concerned itself with many issues concerning North East mountains, such as public access2, mountain rescue and nature conservation.

It took a keen interest in the formation of the North East Mountain Trust at the time of the Longhaven development proposals. In fact, the NEMT’s first constitution was drafted, in a personal capacity, by the Club’s then Secretary, Richard Shirreffs. More formally, the Club endorsed the Trust’s formation in Spring 1980, and a little later acted alongside the Trust at the Lurcher’s Gully Inquiry3. Since then, working relationships have been maintained by Club attendees at NEMT Council and Lecture meetings, and mutual consultation when major issues arise.

For the most part, the Club regards NEMT as the most suitable local organisation to monitor, raise and react to environmental concerns in their common region. With a wide range of expertise and contacts (eg Scottish Environment LINK) at its disposal, NEMT has few of the ongoing activities and events such as meets and hut management which often engage the Club’s committee. The turnover rate of the NEMT Council tends to be slower, and therefore more continuous, than that of the Club committee. This enables the Trust to conduct major and longer-running campaigns on several environmental topics.

However, from time to time, Club members do raise issues which the Club feels it important to investigate itself. These have included the formation of the Cairngorm Partnership in 19944, the 2006 inquiry into the Beauly-Denny pylons through the western part of the then newly established Cairngorms National Park, and the designation of the Lairig Ghru and other routes as “core paths” under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act. In such cases, a small Club working party is usually established to ascertain opinion before deciding whether to act on its own via written representation or financial support, or by support for NEMT activity in the matter.

Currently, with 5 Club members on the NEMT Council, and more attending the winter-season NEMT talks, there is close contact between the two organisations. Club members are alerted to “work in progress” or to fresh issues either by direct Council-Committee liaison or through the Club newsletter, or indeed through Mountain Views.

  1. Allowing for some multiple individual memberships of clubs, this is about half the total membership of hillwalking and/or mountaineering clubs which are organizational members of the Trust. The Cairngorm Club contributes about a third of the Trust’s income from these clubs.
  2. Apart from the usual access issues, the Club has itself erected a number of footbridges in the Cairngorms.
  3. The Club made its own submission though working closely with NEMT representatives: see Howgate, P. (1983) The Public Inquiry into the Further Development of Skiing Facilities on Cairngorm, Cairngorm Club Journal, 19 (99), 56-71. Available online via
  4. See Shirreffs, R (1996) The Future Management of the Cairngorms, Cairngorm Club Journal, 19(104), 167-173. Available online via

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