The first edition of this Scottish Mountaineering Club guide by Henry Alexander was published in 1928. This is the 1975 edition - a re-publication after a major revision by Adam Watson.
The title is misleading - this book pretty-much covers the eastern highlands of Scotland including the Cairngorms, Mounth, Donside Hills, and the Angus Glens.
The fact that the Introduction runs to 60-pages, almost 20% of the book, is an indication of how much information the author has packed into it. In the Introduction we are literally introduced to the area through overview sections that include : Gaelic place names, and pronunciation ; history, and geography ; bothies, and camping ; rock, and ice climbing ; weather ; safety, and accidents. In fact - from a careful read of the Introduction alone we could learn more about the area than from 10-years casual exploration.
Adam Watson has known the Cairngorms since the 1930s, and this book shows there's little doubt about the breadth, and depth of his knowledge about them. If the hills themselves were 'all' this book was about, it would still be a great guide, but it's much more than that - Adam Watson knows the Cairngorms (and the people who lived among them) so well that he's added a great deal of 'local' knowledge that few other writers could.
For example, on the first page of the Introduction we learn that the name Cairngorms is really a 'nickname' when the author writes :
Although we are so used to the name 'the Cairngorms', it is a nickname. These hills are Am Monadh Ruadh (Um Monna Rooa) or the red hills, distinguishing them from Am Monadh Liath (Lee-a) or the grey hills W of Spey ; if you look from Aviemore on a clear evening, the granite screes of Lairig Ghru and Braeriach do glow a warm red in the sun. The name Am Monadh Ruadh still lives among the oldest folk of Strath Spey, but long ago, outsiders had replaced it with 'the Cairngorms', on maps and in guide books
– Watson (1975) (p19)
Later we learn that the accurate pronunciation of Gaelic place names is not so straight forward a matter as one might think when the author writes :
The most accurate pronunciations are given by older local people who have lived all their lives in a small area and whose parents also lived there. Many of those who know the area well as climbers nevertheless err when pronouncing a lot of the place names
– Watson (1975) (p 21)
Other information in this book includes the correction of map-errors (locations, and spellings), giving place names not on existing maps, explaining the derivation, and meaning of place names, and giving their local-pronunciation, because, apparently the Gaelic of the Braemar area is significantly different from the Gaelic in the rest of Scotland.
Once into the book proper - each chapter contains far more information about the area than a typical mountain guide book. From one page in the chapter covering Làirig Dhrù we learn that :
- March Burn (map-name) is really Allt na Crìche
- Pools of Dee (map-name) is really Lochan Dubh na Làirige
- Charles Robertson was a deer watcher at Corrour Bothy in the early 20th century
- Lochan Féith na Sgòr is the name of the lochan south-western flank of Carn a' Mhaim
- Chest of Dee (map-name) is really Ciste Dhé
You might think that a guide book published in 1975 must be 'out of date' by now. To some extent that's true, but it's only the obvious, time-dependant information that's out of date : bus company names, telephone numbers, references to bridges, and huts that no longer exist. It's only the kind of information that a fool would rely on, that's actually out of date. You might go into the Cairngorms expecting to find a bridge, or a hut based on a guide book (or map), but only a fool would rely on a guide book (or map) for accurate information of that kind. All other information in this book is as up to date as you need it to be - the rivers still run in the same beds, the tracks still go the same ways - and apart from map-errors, the place names are still the same. And most importantly - once you're 'on the hill' very little has changed there since 1975.
This edition is a fat-classic (302 pages), and I wouldn't be without mine. Of course it's out of print, but frequently appears on eBay selling for less than £10, but ironically, often for more than it's £4.80 cover price. So if you want to know more about the Cairngorms than just what the routes to the summits are - this book is a great place to start.