Roger Cox: Skiing in the Cairngorms

This time last year, following one of the harshest winters since the end of the last Ice Age, there was still so much snow on the hills that the folks at Cairngorm Mountain were able to open their slopes for a Midsummer Slide.

I had a sneaking suspicion that, after frolicking through a ski season that made even Alaskans jealous, the Scottish snow-sliding community would be too exhausted – not to mention far too spoiled – to bother with a novelty session in marginal conditions. In the end, though, I couldn't have been more wrong: more than 100 skiers and snowboarders took advantage of a little park in the Ptarmigan Bowl and decent snow cover elsewhere, particularly in Coire na Ciste.

Sadly, there won't be a Midsummer Slide in 2011 – at least, not an official one. In spite of another gloriously bleak midwinter, a frustratingly mild, soggy April shut down all the resorts earlier than hoped. Still, a recent visit to the Cairngorms revealed a few snow patches clinging stubbornly to north- facing slopes. No doubt one or two hardcore snow- lovers will be making the pilgrimage to these high, lonely places later this week to mark the longest day with a few soft, slushy turns.

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Whether you're skiing or hiking or paddling a Canadian canoe, midsummer is a magical time to be out and about in Scotland. No, I'm not talking about fairies – although if you're in regular contact with the little people please send them my regards and ask them to stop hiding my car keys – I'm talking about the fact that, at these northerly latitudes, the summer solstice gives outdoors enthusiasts more daylight hours than they know what to do with.

After the limitations of winter, which enforce a panicky, "quick, get outside and do something before it gets dark" mentality, this is payback time – and everywhere you look, people are taking full advantage.

Instructors from the Coast to Coast Surf School in Dunbar have just returned from teaching a week-long Summer Solstice Island Course in the Hebrides, where they enjoyed "22 hours of daylight each day" – not that it's physically possible to surf for that long, but with all that light you stand a better chance of finding the perfect combination of swell, wind and tide.

Meanwhile, up at Melvich, Highland Council countryside rangers are offering a Midsummer Night's walk to Caithness's busiest puffin colony on Tuesday ( Apparently the clown-faced birds mark the longest day by doing backflips at midnight.

And next weekend, in a similar spirit, the mountain safety charity Mountain Aid is holding a fundraising event called A Midsummer Night's Dram on Schiehallion – the Fairy Hill, no less. Participants are invited to get dressed up as characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream and then climb to the mountain's 1,083m summit in time for sunrise, at which point canapes will be served, a celebratory toast will be offered and, as the heat of the day starts to kick in, the guy dressed as Bottom will begin to regret the fact that he's now standing at the top of a Munro wearing a donkey costume. The minimum sponsorship amount required is 50 – for more information, see

On the road to Feshiebridge the other week, searching for the near-mythical cake emporium known as The Potting Shed, I stumbled upon something even better: The Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail. Carved out of gnarled, twisted tree trunks, Bruce's monumental works stand like a series of surrealist totem poles in an idyllic woodland setting; and in contrast to so much contemporary art, which doesn't seem sure what it wants to say, they are refreshingly direct in addressing the dual themes of poverty and patriotism.

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Bruce, who died in 2009, received no formal training, and never sold his work, preferring to make it available for everyone to enjoy. Originally these sculptures were displayed in a public park near Nairn, before the Forestry Commission spent 60,000 moving them here.

The collection also includes several stone carvings. One resembles a rough-hewn headstone – blank, apart from the words "I was privileged to be". A magical place to spend Midsummer, or any other day of the year.

• This article was first published in The Scotsman on June 18, 2011