On Thursday, Scotland’s only mountain railway will re-open at Cairngorm Mountain Resort, more than four years ago after it was shut down due to safety issues.
The return of the railway, which climbs to 1,065 metres, comes after more than £25 million was spent on bringing it back into operation.
Snowsports enthusiasts will be transported to the upper slopes along two kilometres of track, with the newly-refurbished Ptarmigan building, which houses the country’s highest restaurant and gin bar, offering some quality après ski with log fires and panoramic views. The railway and the restaurant is open to those with skis and boards, or those with none.
The re-opening of the mountain railway comes as Scotland’s snow resorts enjoy good conditions this winter.
Susan Smith, chief executive of Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd, said: “The Cairngorm Mountain team is thrilled to be welcoming snowsports enthusiasts onto the funicular railway once more. The improvements across the resort have brought major changes to the visitor experience and we are so pleased to see the railway transport people to the upper slopes as well as our refurbished Ptarmigan building.
"Weather permitting and with the hope that our capacity will expand further as the season continues, 2023 promises to be a landmark year for our business, team and local community.”
The railway re-opens following significant engineering works and testing, with safety certificates now issued by the Department of Transport.
In July 2018, an engineering report noted the structure's condition was "disappointing" for its age, with various defects identified. A second report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) confirmed work was needed to strengthen the railway's piers, beams and foundations.
The Scottish Government gave £16m towards the cost of fixing the railway, with the total budget for the project rising to £25m. Timescales were pushed back given the impact of the pandemic, Brexit, spring blizzards and technical challenges.
As part of the upgrade of the resort, new ‘magic carpet’ conveyor belts for the beginner slopes have also been created, with improvements also made to the car park and the Ptarmigan building.
The UK’s highest restaurant is also home to a 270-degree immersive exhibition space and viewing platform, with floor-to-ceiling windows given clear views across the mountain range. This summer, mountain biking is due to be introduced at Cairngorm, with environmental rangers also on hand to share their knowledge of the mountains.
Dave Macleod, head of property and infrastructure with HIE, which owns the funicular railway, said: “It’s wonderful to see the mountain railway back in action again. This will make a huge improvement to the customer experience at Cairngorm and strengthen the appeal of the wider area to attract visitors throughout the year.
“Reinstating the funicular has been uniquely challenging, not only in engineering terms, but also for the care that had to be taken to protect the environment during these works while also contending with some of the most severe and changeable weather that Scotland has to offer.
“Cairngorm plays an important role in the local economy as an environmental, educational and sporting asset and the funicular will enable people across a huge range of ages and abilities to enjoy the mountain not only in winter, but every season.”