Cairngorms National Park

El Cairngorms National Park, located in northeast Scotland, was established in 2003, becoming the second national park created by the Scottish Parliament after the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park in 2002. This park encompasses the Cairngorms mountain range and the surrounding hills, making it the largest national park in the United Kingdom. In 2010, its area was extended to include Perth and Kinross.

With an area of 4,528 square kilometers, the park is home to approximately 18,000 residents, with notable communities such as Aviemore, Ballater, Braemar, Grantown-on-Spey, Kingussie, Newtonmore, and Tomintoul. Classified as Category V by the IUCN, the park includes several national nature reserves, such as Abernethy Forest and Mar Lodge Estate, which have Category II status.

In 2018, the park recorded 1.9 million tourist visits, with the majority being domestic visitors, followed by 25% from other parts of the UK and 21% from other countries. Tourism accounts for approximately 80% of the national park’s economy.

History of Cairngorms National Park

The history of Cairngorms National Park dates back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the idea of designating wild or remote areas in Scotland to protect the environment and promote public access emerged. In 1931, a commission led by Christopher Addison proposed creating a national park in Cairngorms, along with similar proposals for parks in England and Wales.

Cairngorms National Park in Scotland

After World War II, ten national parks were established in England and Wales, leading to consideration of the national parks issue in Scotland. In 1945, five areas, including Cairngorms, were proposed as "National Park Direction Areas," though they did not receive full national park status. In 1981, these areas were replaced by national scenic areas.

In 1990, the Scottish Rural Commission recommended that four areas, including Cairngorms, be designated as national parks to preserve their heritage value. However, no action was taken until the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The two current national parks were designated under the National Parks (Scotland) Act of 2000.

Before the national park’s creation in 2003, a consultation exercise on the new park’s boundaries and structure was conducted. Subsequently, there was a sustained campaign to extend the park into the Highlands of Perth and Kinross, which was achieved in 2010.

In 2015, 53 km of 132 kV power lines were removed from the middle of the park, and another section along the park’s edge was upgraded to 400 kV. This measure helped improve the natural environment and protection of the park.

Recommended Excursions and Activities

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What to See and Do in Cairngorms National Park

Snow Road

The Snow Roads Scenic Route is a fascinating road trip through Cairngorms National Park. It stretches over 90 miles from Grantown on Spey to Blairgowrie, offering impressive views and passing by notable sites such as Tomintoul, the winding Lecht Road with its pass at Cock Bridge, the pine forests near Braemar in Royal Deeside, and the Glenshee Pass, which is Scotland’s highest mountain road.

This scenic journey takes travelers through the heart of Cairngorms, allowing them to experience the might of the mountains, the beauty of natural landscapes, and the richness of wildlife that inhabits the region. From tranquil valleys to snow-covered peaks, the Snow Roads Scenic Route offers an unforgettable experience for those wishing to explore the magnificence of this Scottish national park.

Rothiemurchus Forest

Rothiemurchus Forest Route, Scotland

The native forest of the Rothiemurchus Estate is one of the last remnants of the ancient Caledonian pine forests. At one time, 99% of this type of forest had disappeared, but in places like Rothiemurchus, fragments of this unique ecosystem are preserved. Additionally, in other locations, conservationists are working to restore the native forest cover.

In Rothiemurchus, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. They can hike the trails, rent bikes to explore the area, or participate in activities like rafting, gorge walking, or horseback riding. There are also exciting treetop adventure courses, including obstacles and zip lines, as well as ranger-led activities throughout the estate. This environment offers a unique experience for those seeking to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of the Scottish landscape.

Abernethy Forest

Panoramic view of Abernethy Forest

Abernethy Forest, another remnant fragment of the Caledonian pine forest, is part of the Abernethy National Nature Reserve. Half of the forest is original, while the other half has been regenerated, and more is being planted!

The forest is ideal for cycling and hiking; in fact, the Speyside Way runs through the area. Bird enthusiasts can also visit the Loch Garten Osprey Centre, located in the heart of the forest.

Loch an Eilean

Panoramic view of Loch an Eilean and its ruins in Cairngorms, Scotland

Loch an Eilean is a beautiful lake located in the Rothiemurchus Forest. Around the lake, there are low-level trails that offer stunning views, and it’s not necessary to venture far from the parking lot to appreciate its beauty.

This spot offers an excellent opportunity to connect with nature and observe wildlife, such as red squirrels, Scottish crossbills, and even ospreys. In the lake’s waters, there is a ruined island castle dating back to the 14th century, adding a touch of history and mystery to the surrounding landscape.

Linn of Dee

Linn of Dee is an impressive site located within the Mar Lodge Estate. Here, the River Dee winds through a narrow gorge carved into the rocks over millennia, forming small waterfalls and tumbling over itself in a magnificent natural display.

In spring, it’s possible to spot salmon leaping in the river’s rapids. This spot is very popular for picnicking, and on sunny days, the parking lot tends to fill up early. From here, you can enjoy peaceful walks through the surrounding pine forests or embark on a longer hike into the Cairngorm mountains.

Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve

Small waterfall in Muir de Dinnet Nature Reserve

The Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve is located on the eastern edge of Cairngorms National Park, a short distance from Ballater. This reserve encompasses the area around Loch Kinord, as well as Burn o’ Vat, a fascinating hidden rock bowl carved by glaciers and waterfalls.

One of the best things to do in Cairngorms is to take a walk along the Loch Kinord trail, which is approximately 4 miles long. This trail offers a delightful experience for nature lovers, with stunning views of the lake and the opportunity to explore unique natural landscapes like Burn o’ Vat.

Visiting Nearby Towns and Villages


Panoramic view of the historic ruins of Aviemor

While Aviemore may not be considered the most picturesque place in Cairngorms National Park, it is undoubtedly an important hub on the western side of the park. From Aviemore, you can enjoy clear views of the towering Cairngorm mountains, and the town is surrounded by beautiful forest. Additionally, there are several notable buildings in the area, such as the Cairngorm Hotel and the train station.

Aviemore is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding areas, such as Glenfeshie, Rothiemurchus, Glenmore, and Abernethy. With its strategic location and variety of services, it is an ideal starting point for those who wish to venture out and explore the natural diversity and outdoor activities that Cairngorms National Park offers.

Boat of Garten

Boat of Garten is a charming village located north of Aviemore. It is primarily known for its historic train station, which is a significant landmark in the area. During the summer, the Strathspey steam railway stops here, and you can watch its arrival at the station from The Boat Country Inn, offering visitors a nostalgic and picturesque experience.

Nethy Bridge

Nethy Bridge, located a few kilometers east of Boat of Garten, is a picturesque village situated next to the River Nethy. This charming village is surrounded by the impressive Abernethy Forest. Among its attractions are several beautiful buildings, including a three-arched stone bridge designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1810. This historic bridge adds a distinctive touch to Nethy Bridge’s landscape and is a notable attraction for visitors exploring the area.


The streets of Braemar, Scotland

Braemar is located high in Royal Deeside, where the road leaves the River Dee and heads south towards the Glenshee Pass. This charming village is known for its beautiful 17th-century castle, which also hosts the annual Braemar Gathering, possibly the most famous Highland Games in Scotland. The British royal family regularly attends these festivities during their stay at Balmoral.

A stroll through the village feels like a journey back in time, with delightful historical views to enjoy. A must-visit is the historic Fife Arms Hotel, which offers a luxurious dining experience for those wishing to enjoy an exceptional meal.


Aerial view of Ballater, Scotland

Ballater is a charming Victorian village located in the heart of Royal Deeside. In the past, it was the final destination of the direct train connection from Aberdeen, being the last stop on the line. This made it the epitome of Queen Victoria’s journey to her summer residence at Balmoral Castle.

Historically, the town benefited greatly from this royal tourism, and although the train line is no longer operational, Ballater remains one of the most popular villages in Deeside.

When visiting Ballater, you must explore the central square of Glenmuick Church, where charming views and corners await. Also worth visiting is the historic train station, known as the "Royal Station," which evokes the grandeur of the Victorian era. Additionally, the stone bridge crossing the River Dee offers an impressive view and is another highlight of a visit to this charming village.

Hiking and Trekking Routes in Cairngorms

Uath Lochans

Uath Lochans Route through Glenfeshie Pine Forest, with panoramic views of the lakes.

The Uath Lochans route, located in the Glenfeshie pine forest, surrounds a set of four small lakes and ascends to Farleitter Crag, offering fantastic views. This hike is fairly easy and straightforward, with a length of just over 3 miles and taking approximately 2 hours to complete. It is an excellent choice for those looking to enjoy the natural beauty of Glenfeshie without an extreme challenge.

Munros near Aviemore

Hike along the Munros hiking trail, near Aviemore

The Munros are Scottish mountains with an altitude of less than 3,000 feet (914.2 meters). Many of the Munros in the Cairngorm mountains, southwest of Aviemore, can be reached from Glenmore or Glenfeshie. However, most of these routes are quite long and challenging. For example, Braerich, the third-highest mountain in Scotland, requires a 16-mile hike. Cairntoul is another Munro that forms part of a 22-mile circuit passing by four Munros in total. Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mòr form an 18-mile double Munro route, while Bynack More is another option, with a 14-mile hike. These are just some of the many options available for those wishing to explore the Munros near Aviemore.

Corbetts of Glenmore

One of the most popular hikes in Cairngorms for beginners is the circular route to Meall a’ Bhuachaille, a Corbett located near Glenmore Lodge. A Corbett is a mountain over 2,000 feet high. This hike offers the opportunity to reach the Cairngorm plateau and enjoy views of the magnificent green lake, An Lochan Uaine. The hike is just over 5 miles long and takes around 4.5 hours to complete.

Another great Corbett circuit from Glenmore is the route leading to Creag Mhòr and Loch Avon. Although it is long (18 miles), you can break up the trip by spending the night at the Fords of Avon refuge. However, you will need to bring a sleeping bag and mat, as well as enough clothing to stay warm, as this refuge is quite basic and does not have a fireplace.

Falls of Bruar

Falls of Bruar

The Falls of Bruar are a series of waterfalls located at the southern end of Cairngorms National Park. To access them, you can park at the House of Bruar shopping complex, which offers an excellent selection of food, fashion, and Scottish-inspired home decor. From there, you can follow the forest trails along the river gorge that lead to the falls. This hike is quite short and takes around 1.5 hours, providing a pleasant natural and scenic experience for visitors.

Loch Muick

Loch Muick is a beautiful lake located on the Balmoral Estate, about 20 minutes from Ballater. While you could simply drive to the lake and enjoy the views, a more active option is to follow the trail that circles the lake. This trail is approximately 8 miles long and takes around 3.5 hours to complete.

It’s important to note that Loch Muick is a very popular destination, especially on summer days, so the parking lot tends to fill up early. Therefore, it’s advisable to arrive early to ensure you find a parking spot and enjoy this beautiful natural setting without any issues.

Prince Albert’s Pyramid

On the grounds of the Balmoral Estate is the only pyramid in Scotland: a stone structure erected by Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, following their 21-year marriage.

The walk to the pyramid starts in Crathie and offers excellent views of Deeside and the Balmoral Estate. Along the way, you will also pass several cairns built in memory of other members of the royal family.

It’s important to note that this walk should not be undertaken in August, as that is when the royal family is usually staying at Balmoral.

Cairnwell Munros

The Cairnwell Munros offer a relatively easy route to reach several Munros in a day, ideal for those looking to add multiple peaks to their list in a short time.

The starting point for this hike is the Glenshee ski center, located over 2,100 feet above sea level. From here, you only need to ascend less than 1,000 feet to reach the first peak: Càrn Aosda, which has an altitude of 3,008 feet. The other two peaks are not much higher, and the trails connecting them offer impressive views of the Cairngorms and Glenshee mountains.

Glen Clova and Loch Brandy

Exploring Angus Glens is one of the favorite activities for most people visiting Cairngorms National Park, and Glen Clova is possibly the most beautiful of all.

From the Glen Clova hotel, located high in the valley, a trail leads to the lovely Loch Brandy. This hike would be ideal for a short excursion, for example, to witness the sunset, or it could be extended to include exploring the peaks surrounding the lake, turning it into a longer and more challenging route.

Corrie Fee

After Glen Clova, the next site to visit is Glen Doll. From the ranger station, you can follow a forest track leading you to Corrie Fee, a spectacular corrie that is also a national nature reserve, home to numerous rare plants and precious bird species.

This corrie is a vast bowl sculpted by the action of a glacier, surrounded by mighty mountains, giving it the appearance of a natural amphitheater. At the bottom, you can see a beautiful waterfall. Along the river margins, you can observe small elevations that might seem like burial mounds but are actually just debris deposits left by the glacier.

Mayar and Driesh

From Corrie Fee, you can continue your hike to the Munros Mayar and Driesh. These two peaks are some of my favorites in Cairngorms National Park. The full route from the Glen Doll ranger station is 9 miles long and takes approximately 5.5 hours to complete.

Glen Esk

Glen Esk is the easternmost of the Angus Glens, located northwest of the picturesque village of Edzell. From the parking lot near Invermark Castle, you have the option to climb Scotland’s easternmost Munro, the aptly named Mount Keen, or to complete the circuit around Loch Lee, which is less challenging but very diverse in landscapes.

The walk around Loch Lee also takes you through the remote Glen Lee, where you can admire two impressive waterfalls, the Falls of Unich and the Falls of Damff. Additionally, the trail leads you through gorges and moorlands, revealing magnificent valley views at the end. It’s a very picturesque and rewarding hike!

Speyside Way or Cateran Trail

You can choose to walk the Speyside Way or the Cateran Trail, two long-distance trails winding around the mountains of Cairngorms National Park:

The Speyside Way begins in the heart of Cairngorms and extends for 65 miles from Aviemore to Buckie on the Moray coast.

On the other hand, the Cateran Trail is a circular route starting in Blairgowrie and encompassing Spittal of Glenshee and Glenisla, two of the Angus Glens.

Outdoor Activities

Boat Rental on Loch Morlich

Loch Morlich is widely recognized as one of Scotland’s most beautiful lakes. Located east of Aviemore, in the heart of Glenmore and the Rothiemurchus Forest, this lake offers a variety of water activities to choose from. From boat rentals, such as canoes, kayaks, and rowboats, to paddleboarding (SUP), there are options for all tastes and experience levels. Additionally, guided lessons are available for those who wish to learn or improve their water skills. It’s a fantastic place to enjoy the natural beauty of Scotland while participating in exciting water activities.

Pony Trekking

One of the most unique experiences you can enjoy in Cairngorms is the luxury camping trips organized by Scot Mountain Holidays. Their multi-day expeditions, known as Highland Wilderness Glamping, are supported by pack ponies that help transport your gear across Cairngorms.

During these trips, guests stay in heated Nordic tipi tents equipped with comfortable folding beds and even a hot shower. The sturdy ponies from the native Highland and Fell breeds are responsible for carrying the load, and they are well-cared-for to ensure their well-being during the expedition.

It’s important to note that these activities are beneficial for the ponies, as they are naturally adapted to carrying loads and need exercise to stay healthy, similar to sled dogs in the Arctic. With proper care, these expeditions are a rewarding experience for both participants and animals.

Cairngorms Dark Sky Park

In 2018, the area around Glenlivet and Tomintoul was designated as a Dark Sky Park. While it’s likely you can enjoy the dark night skies from anywhere in the region, there are three official Dark Sky discovery sites: Blairfindy (just southwest of the Glenlivet distillery), Tomintoul, and Scalan near Chapelton, which offer easy access to excellent observation spots.

Given Scotland’s northern location, you might even witness the Northern Lights, although only in winter when it’s dark enough.

Esquiar en Cairngorms

Most of the ski resorts in Cairngorms are located in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland, with the largest and highest being Glenshee, situated between Blairgowrie and Braemar. With around 14 lifts and chairlifts on both sides of the road, it offers many options for skiers and snowboarders.

The Lecht ski center is smaller and at a lower altitude, making it ideal for families and beginners.

The third center is on Cairngorm Mountain. Currently, the funicular is under repair and is expected to reopen in autumn 2022. Here, you will find 10 lifts and chairlifts, as well as freestyle terrain and stunning landscapes for cross-country skiing.

Visitas para conocer la naturaleza escocesa de Cairngorms

Old Packhorse Bridge, Carrbridge

One of the most curious places in Cairngorms is the historic Old Packhorse Bridge in Carrbridge. Built in 1717, this bridge was primarily used for funeral processions crossing the River Dulnain. Carrbridge is located approximately 11 kilometers north of Aviemore and is just a short detour from the A9 road. It’s definitely worth stopping to admire this historical gem!

Strathspey Steam Railway (Ferrocarril de vapor)

Strathspey Steam Railway is a historic steam railway that runs from Aviemore to Boat of Garten and then to Broomhill. Originally a crucial railway connection in the past, a 10-mile stretch of the line was restored by volunteers in the late 1970s. Since then, it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cairngorms.

The round trip takes approximately 2 hours, giving passengers the opportunity to enjoy beautiful landscapes while traveling on a historic steam train. The railway operates mainly during the summer, as well as on weekends during the festive season and the days between Christmas and New Year.

Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore

The Highland Folk Museum is an open-air museum that offers a fascinating insight into historical life in the Scottish Highlands. Located in Newtonmore, the museum features a variety of exhibits that recreate life in different historical periods.

One of the main attractions of the museum is the village representing Highland life in the 18th century. Additionally, there are several buildings dating from the 19th and 20th centuries, offering a unique perspective on everyday life in past eras. One of the standout exhibits is a traditional farm that shows what agricultural life would have been like in the 1930s.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is one of the British royal family’s residences in Scotland and is known as their summer residence. Located in Aberdeenshire, the castle is set amidst a vast and picturesque estate known as Balmoral Estate.

The history of the castle dates back to the 19th century when Queen Victoria was captivated by the area’s beauty and decided to acquire the property. The original castle was built in 1390, but Queen Victoria ordered its demolition and the construction of a new castle in its place. The current Balmoral Castle was completed in 1856 and has been the royal family’s summer residence ever since.

From May to July, the castle grounds are open to the public for visits. Visitors can tour the grounds and enjoy the lush gardens, which include a fruit and vegetable garden, a flower garden, and landscaped areas such as woods and meadows. They can also explore the interior of the castle through audio-guided tours, which include the opportunity to see the ballroom in a side wing of the castle.

However, it is important to note that the castle is closed to the public from August 1 until the next spring season, as it is usually visited by members of the royal family during this time.

Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle is a historic fortress located in the village of Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Originally built in 1628 by the Earls of Mar, the castle passed into the hands of the Farquharsons of Invercauld after the second Jacobite uprising in 1715. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, government troops were stationed at the castle to maintain control and suppress any Jacobite activity in the region.

In the 19th century, the Farquharsons converted the castle into a formidable family home, giving it its current appearance. Over the years, the castle has witnessed various historical events and has been an important symbol of Scotland’s heritage and culture.

Today, the castle is leased to the local community and hosts the popular annual event known as the Braemar Gathering. This event, which includes activities such as hammer throwing competitions and traditional dances, often features members of the British royal family, who reside at nearby Balmoral Castle during the summer.

Blair Castle

Blair Castle is a grand fortress located at the southern edge of Cairngorms National Park, near the village of Blair Atholl in Perthshire, Scotland. It is the ancestral home of Clan Murray and has been the seat of its chief for centuries.

Built in the 13th century, the castle has been modified and expanded over the years, giving it its current appearance. It is known for its imposing architecture, with its white walls and characteristic towers standing out powerfully in the Scottish landscape.

The castle and its extensive grounds are open to the public for visits, offering the opportunity to explore its rich history and magnificent gardens and woodlands. Visitors can enjoy tours of the castle’s interior as well as walks through the beautiful landscaped gardens that surround it. Additionally, the castle hosts special events and cultural exhibitions throughout the year, making it a popular destination for history and architecture enthusiasts.

Malt Whisky Trail

The Malt Whisky Trail is a unique experience that allows you to discover the tradition of Scottish whisky in the Speyside region, located north of Cairngorms National Park. This malt whisky trail connects many of the most famous and iconic distilleries, offering whisky enthusiasts the chance to learn about the art and history behind this iconic drink.

From Grantown on Spey to Dufftown and beyond, visitors can tour world-renowned distilleries such as Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan, and many others, learning about the whisky-making process from barley to bottle. In addition to distillery tours, travelers can participate in whisky tastings and interactive experiences that allow them to delve deeper into the world of Scottish whisky.

While Speyside is known as Scotland’s most productive whisky-producing region, there are also whisky distilleries located within Cairngorms National Park. From the famous Glenlivet distillery in the north to Royal Lochnagar near Balmoral Castle, visitors can discover a variety of whisky flavors and styles while exploring the natural beauty of Cairngorms.

Snow Roads Art Installations

Along the Snow Roads route, three public art installations can be found:

  1. The Watchers: This is a group of sculptures made from folded steel sheets. These sculptures resemble standing stones and are solemnly erected on the steep slopes of Lecht Road, overlooking the glen and Corgarff Castle. Their presence adds an element of mystery and grandeur to the surrounding landscape.
  2. Still: This installation consists of a mirrored box located on a hill near Tomintoul. The mirrors reflect and amplify the surrounding views, creating a unique and immersive visual experience for those who venture close. This structure offers a different and rewarding perspective of the surrounding landscape and is an ideal spot for memorable photographs.
  3. Connecting Contours: Located near Glenshee Pass, this installation features a seating area that serves as a "natural amphitheater." Visitors can sit and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountainous landscapes while immersing themselves in the serenity and beauty of nature. It is a perfect place to stop, relax, and connect with the natural surroundings.

Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

Reindeer at Cairngorm Reindeer Centre with the snowy mountains of Scotland in the background

Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is an attraction where visitors can meet and learn about reindeer in their natural habitat in the Scottish Highlands. Here are some highlights and considerations about the center:

  1. Introduction of Reindeer: Reindeer were introduced to Cairngorms in 1952, making this population one of the oldest in Britain.
  2. Visits to the Centre: From Easter to New Year’s, a small number of reindeer are kept in the paddocks at the center for visitors to see and learn about. However, currently, due to paddock construction, there are no reindeer at the center in 2024.
  3. Hill Trips: To truly experience the life of the reindeer in their natural environment, visitors can book a guided hill trip. These excursions offer the opportunity to see the reindeer in their natural habitat and learn about their behavior and habits.
  4. Low Impact Experience: It is important to note that physical contact with the reindeer is not allowed to protect their well-being and preserve their wild nature. However, during hill trips, visitors can hand-feed the reindeer for a short period of time.
  5. Visiting Season: Conditions for visiting the reindeer vary by season. In summer, pleasant walks can be made to meet the herd in the hills, while in winter, conditions can be harsher, but it is a good time to see the reindeer in their natural environment and experience the weather they prefer.

A visit to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre offers a unique experience to learn about and connect with these fascinating animals in a stunning natural setting.

Nethy Bridge Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre in Nethy Bridge offers a variety of resources for visitors, including detailed information, exhibits on wildlife, and local history. Located amidst the Abernethy pine forests, it serves as a reference point for learning about the region’s flora and fauna, as well as its historical past.

Glenmore Visitor Centre

The Glenmore Visitor Centre, located near Loch Morlich, provides useful information for visitors, as well as amenities such as a café and public restrooms. It also serves as a convenient starting point for various hikes in the area.

Loch Garten Osprey Centre

The Loch Garten Osprey Centre, managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), is a research and visitor center dedicated to the study and observation of ospreys in Cairngorms. It offers an informative exhibition, daily talks, and several observation areas equipped with binoculars and telescopes for birdwatching.

Additionally, it has a café and a terrace with bird feeders, where you can enjoy the forest wildlife while having a refreshment.

Mar Lodge Estate

Mar Lodge Estate is one of the largest properties in Cairngorms National Park, owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Since the 1990s, the Trust has been working on regenerating native pine forests on the estate, contributing to the restoration of nature in Deeside and Cairngorms.

Visitors to the estate can enjoy various activities, such as watching salmon leap in the spring at Linn of Dee, strolling through Linn of Quoich, or exploring one of the 15 Munros available. Additionally, Mar Lodge Estate has partnered with other properties, such as Invercauld, Balmoral, Glenavon, and Glenlivet, to develop land-use strategies that benefit the environment and the economic aspirations of the landowners.

A notable hike on the estate is the Clais Fhearnaig circuit, a 10-mile walk offering views of forest regeneration areas and diverse natural habitats.

Geography of Cairngorms

Cairngorms National Park covers an area of 4,528 km² (1,748 square miles) across the regions of Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Angus, and Perth and Kinross. At its core lies the mighty Cairngorms mountain range, though this is only part of its diverse landscape, which includes other mountains such as Angus Glens and Monadhliath, as well as lower areas like Strathspey and Upper Deeside. The park is traversed by three main rivers: the Spey, the Dee, and the Don, which originate in these lands.

The Cairngorms region is renowned for its impressive landscape, with large expanses of elevated plateaus resembling the Hardangervidda National Park in Norway. The Cairngorms mountains consist of three main plateaus, situated approximately between 1000 and 1200 meters above sea level, with rounded summits that were once much higher, reaching around 1300 meters. On these peaks, tors, rock formations that rise above the rocky terrain, are prominent. The edges of the plateaus, in some places, feature granite cliffs ideal for activities such as skiing, rock climbing, and ice climbing. The mountainous environment of Cairngorms has characteristics typical of an Arctic-Alpine setting, with tundra areas and persistent snow.

To the north of Strathspey lie the Monadhliath mountains, a vast and solitary plateau rising between 700 and 950 meters above sea level.

Two main routes traverse the park: the A9 road and the Highland main railway line, crossing Drumochter Pass and running through Strathspey, connecting the western and northern parts of the park with the cities of Perth and Inverness. Although the main railway line is the only one that directly crosses the park, there are other important roads, such as the A86, linking Strathspey with Fort William, and the A93, connecting the Deeside area of the park with Perth and Aberdeen.

Geology of Cairngorms

The geology of Cairngorms National Park is marked by the presence of the Dalradian Supergroup, a sequence of rocks deposited between 800 and 600 million years ago on the edges of the ancient continent of Laurentia. These rocks, along with those of the Moine Supergroup along the northwest edge of the park, underwent intense faulting, folding, and metamorphosis during the Caledonian orogeny, which occurred approximately 490 to 430 million years ago.

A crucial geological event, known as the ‘Grampian event,’ occurred around 470 million years ago and played a significant role in the initial deformation of the Dalradian. This relates to the collision of a volcanic island arc with Laurentia over a period of about 20 million years. Later, the collision of Baltica with Laurentia caused the ‘Scandian event,’ resulting in further folding and faulting in the Dalradian rock sequence.

Among the active faults at that time were the Great Glen, Ericcht-Laidon, and Glen Tilt, which may have facilitated the intrusion of large granite plutons into the Dalradian rocks. The largest pluton is the one forming the Cairngorms themselves and is estimated to have been emplaced around 427 million years ago. It is believed that the current landscape of Cairngorms began to form around 390 million years ago after the granite forming the mountains was unroofed and exposed on the surface.

Apart from some younger rocks, such as the Old Red Sandstone, there are no other more recent solid rock formations within the national park. However, the glaciations of the past 2.5 million years left their mark in terms of erosion and sedimentation, with post-glacial features such as peat bogs and landslides observable in the region.

How to Get to Cairngorms National Park in Scotland

There are several routes to access Cairngorms National Park, each offering stunning landscapes and a unique entry to the area.
From Dundee or Perth, you can take the A93 towards Glenshee, known as Old Military Road, passing by Dalnaglar Castle, Finegand, and Spittal of Glenshee. This route will take you through some of the most impressive glens and bring you close to the heart of Deeside.

If you travel from Angus, you can head towards Glen Clova by taking the B955 towards Clova from Kirriemuir, or take the A90 towards Brechin and connect with the B966 to pass through Edzell, Auchmull, and reach the park at Glen Esk, where Invermark Castle is located.

From Aberdeen, you can take the A93 towards Aboyne and from there head to the park, passing through Dinnet and connecting with Strathdon and Glenlivet to the north, or towards Ballater and Braemar to the west, again connecting with Snow Roads.

From Moray, the A95 will take you towards Grantown-on-Spey, while from the Highlands you can access the park from Inverness via the A9, from Fort William via the A82 and A86, or from Nairn, Auldearn, or Cawdor taking the A939.

Additionally, you can reach the park by train and bus from the Highlands, with regular services from Inverness, and from Perth and Kinross via the A9 north, with regular train and bus services from Perth and its surroundings.

Best Time to Visit Cairngorms

Cairngorms is a destination that offers activities year-round, but the best time to visit is considered to be between mid-February and October. During these months, temperatures tend to be milder compared to the winter months, making it more comfortable for visitors to explore the area. Additionally, the days are longer, providing more time to enjoy outdoor activities and explore the park’s natural beauty.
On the other hand, during the months of November to January, the weather in Cairngorms National Park can be extreme, with colder temperatures and shorter days. This can limit outdoor activities and reduce the time available to explore the region. However, some visitors enjoy the park’s winter beauty and participate in activities such as skiing and snow hiking during these months.