Our Journal

Things To Do, Tips & Advice
19 January 2022
Kim Pierce

Explore the Cairngorms National Park

Known for its stunning landscapes and large choice of activities, the Park is one of the Highlands great tourists draws. Stretching 1748 square miles, the park is larger than the Lake District and has something for everyone from the hiking enthusiast to the wildlife watchers and even some distilleries for those looking for a little bit of relaxing.

For the adventurers, there are 5 out of 6 of the UK’s highest mountains, some of which are over 3,000 ft as well as 55 Munro’s.

Here’s everything you need to know about the stunning Cairngorms National Park.

Creag Choinnich in the Cairngorms National Park – Image by Jakub Iwanicki via Visit Scotland

Where is Cairngorms National Park?

The largest park in the UK, The Cairngorms National Park is found in the centre of the Scottish Highlands just 38 miles or around a 30 minute drive from Inverness.

Whats the closest town or village to Cairngorms National Park?

Aviemore is one of the closest towns to base yourself at for easy access the Cairngorms National Park. Others options include Ballater, Crathie and Braemar village.

Which campsites are near Cairngorms National Park?

  • Glenmore Camping Site, Aviemore – A beautiful pet friendly campsite set in a pine tree forest with mountain and landscape views as well as direct access to the sandy shores of Loch Morlich. Facilities include 206 pitches, toilets, showers, dishwashing, laundry and more with easy access to the town of Aviemore.
  • Dalraddy Holiday Park – Enjoy the mountain air at the Alvie and Dalraddy Estates with a range of activities for the whole family such as zip wires, clay pigeon shooting, archery and horseriding along with walking, fishing and bird-watching. The Dalraddy Holiday Park offers an array of pitches and accommodation including static caravans and chalets.
  • Oakwood Caravan and Camping Park – With modern facilities and the Cairngorms as your backdrop, this dog friendly campsite in an ancient oak wood has plenty of facilities for the whole family including restaurants, wifi, coffee shop and swimming pool.
  • Blair Castle Caravan Park – A beautiful camping and caravan park with a huge host of facilitates and set in the stunning grounds of Blair Castle. With its 750 years of Scottish history and 50 miles of waymarked walking and cycling routes as well as specialised guide-led tours, this is the perfect spot to park up for a prolonged stay and enjoy everything the estate and Cairngorms National Park has to offer. 
  • Ballater Caravan Park – Situated in the beautiful town of Ballater on the eastern side of Cairngorms National Park, an ideal base for exploring for walkers and cyclists surrounded by hills and stunning scenery. Facilities include hard and grass pitches, electric hook up, showers, laundrette, wifi across the park, recycling facilities, children play area, adults outdoor exercise equipment and more.
  • The Old Pine Yurt – This peaceful retreat is set in a woodland within the Cairngorms National Park. Pitches aren’t available at this glamping spot, instead enjoy a night In their canvas yurts with wood-burner with sofas and a decked porch, wifi, electric sockets, small kitchen and bathroom facilities. 

Why do people visit Cairngorms National Park?

  • The Snowroads Scenic Route – 90 miles of spectacular roads that will lead you through several stunning counties. Taking you from breath taking valleys, to beautiful glens and into the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland’s biggest National Park, it’s a must see for the road trip enthusiast.
  • Hiking – With hundreds of walking routes this is one of the biggest draws of the park and you won’t be short of places to explore with paths to explore for all levels of ability and ranging from family friendly to challenging. Discover the park on foot in your own time or book onto a guided walk so you can soak in the views without worrying where you’re going.
  • Wildlife – The Cairngorms National Park is the perfect spot for nature lovers. The Cairngorms is home to 25% of Britain’s threaded species including red squirrels, wildcats, pine Martens and golden eagles which enjoy the diverse landscapes and rich variety of habitats. 
  • Skiing – Cairngorms 3 ski resorts boast 30 kilometres of ski runs which include the challenging black run ‘The Tiger’. Glenshee is the largest resort in the UK, the Lecht is known for being family-friendly and a great spot for beginners with its nursery slopes and snow factory ensuring guaranteed conditions for skiing throughout the season. 
  • Dark Sky Parks – Recognised as one of the best star gazing spots in the world with its low pollutions levels, great vantage points and endless horizons. Tomintoul and Glenlivet have earned themselves the prestigious ‘International Dark Sky Park’ only awarded to 63 places around the world and giving then another title of the most northerly park of its kind in the world. If you can find a spot unobscured by the mountains you’re also in with a chance of seeing the stunning northern lights

Cairngorm Ski Resort – Image by Kenny Lam via Visit Scotland

What are the best hikes to do in Cairngorms National Park?

  • Glenlivet Estate – Well marked routes for al levels of walking from gentle stroll such as the 1 mile ‘The Lecht Mine’ walk to challenging long distance as with the 8 mile ‘Battle of Glenlivet Path’ taking around 3-4 hours. Enjoy the miles of woodland, moorland and riverside walks this Estate has to offer. 
  • Wildcat Trail – A 6.25 mile round route along the banks of River Spey, through moorland, wooded glens and over streams. There’s a clearly marked trail waymarked with a wildcat symbol and a WildCat centre on the Main Street in Newtonmore. 
  • Speyside Way – One of four official long distance routes in Scotland, this 65 mile hike runs from Buckie on the shores of Moray Firth to the edge of the Cairngorms. The route generally takes 5 – 7 days, but if you’re not looking for such a long hiking challenge there are easy to navigate sections of the Speyside Way to enjoy instead. 
  • Deeside Way – Another hiking challenge, this route takes you from the Aberdeen to the Cairngorms National Park. The track follows the line of the Old Royal Deeside Railway through farmland and woodland and covers a distance of 41 miles. Mostly off road but with gradual inclines, the route is also suitable for cyclists. 
  • The Falls of Bruar – A lovely short walk of 1.5 miles taking around 1 – 1.5 hours with beautiful views of the gorge and falls from the stone bridges which attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy its views. 

Mountain biking on a track near Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorm National Park – Image by Paul Tomkins via Visit Scotland

What else is there to do in Cairngorms National Park?

  • Visit The Glenlivet Distillery – Situated in a remote glen in the Cairngorms National Park the Distillery is open from Tuesday – Friday from 10am – 5pm throughout the year and Tuesday – Sunday from May through to September. Choose from a number of experiences and tours such as the exclusive ‘Cellar Collection Tasting’ and ‘The Archives’ exclusive tour or more affordable group tasting tours. 
  • Explore Braemar Castle – 100% community run, The Braemar Castle’s original owners, The Earls of Mar where some of the earliest rulers of Scotland making this an important part of Scotland history. Enjoy exploring the 12 authentic rooms still in their traditional furnishings and learn about the castles turbulent 400 year past. 
  • Learn about Scottish culture at The Braemar Highland Games Centre – The Braemar Gathering is one of the most popular Highland games run in its present form since 1832 and always held on the first Saturday in September. The centre has an exhibition hall and gallery which teaches its visitors all about the traditions of the Highland games, focusing on The Braemar Gathering and its long-standing royal relationships. 
  • Walk around a recreation of a traditional Scottish village at the award-winning Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore, Britains first open air museum. 
  • Enjoy a round of golf with 13 courses to choose from with differing difficulty, character and length, on of which boasts of being the UK’s highest course. Enjoy stunning views at the 9 hole Carrbridge or Craggan and Abernethy Golf Clubs or the 18 hole course in Grantown on Spey nestled within woodlands and mountains. 
  • Discover Badenoch, a historic region of the Cairngorms National Park with its ancient ruins, castles, distilleries and traditional highland culture. Experience real highland culture and wildlife. 

What are the best hotels near Cairngorms National Park?

  • Seasgair Lodge – Comfortable, dog friendly lodges around the Cairngorms which are unique and full of character. 
  • Fife Arms – A 5* boutique hotel in Braemar with 46 individually decorated dog friendly guest rooms, The Flying Stag bar serving up classic Scottish dishes, ‘Elsa’s’ Art Deco cocktail bar, ‘Bertie’s’ whiskey bar and the Clunie Dining Room showcasing wood-fire cooking and seasonal Scottish produce. 
  • Ardverikie Estate – Stay in one of the self catering Ardverikie Cottages and enjoy exclusive tour access to the Ardverikie Castle. Choose from a 1 bed eco pod up to the 5 bedroom Gallovie Farmhouse and plenty of options in-between. 
  • Cairngorms Hotel Aviemore – The perfect base for your summer walking and cycling adventure or some winter ski, the Cairngorms Hotel has 32 en-suite bedrooms with stunning views of the mountains and a hotel bar and restaurant. Dogs are permitted in the rooms but not the public areas. 

Can you take your dog to the Cairngorms National Park?

The Cairngorms National Park is the perfect place to enjoy with your four-legged friends with its numerous walks, dog friendly pubs and accommodations but ensure you always pick up after your pet and they are under control on close heel or short lead as the park is home to many threatened species, some birds of which nest on the ground. 

Make sure you read through the dog section of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code before visiting. 

Hill walkers and their snow dogs on the path to the summit of Meall-a-Buachille, the cairngorms national park.