Located in the North-East of Scotland, and established in 2003, Cairngorms National Park stretches through the regions of Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Angus and Perth and Kinross.
It is the largest national park in the UK and is ideal for a getaway, allowing you to escape to witness mountains, rivers, lochs and some memorable views.
This travel guide aims to explore some of the key aspects of this area of Scotland.
Easily accessible by road, from anywhere in the UK, the Cairngorms region offers good road links.
Alternatively, rail routes are available, which are useful if you are happy to explore the region without a car. If travelling from London, the Caledonian Sleeper train allows you to travel overnight, and with a refreshed offering due in 2018. This service departs from London Euston in the evening, arriving in the Highlands the following morning.
Flying is also an option, arriving in either Inverness or Aberdeen, where you can then travel onward to the Cairngorms.
Variety is the word here. You can stay in the many hotels and bed and breakfasts, or rent out one of many log cabins or lodges. Camping is also an option, with many campsites in the region.
Be prepared to queue to make your way up, so allow for time when booking the return bus. You'll also want to have a good amount of time at the top, as the views are well-worth some time spent on them.
Things to do
Activities and things to see are plentiful in the Cairngorms region. When in the warmer months, walking and mountain biking are a key aspect, allowing you to experience the terrain directly for yourself. There is a large network of trails to explore across the area, whilst you can scale some of the mountain peaks or Scottish Munros (which are at least 3,000 feet high, and this region holds 55 reaching this classification).
Skiing and Ski Resorts
The winter months offer a contrasting experience, with much of the highland area becoming covered in snow. There are three of Scotland’s five ski resorts located in the area - Glenshee Ski Centre, Cairngorm Mountain Resort, and The Lecht Ski Centre. Best time for a skiing trip here tends to be January to early spring, but keep an eye on the forecast and webcams, and be prepared to make a last-minute trip, to experience the best conditions.
Considered the main town in the Cairngorms, Aviemore has a wide range of restaurants, bars and cafés, acting as a good base to go onward to explore the region as a whole.
The Cairngorms has a good number of castles located throughout the area. Two of which are Braemar Castle and Balmoral Castle. Braemar Castle is situated close to the village of Braemar and is a 17th-century castle with a number of characters who have called it home over the years. Balmoral Castle has been the home of the Royal Family since 1852, and tours are available on both the outside grounds and inside the building.
Around 5-miles south of the village of Braemar, you will find Loch Muick. Accessed by a long, single-track road, there is a good sized car park at the end of the road, just prior to accessing the walk. You can walk around the Loch itself, and experience some outstanding scenery, with the full walk being about 8-miles in length. Bear this in mind and walk only as far as you want, if that is too far. The path through is well kept and the terrain easy to navigate.
Entry point really to the track road mentioned above, to Loch Muick, Ballater is a small location on the River Dee. It is a great base if you are looking for activities such as hiking or cycling, and visiting the surrounding area in general.
Further along the River Dee, you will find the village of Aboyne. A small village, it has a selection of local shops to keep you entertained. Close by, be sure to visit a couple of small, but worthwhile stops.
Tomnaverie Stone Circle
Just north of Aboyne, the remains of this stone circle are a great little find. There is a car park at the entrance, and you climb a well-made path up to the stone circle. From here you can appreciate the views, and take a look at the main elements of this monument. There are many other stone circles in and around north-east Scotland, for you to explore further should you desire.
Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve
Down the road, to the west of Aboyne, and close to Dinnet, this nature reserve hosts a wide range of inhabitants. The area consists of woodland, heath and open water. There is a small visitor centre and car park, allowing you time to explore, picnic and experience some beautiful scenery.
Finally, if you are visiting during the Autumn or Winter seasons be sure to venture out at night (weather forecast dependent). The Northern part of Scotland allows visibility of the Northern Lights and is really a good opportunity to spot this effect without leaving the UK.
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