A miracle of nature can be used to describe Scotland’s Cairngorm National Park. This park covering 6% of the entire size of Scotland, is home to dotterels, red deer, eagles, otter, salmon, rabbits and many other wildlife beauties that thrive in the lochs, rivers, beaches, mountains and forests all found within the park. Yet many travelers don’t know much about this wonderful area of Scotland. So how has such a huge place have stayed under the radar for so long?
Designated a national park in 2003, Cairngorm National Park stretches 62 miles wide from east to west and 42 miles long from north to south. It is the largest national park in the UK, with the Cairngorms Mountain range being one of its most famous features. The park is full of awe-inspiring sights that will thrill your adventurous soul as you connect with nature and explore the vast landscapes that unfold for days or weeks, depending on how you are traveling.
Cast your line into the river with local fishermen, hike awe-inspiring mountains and try all kinds of water sports as you explore this remarkable landscape. Or, in winter, you get to ski the slopes in one of the most amazing settings imaginable. Getting around the park is easy with good roads and train services linking the main towns and villages.
As well as being a natural wonderland, the park also has man-made sights that are interesting to visit. Balmoral Castle, the second home of the Queen and the royal family and close by, you can find more stunning castles like Dunnottar, Blair and Crathes. Also nearby is where the famous Braemar Games are held, the most famous
Highland games on Scotland’s calendar. The annual event attracts thousands, including royalty who love to watch the kilted athletes compete for titles in the hammer throw, caber toss and tug of war and enjoy the traditional music, dance and festivities. That autumn event is quite a contrast to what the Cairngorms is like in winter.
The sub-arctic environment of Cairngorms during the coldest time of the year is considered vital to the survival of many endangered plants, birds and animals. A herd of 150 reindeer, osprey and many other fascinating creatures co-exist in the stunning Cairngorms. The reindeer are quite tame and with a guided tour, you can get close to these grand animals. In other areas of the park, you can go skiing and stay at a resort. Even if you are not skiing, there are plenty of attractions including shops, restaurants and cafes to explore between long countryside walks.
Highlights of Cairngorm National Park
- Arriving at Tomintoul, the highest village in the Scottish Highlands, to taste quality single malt scotch and maybe spot some endangered species like black grouse, crested tit, Scottish wildcat and red squirrels
- Exploring The Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore
- Meeting the locals which can be easy to do since nearly 20,000 people live inside the national park
- Pony trekking in the village of Newtonmore
- Photographing The Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s last private army, at Blair Castle
- Learning about this history from times gone by like the prehistoric, Celtic and Pictish eras
Roaming around quaint villages, sampling whiskey at distilleries, eating haggis with neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes served separately) at authentic Scottish pubs and hearing stories of ancient battles and legends are experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. A tour can be a great way to see the national park since there are so many attractions to cover and the landscape can be harsh and challenging for the inexperienced explorer. A guide will also share a wealth of knowledge that will enhance your time in the Cairngorms.
There seems to be something truly special about the Cairngorm National Park, which explains why so many visitors return again and again. If you are interested in nature, history and culture, you will quickly join the Cairngorms fan club after a vacation in this incredible part of Scotland. Ready to walk on the wild side? Call me about a trip to Scotland for your next trip.