The mountainous terrain of the Scottish Cairngorms region provides something interesting for visitors no matter what the season. Summertime brings wildlife and mountain walks, and during winter the peaks are snow-capped and peppered with skiers. Located in north-central Scotland, the Cairngorms is most certainly a place to enjoy being outside and active.
Cairngorms National Park is the UK’s largest, and the Cairngorms are Britain’s second highest mountain range. The National Park covers 1,465 square miles and encompasses the entire mountain range. Diversity is a key feature of the region, which is home to more than 17,000 people, impressive mountains, sparkling river valleys, vast moorlands and significant amounts of flora and fauna.
The spectacular landscape and environment offer special ecological finds for nature enthusiasts. Birdwatchers will be excited to search for rare species such as the osprey, the Scottish crossbill, the crested tit, the capercaillie and the golden eagle. The park is home to animals like pine martens, badgers, red squirrels, water vole, and otters. Native Caledonian pine forests still thrive in Abernethy Forest, while a huge diversity of flora can be found at the various mountain levels.
Walking and hiking in the Cairngorms can suit any level of visitor, and guided walks are available. Hike difficulties range from the casual woodland stroll to difficult ascents. Some of the more popular walks include the Speyside Way (good day walks), Craigellachie Nature Reserve (various difficulties) and the Lairig Ghru Trail (challenging). Those taking a walk in the Cairngorms should follow the mountain code and always prepare for sudden changes in weather conditions. During the summer, a funicular railway takes passengers up Cairn Gorm Mountain (4,084 feet) for spectacular views of the Spey Valley.
Winter brings both snow and skiers to the Cairngorms, particularly to Cairn Gorm Mountain, which is Britain’s sixth highest mountain and largest ski area. Skiing lasts from approximately December to April each year, though the snowfall is notoriously unpredictable. Other activities in the area include rock climbing, abseiling, dog sledding, canoeing and mountain biking. There are a number of well established outdoor centres that offer courses, activities and accommodation. Fishing is also popular in the Cairngorms, with salmon, sea trout and brown trout being the main catches. Information about fishing permits is available at the tourist office in nearby Aviemore.
Local attractions include Kincraig Highland Wildlife Park, where bears, bison, wolves and wild boar roam; the Rothiemurchus Estate, which demonstrates the realities of life on a Highland estate; the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, where visitors can walk among Britain’s only herd of reindeer; and the Strathspey Steam Railway, which runs between Aviemore and Broomhill. The town of Aviemore sits on the Spey River, is the main transport and commercial hub of the Cairngorms, and is also a good place to seek accommodation and find out local information. Aviemore is approximately 90 miles from Edinburgh and accessible by road and train. The town also hosts the annual Cairngorm Snow Festival, which is held the third weekend of March and features events at the Cairn Gorm ski area and evening parades in the town.