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What to do in the Cairngorms

Inspiration

Friday, 1 March 2024

What to do in the Cairngorms

If you love an outdoor adventure, spending time exploring nature or simply admiring beautiful scenery, there’s nowhere quite like the Cairngorms. This magnificent National Park in the Highlands of Scotland has everything you could want from a Scottish getaway: soaring peaks, free-roaming wildlife, crystal-clear lochs, whisky distilleries… Here’s the Handpicked Cottages guide to what to do on holiday in the Cairngorms.

Walking in the Cairngorms National Park

Welcome to walkers’ paradise. Escape to the Cairngorms to enjoy some of the best hiking Britain has to offer, including 55 Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) and five of the six highest peaks in the UK. You’ll also explore woodlands, rivers, lochs and welcoming villages. If you’re a cyclist rather than a walker, there are some superb mountain biking trails in the Cairngorms as well as footpaths.

The Tower in Kinloss has some great walks from the door and is just five miles from the sea (yes, the Cairngorms even features a stunning stretch of coast for clifftop and beachy walks).

Spotting wildlife in the Cairngorms

From soaring birds of prey to the UK’s only free-range reindeer herd, the Cairngorms provides a safe haven for some fabulous creatures. Look out for red deer and mountain hares, as well as birds like capercaillies, ptarmigans and red grouse. A pair of ospreys visits in the summer and you may even see one of the Cairngorms’ golden eagles. For easier wildlife spotting, the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig is a great place to take the family.

One of the wonderful things about a Cairngorms holiday is that you’ll often encounter wildlife from your cottage garden! The Old Smithy at Seasgair has access to the River Nethy, which is a lovely spot for bird watching.

Experience dark skies

We’re so used to street lamps and lights from homes and businesses, even in small villages, that we don’t realise just how dark the night can be. The low light pollution levels in the Cairngorms make this the perfect destination for a bit of stargazing. Visit the Cairngorms Dark Sky Park for some of the best stargazing locations, and look out for talks and events at this incredible place.

For deep, dark nights, pick somewhere secluded to stay, like Achnahatnich House in Aviemore.

Historic sites in the Cairngorms

For culture and heritage centres (and shopping), the Cairngorms has more than its share of welcoming towns and villages: Perth, Inverness, Aviemore, Kingussie and Balleter are all in the Cairngorms and if you need a city fix, you’re not far from Aberdeen. Historic sites include the majestic Ballindalloch Castle, or visit the evocative ruins of Loch an Eilean Castle. Learn more about the Jacobite rising at Ruthven Barracks or delve deeper into Scotland’s ancient past by exploring archaeological sites in the Cairngorms.

What could make a better base for historians than Loch an Eilean Cottage? Just look at that location!

Cairngorm adventures

We’ve touched on hiking and mountain biking and these are just two of the many outdoor activities in the Cairngorms. You can also see the National Park from horseback: the native Highland ponies can handle any terrain with ease. In the winter, make the most of the Cairngorms’ three ski centres, which offer lessons for skiers of all ages and stages. In the summer, you have your pick of watersports on the many lochs, including SUP and kayaks. The Cairngorms is also a popular wild swimming location.

If you want a good base for an outdoor adventure holiday, try Easter Duiar near Grantown-on-Spey. Its large garden, table tennis and pool table make it the perfect place for sporty families.

Take the scenic route

Imagine you’re in a car commercial and drive through breathtaking scenery along Britain’s highest public roads. The Snowroads Scenic Route stretches for 90 miles between Blairgowrie and Grantown-on-Spey and is simply the most incredible place for a drive (on a clear day). Make sure you stop off at the vantage points for the best photo opportunities.

Osprey’s Nest is a luxury lodge close to one end of the route, at Grantown-on-Spey. If you prefer to travel by rail, you’re also not far from the heritage Strathspey Railway.

The best Cairngorms food and drink

If you love a good malt, there are six distilleries in the Cairngorms National Park alone and you can easily book onto a tour (and taster experience) during your stay. Food-wise, you can tuck into locally sourced salmon and Highland-reared beef, as well as game such as venison and grouse. There are even places where you can catch your own fish! Veggies don’t despair: book onto a foraging trip to discover Scotland’s amazing wild larder.

There are a lot of places to eat and drink in this part of Scotland, including some wonderfully inviting pubs. If you prefer preparing your own food, you’ll love the kitchen at Milton Lodge – perfect for feeding the whole clan.

Book your Cairngorms holiday cottage

This part of Scotland has so much to offer the visitor and we’re delighted to introduce our collection of luxury holiday cottages in the Cairngorms. Look out for features like stargazing skylights, cosy outdoor fire pits and secluded gardens with magnificent views. You’ll love it here.

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