If you don’t feel your weekend is complete until you’ve scrambled up a hill, raced down a mountain, or just got good and muddy, the Cairngorms National Park should be at the top of your bucket list. There’s nothing this awesome part of the Scottish Highlands can’t offer the open-air enthusiast, regardless of your favourite type of activity or the time of year. To help convince you, we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular outdoor activities in the Cairngorms National Park.
Snowboarding and Skiing
The Cairngorms National Park is the best place in the UK for skiing and snowboarding. CairnGorm Mountain is easily accessible from Aviemore and has reliably good snow cover in the winter. Glenshee is near Blairgowrie and where you’ll find Scotland’s infamous black run: the Tiger. Glenshee and The Lecht, between Strathdon and Tomintoul, have a good choice of runs and ski schools for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.
Both road and mountain bike enthusiasts will find cycling in the Cairngorms a challenge they will be proud to brag about. The National Cycle Network’s Route 7 stretches for 33 miles up and down hills, along straights and around hair raising bends in a route that would push even the most experienced of professional cyclists. Mountain bikers aren’t overlooked either, with 64km of off road trails ranging from easy to punishing. The Glenlivet Mountain Bike Trail Centre has superb purpose built and expertly maintained trails suitable for all cycling abilities, as well as a café and place to wash the mud off at the end of a satisfying day. There are plenty of places to hire a bike and for those who are worried about the hills, the Cairngorms Electrical Bicycle Network is a great choice. Some of our cottages have bike storage and washing facilities for those who want to bring their own bike with them.
For some, getting to the top is merely the way to see the view but for climbers, the journey is at least as good as the destination, if not more so! The Cairngorms are a magnet for thrill-seeking junkies. Craggan Outdoors is an award winning climbing and abseiling centre in Grantown-on-Spey. As well as outdoor climbing with a 70 foot abseil, they have an indoor rock wall for wet weather climbing or perfecting your technique, and a superb high rope course. Glenmore Lodge is another excellent venue which has rock climbing (and ice climbing in winter), scrambling and mountaineering (along with other pursuits including wild skiing, white water kayaking, mountain biking and orienteering).
Scotland is golf’s birthplace. With eleven courses, golf in the Cairngorms is a day (or few!) to relish. Play nine or 18-holes at renowned courses like Kingussie, Carrbridge, Craggan, Braymar, and Newtonmore just to name a few. The Cairgorms Golf Pass is valid for a year and gives players up to 30% discount at all of the courses.
Try something different on your visit to the Cairngorms with clay pigeon shooting. Suitable for teenagers and older, it’s an exciting outdoor activity for all abilities. Craggan Outdoors (see above) near Aviemore, is a reputable shooting centre, as is the one on the Alvie and Dalraddy Estate, which also offers archery.
The Spey and Dee Rivers are revered by anglers globally, providing some of the best trout and pike fishing anywhere in the world. Rothiemurchus Fishery has lochs teeming with rainbow trout, or you can try your hand at salmon or sea trout fishing. The spectacular lochs and mountain views make fishing in the Cairngorms National Park a delight even when the fish aren’t biting. Rothiemurchus is home to Loch Eilerin, twice voted Britain’s Top Picnic Spot and a beautiful place for a walk. Dogs are welcome as long as they are kept under control and you clean up after them.
River Tubing and White Water Rafting
Fishing isn’t the only fun you can have on the river in the Cairngorms. Ace Adventures provides guided white water rafting trips from Dunphail in Moray. Be prepared to get wetter than you’ve ever been as you race down the Findhorn River in a raft or tube. It’s certainly a different way of sightseeing! The more daring visitors can include a heart-stopping cliff jump just to increase their adrenaline. Ace Adventures is open all year round.
Give your legs a break and saddle up a Highland pony. The Cairngorms claims to be the home of pony trekking. Whether or not it’s true, it’s certainly a beautiful way to see parts of the countryside cars simply can’t reach. There are a number of pony trekking centres in the Cairngorms National Park, including Alvie Stables just four miles south of Aviemore, and the Highland Pony Heritage Centre in Newtonmore. Children four years and older are catered for and Alvie Stables offers family discounts.
Unleash your inner country lady or gent by trying your hand at the traditional pastimes of deer stalking, grouse shooting and rough shooting. It’s important you have some experience with a shotgun before trying one of these, so novices should stick to shooting clays until they are comfortable. The grouse hunting season runs from 12 August to 10 December. You can shoot pheasant from 1 October to 1 February, and red deer from 1 August to 30 April (stags) and 1 November to 31 March (hinds). The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has more information.
Walking is one of the easiest ways to explore and there is a huge network of Cairngorms National Park walking routes which take you through traditional villages and unspoiled landscapes. There is a path for everyone whether you want nothing more challenging than a 200m walk from the car park to a lookout point, or a strenuous day’s hike that will leave you with just enough energy to relax in front of your fire back at the cottage with a delicious meal and a glass of single malt. The Feshiebridge and Sculpture Trail is ideal for wheelchair users, being way marked with well-maintained paths and a disabled parking car park. Loch-an-Eilein on the Rothiemurchus Estate has a wheelchair and buggy friendly path circumnavigating the loch with views of a ruined castle and the chance of spotting nesting osprey.
A holiday in the Cairngorms National Park will leave you breathless but whether you get that way from the physical exertion of climbing a mountain, the shock of cold water as you navigate the rapids, or delight at a rare and beautiful sight, is entirely up to you.