11 Reasons To Drive The SnowRoads In Winter

From winter sports to mountain scenery, discover 90 miles of adventure

Welcome to the SnowRoads, the scenic road trip through 90 miles of epic mountain landscapes in the Cairngorms National Park.

The route links the communities of Braemar, Ballater and Tomintoul as it journeys from Blairgowrie in picturesque Perthshire to the vibrant Highland town of Grantown-on-Spey.

We drove the whole route in the summer but wanted to find out if the SnowRoads lived up to their name during the colder months. We certainly weren’t disappointed. Compared to summer, winter in the Cairngorms offers visitors an entirely different experience, creating a new, often snowy, canvas for exploring. Expect snowcapped mountain peaks, incredible winter photo opportunities with dramatic sunrises and sunsets, charming community events, and so much more. That’s why the Cairngorms is known as the place Where Winter Comes to Life.

If you’re looking for a truly rural winter road trip in Scotland, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top eleven reasons to drive the SnowRoads in winter. 

Disclaimer: Always check the weather forecast and road conditions before you set out. The road is remote in places and can at times be snowy. If snow gates are closed, longer diversions will be put in place. Be fully prepared and drive according to conditions.

1. Unforgettable scenery

When you take the SnowRoads, expect some of the most outstanding landscapes in the Cairngorms. That includes panoramic views offering some of the nation’s greatest roadside sunrise and sunset viewing spots – particularly while traversing the highest public road in Britain, the Cairnwell Pass. And the good news: despite changeable weather, including lots of snow, roads remain open as much as possible throughout winter. Just make sure to keep an eye on Traffic Scotland for travel and weather updates.

snowroads in winter
A frozen River Dee
snowroads in winter
Glenshee Ski Resort. Image: Ed Smith Photography

2. Never too far from a slope

Whether it’s snowsports or sledging, hands up who loves to play in the snow? With two ski centres en route, Glenshee and the Lecht, there is no excuse not to stop and have a slide or sledge.

3. Sense of adventure

Head to the SnowRoads to reconnect with nature and invigorate the adventurer in you. Rugged terrain surrounds you at every turn. Did you know Porsche tests its vehicles in the region? Not just on the SnowRoads but on the adjacent ski slopes, too!

Filming for Countryfile
snowroads in winter
Image: Balmoral Castle

4. Fit for a royal

Fun fact: in 1752, infantry regiments built the Invercauld Bridge over the River Dee, located east of Braemar, to continue the military road that leads North to Corgarff Castle. But when Queen Victoria decided to make Balmoral her new base, a new bridge was constructed further upstream to grant her more privacy. The road then moved from the south of the River Dee to the north and made use of the new bridge.

5. Spot some of Scotland’s most elusive wildlife

Take things slow and see if you can spot some of Scotland’s iconic wildlife. Will you be lucky enough to spot a golden eagle soaring overhead, a graceful mountainside stag or red squirrels scurrying up trees?

Group of Red Deer Stags, in the Cairngorms National Park.
snowroads in winter
Loch Muick

6. Walk on the wild side

Enjoy some of the amazing walks along the route. Loch Muick near Ballater is much loved by locals and visitors alike. This half-day walk passes Glas-allt Shiel house, which was built by Queen Victoria after the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert.

7. Snap up unmissable photo opportunities

The winter days may be short, but the light is otherworldly. Bring your camera or your drone to capture the most stunning snowy scenes.

snowroads in winter
Loch Callater
Ceilidh Dancing

 8. Partake in Highland traditions

You’re never short of things to do in the Cairngorms National Park. And the same remains true in winter. From traditional ceilidh dances to stargazing events, look out for the numerous memory-making opportunities along the way. 

 9. Castles, castles, castles

Paired with snowy backdrops and winter skies, Scottish castles make for spectacular architectural viewing. Adorned in your warmest winter gear, you might begin to wonder how communities lived in these cold stone structures hundreds of years ago.

Corgarff Castle, situated in stunning scenery with magnificent views, this tower house is thought to have been built in 1550 before being converted in to a barracks for government troops in 1748.
Lamont Sporrans in Braemar

10. Tales of tartan

You will get a tartan fix one way or another! You might not meet the Lonach Highlanders marching in the snow or come across a Highland Games in the middle of winter, but you are sure to see some tartan. Drop into Lamont Sporrans in Braemar to find out if your family has its own Scottish fabric.

 11. Three scenic route installations await

Stop off at the three scenic route installations along the SnowRoads. Each takes full advantage of the jaw-dropping views over Tomintoul, Corgarff Castle, and at the Devil’s Elbow at Glenshee. We invite you to take a picture from the photo posts at each installation and share it using the hashtag #SnowRoads, to let others witness winter in this inspiring Highland landscape.

‘Still’ designed by Angus Ritchie and Daniel Tyler to promote a viewpoint across the Cairngorms.

Have you already ventured to the SnowRoads in winter? Use #SnowRoads to share your top highlight.

Follow and tag us. #VisitCairngorms @VisitCairngorms

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