7 of the Best Family-Friendly Hill Walks in the Cairngorms

It’s official! According to new scientific research, being in nature makes kids happier and healthier, particularly when it comes to their mental health. But we knew that anyway, didn’t we?

Teacher and author of The Mountains Are Calling: Running in the High Places of Scotland, Jonny Muir, says family walks are a great way to build kids’ resilience, confidence in their ability and appreciation for the outdoors. A bit like life, he says, hill walking teaches that hard effort is rewarded.

“There’s this simplicity in walking and this feeling that the world below you is slipping away into a new world and a different way of thinking, away from gadgets and modern social pressures,” he says. “It’s an escape, both literal and physical.”

A Munro at over 3,000 feet may be too high for little legs, but their lower cousins, the Corbetts, at 2,500 feet are more manageable. Here are our pick of the 7 best Corbetts to climb with kids, suggested by experts Manny Gorman, author of The Corbett Round; A Unique Continuous Traverse of 219 Scottish Mountains and Jonny Muir.

1. Creag DhubhNewtonmore

OS 35 – 4 miles & 1500ft

Also called ‘Black Hill’ this ‘up and back’ walk starts/finishes from the small off-road layby on A86, opposite lovely Lochain Uvie. A 300m walk west on the sometimes-busy road takes you through a deer fence gate into birch woodland and a grassy path upwards. Follow this onto a well-defined ridge path all the way to the summit.

“Kids will love this route for the endless exploration, scrambling, an exciting burn crossing higher up and the final huge summit cairn to stand upon,” says Manny Gorman. “This gem of a hill throngs with wildlife such as its feral goats (fantastically smelly!) eagles, peregrine, grouse, deer, and cuckoos and woodpeckers!”

2. Creag Bhalg, near Braemar

OS 43 – 3 miles & 1000ft

Known as ‘Womb Hill’, this walk starts/finishes from east of Linn of Dee car park. The trail leads through beautiful Scots Pine woodland. Careful mapwork is required to ensure staying on track. The views are stunning and, once you clear the tree line, the spectacular vista opens up across the greater Cairngorms to the northwest. Care has to be taken to find the thin footpath through deeper heather to the summit cairn, before returning by the same route. 

“This hill is a good short but interesting challenge for younger kids, especially if you let them do a bit of map reading,” says Manny.

(Photo credit Rude Health)

3. Meall a’ Bhuachaille, near Glenmore

OS 36 – 5 miles & 1,600ft

‘Shepherd’s Hill’ is an easy loop on well-made footpath and trails, with steep-ish climbs and great views of the northern corries. “I would suggest a clockwise direction of this route, which gets kids up the hill when fresh, but still leaves points of interest for them at Ryvoan bothy and the Green Lochan on the 2 mile return walkout,” says Manny. 

As he says, you may be lucky enough to spot reindeer but, if not, a visit to the Reindeer Centre in Glenmore is a great reward for the end of the hike!

4. Geal-charn Mor, Lynwilg, near Aviemore

Geal-charn Mor (credit Colin Park)

OS 35 – 8 miles & 2,000ft

The “Big White Hill” walk starts/finishes from Lynwilg up the Burma Road, an estate track, for several easy miles to the summit coll and cairn. A short distance of easy “off-piste” navigation is then required to the SW, albeit on a wide and heavily eroded path, to the summit. “This is well worth the effort for tremendous views across the Spey Valley to the Cairngorm massif,” says Manny. The return descent is via the well-used peaty footpath to Ballinluig farm, leaving a short walk back to Lynwilg.

5. Morrone, Braemar

Morrone, near Braemar (credit Alan Findlay)

OS 43 – 3 miles & 1,400ft

Kids will love the nickname for this hill “Big Nose” which starts/finishes in Braemar and, as Manny says, “is about as easy as it gets for a family Corbett”. It’s also the location of the Braemar Gathering’s hill race. Take the steep, rocky but well-trodden path from the village to the summit where you’re rewarded by fantastic views. “This makes for good scrambling fun for younger kids and the return scramble is mercifully quick and fun, perfectly rounded off by an ice cream from the shop at the end!”

Carn an Fhreicedain

6. Carn an Fhreiceadain, Kingussie

OS 35 – 10 miles & 2,000ft

So-called “Watcher’s Cairn” starts/finishes from Kingussie golf course car park, a longer walk, perhaps best for slightly older children. It takes a tarred road for a mile up to Pitmain Lodge, then the majority is on a major off-road loop over the hill. Once clear of the Lodge estate trees, you very quickly gain a feeling of remoteness on the wide open hill. 

“I would recommend a clockwise route, for ease of the climb in a series of smaller steps,” says Manny. “It leaves a welcome bothy, or shooting hut, for the return along with fine open views”. The spectacular stone tower of the cairn is passed on the final steps before the trig point summit.

(Photo credit: Gordon Brown)

7. Creag Mhor, Glenmore

view of Loch Avon (credit Nick Bramhill)

OS 36 – 15 miles & 2,800ft

This, “Big Crag”, starts/finishes from the road-end parking area, next to Glenmore Lodge National Outdoor Centre. Most suitable for older kids. Take the good path up over a high, broad shoulder. Head towards Lairig an Laoigh. From here, now on the hill itself,  some easy open ground navigation is required to access the summit. The terrain is unusual, almost desert-like.

“The hidden treasure is the view west, up the glen towards Loch Avon, and the surrounding massive cliffs, like teeth, all around the the corrie, and almost surrounded by other Cairngorm giants,” says Manny. “An absolutely spectacular place for a well-deserved lunch stop and rest before the long return leg.”

Despite the generally good access path, this is very remote ground and should only be considered in settled weather with suitable hill walking experience within the adults of the group.

The Cairngorms is full of great walks for kids

Tips for walking with kids:

  • Take a map and a compass (and an ability to use them!)
  • Be prepared for differing terrain and weather especially pack appropriate footwear, spares, waterproofs, hats/gloves and plenty of food and drinks (jelly babies and/or Haribo are great incentives!)
  • Charged mobile phone (but don’t rely on it for navigation!)
  • Pick a clear day, last thing you want to do is drag them up a mountain in awful weather and put them off the joy of hillwalking in future!
  • Keep a close eye on them, especially when traversing scrambles, water, roads or steeper ground
  • Make it more fun by adding another dimension, like a picnic, snow ball fights, geocaching or catching a sunset view

*Thanks to Manny Gorman and Jonny Muir for their help producing this guide

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