At this time of year many of us are craving healthy living, after the excesses of the festive season. The Cairngorms National Park is full of wonderful ways to relax, restore and re-energise, feeding body, soul and mind.
Here are just a few ideas….
1. Get Your Heart Going At Laggan
Head to Laggan Wolfrax Trail Centre, where you can hire bikes and access routes suitable for all abilities. A family favourite is the loop from the cafe to Loch Laggan and back. Ask the knowledgeable staff at the centre for their advice on the best trail for you.
But there’s no reason why worries about fitness levels, or age, should stop you cycling. Wolftrax also has ebikes to hire, but it is recommended that you book these in advance via www.weebikehub.co.uk.
After you’ve blown away the cobwebs on a bike, warm up in the centre’s café. Café manager Graham Bell is passionate about creating healthy, filling, homemade food with a focus on including everyone.
Menu highlights include the lentil and sweet potato chilli nachos (available in gluten free, dairy free and vegan options) and the avocado and sunblushed tomato sandwich. However, if you’re not on a health drive avoiding sugar, then the café’s sweet treats are not to be missed. The vegan cookies, for instance, are to die for!
2. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping In Nature
If you want someone to help kickstart your healthy living exercise routine then why not hire a personal trainer, even if you’re just here on holiday? Not only will this give you the motivation you need, but your trainer will also be able to show you some hidden gems (and perhaps new hills to run up and down!).
Sam Cairns, for example, runs Fitnessat58. As well as personal training, he runs fitness bootcamps at his stunning lodge in the heart of the pine forest near Kincraig. He is also organising the Loch Morlich Running Festival, on January 5th, which is a fun 5K or 10K event. A limited number of places are available on the day, just turn up ahead of the race start at midday.
3. Get Your Heart Slowing In Nethybridge
The Japanese have a word which means ‘forest bathing’ which is ‘shinrin-yoku’. Rather than lying down and bathing, as in the sun, forest bathing is simply wandering through a forest, taking in your surroundings fully. It’s been linked with many health benefits, not least stress reduction, in Japanese medicine.
The Cairngorms is the perfect place to forest bathe and Nethybridge the ultimate destination, as it’s known locally as the ‘forest village’. After you’ve indulged in some restorative shinrin-yoku then wander to the village’s café, Nethy House, a firm favourite with the locals.
If you can resist the mouth-watering cakes, then they have a vast array of health food on offer from homemade soups to salad bowls at lunchtime and granola and yoghurt pots for brunch. The café caters for gluten free, dairy free and vegan diets too.
4. Get Your Mind Blown Under The Stars
Stargazing has long been recognised as one of the most magical, effective, calming mindfulness practices there is; after all, looking out into the cosmos reminds you of how small you are and how we are all part of a much bigger whole. The Cairngorms is one of the best places in the world to stargaze, as recognised by Glenlivet and Tomintoul being awarded gold tier ‘Dark Sky Park’ status by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Wrap up warm, take hot chocolate and a cosy blanket then lie back and breathe. Any worries will seem far less significant!
5. Shock Your Body With Wild Swimming
Cold water therapy is increasingly being recognised as a powerful way to heal ailments from muscle damage to mood, hence the surge in interest in wild swimming. The Cairngorms is a prime, leading location for this leisure pursuit with the Cairngorms Wild Swimmers meeting religiously at Loch Morlich every Sunday at 9.30am, everyone welcome, rain, shine or snow!
6. Move Your Body With Aviemore Park Run
Assemble at the meeting point at the edge of the industrial estate, not far from Route 7 Café (perfect for brunch afterwards!) at 9.15am every Saturday, for a 9.30am start. Great fun and usually an impressive turn out for all ages with (we’re told!) the best possible Park Run views in the UK!