How much do you know about the Cairngorms National Park?

That it is Scotland’s largest National Park; that just under 50% of the Park is designated nature conservation sites of international significance; that National Geographic Traveller voted Cairngorms National Park as one of the ‘Top 20’ places to visit in the world!

Covering six percent of Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) is pretty big! At 4,528 sq. km, the CNP is over twice the size of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Lake District National Parks. CNP is home to some 19,000 people and 25% of the UK’s threatened bird, animal and plant species (ranging from golden eagles and capercaillie to freshwater pearl mussels and water voles).

As one of 15 National Parks in the UK – and the largest – it is the location for some of the most spectacular landscapes in Britain and is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife, plants, people and communities. Here we share some striking, and perhaps lesser known, facts about our Park as it turns 15 years old on the 1st September 2018.

Cairngorms National Park gateway marker at entry to the Park

Highest, Biggest, Longest, Oldest, First

-The Cairngorms is the largest area of ‘high land’ in Britain so much so that the bottom of the Lairig Ghru would be number 25 on a list of Lake District peaks.

-Five of the UK’s six highest mountains lie within the Park and there are an impressive 55 summits over 900 metres with the highest point being Ben Macdui at 1,309 metres.

-Three of Scotland’s most famous rivers, (Dee, Don and Spey) rise in the Park with the Spey, at 107 miles, being the longest.

-A geologist’s dream; the oldest rocks in the Cairngorms are 700 million years old and contain the finest collection of glacial landforms outside of arctic Canada.

-Brrrr, at minus 27.2 degrees centigrade, Braemar shares the record for the lowest ever temperature recorded in the UK.

-The first place in the UK to offer visitors pony trekking was the village of Newtonmore. The Ormiston family’s Highland Pony breeding stud has been in existence in the area for over 150 years.

-In 1954 the first pair of breeding ospreys were recorded in the ancient Caledonian pine forest at Loch Garten. They came from Scandinavia of their own accord and the species gradually colonised Scotland from there. There is now estimated to be 250 – 300 nesting pairs across Great Britain.

-At 2,200 feet, the road at Cairnwell Pass is the highest public road in the UK.

-There are 4.2 people for every sq. km; now that really is low population density.

-The village of Nethy Bridge hosts the oldest traditional Highland Games in Scotland (held each year on the 2nd Saturday in August).

Rafal Wotjus - Panoramic View from road between Braemar and Linn of Dee
Views between Braemar and Linn of Dee

Places and Landmarks

-The Gaelic name for the Cairngorms is Am Monadh Ruadh. In English this means the russet coloured mountain range. However, the name Cairngorms is also Gaelic and actually translates as “the blue hills”.

-Tomintoul is the highest village in the Highlands and 36% of the Park is over 800 metres.

-The Park contains the largest extent of semi-natural pine forest in the UK.

-Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral Estate in 1848 with the foundation stone for the current castle laid 5 years later.

-At 452 metres The Drumochter Pass is the highest point of the Highland main line and indeed any railway line in the UK.

-In winter the Tomintoul – Cock Bridge road over the Lecht is famous for being the most closed road in the UK.

-Dalwhinnie Distillery, founded in 1898 with the site chosen for its access to clear spring water and abundant peat, is the highest distillery in Scotland.

-The Old Packhorse Bridge, Carrbridge was built over the River Dulnain in 1717 and is the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands.

-Loch an Eilein Castle, which was built on an island in the loch of the same name, dates back to the 13th Century.

-Lairig Ghru is a great mountain pass from Glenmore through to Linn of Dee which historically was used as traveller’s pass for driving cattle.

-The TV series “Monarch of the Glen” was filmed at Ardverikie House overlooking Kinloch Laggan and the railway station at Broomhill was used as Glenbogle Station.

-The Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott has a cairn dedicated to him in Glen Prosen in Angus, where he planned and trained for his polar expeditions.

Raymond Watson - osprey fishing at rothiemurchus photographic hide aviemore.
Osprey fishing at Rothiemurchus


-The red squirrel is an iconic species which is slowly being driven north by its tougher relative the grey squirrel; the Cairngorms National Park is one of its last great strongholds.

-The endangered pine marten belongs to the same family as mink, otter and badger.

-The Scottish wildcat (thought to be less than 100 individuals left in the wild) is Britain’s only remaining large wild predator.

-The CNP is the best place in the UK to see the rare Scottish crossbill.

Ruthven Barracks

History, Customs and Traditions

-There are traces of people who were here 7,000 years ago, and amazingly, you can still see the remains from prehistoric, Celtic and Pictish times.

-Europe’s last private army, The Atholl Highlanders, is based at Blair Castle.

-The World Porridge Making Championships are held each year in the village of Carrbridge.

-The Big Grey Man is the name of the creature reputed to haunt the summit of Ben Macdui; it is thought to be a phenomenon called Broken Spectre where gaps in the clouds enable people to see their own shadow cast upon the clouds.

-Place names give an insight into the culture and environment of the Park with Gaelic names used for mountains, woodlands, lochs, rivers and settlements.

So there you have it, a quick round up of just some of the fascinating facts and figures associated with the Cairngorms National Park. But there is plenty left to discover.

Check out and to find out more about the special relationship between nature and people in this exceptional location.

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