Cairngorms walks with kids


Starter walks for kids in the Cairngorms

Many parents and carers want to instill a love of the landscape and walking in kids and the best way to do that is often to begin with a route that is manageable, so they can feel a sense of achievement. We outline some of our favourite walks to inspire children on their lifelong love of hiking here…..

While it’s tempting (as parents!) to push our kids to bag Munros and get selfies on summits, it’s worth remembering that kids feel the cold more than adults and are more prone to hypothermia. The weather can change quickly in the Cairngorms, especially on hill tops, so it’s always better to play it safe than be sorry you didn’t later.

Glens and lowland valley walks are a great option because beautiful woodlands often provide effective shelter, from sun as well as rain, as well as being an atmospheric place to wander through (or bathe in, if you are so inclined!).

Another good tip regarding walking with children is to make sure you have a tic remover on you. Kids love to roll in grass / heather / mud and tics, linked with Lyme disease, love this too. However, they shouldn’t be a problem if you check for tics and remove them as soon as possible.

Reekie Linn, Glen Isla

Reekie Linn in the course of the River Isla, Glen Isla, near Alyth, Angus Picture Credit : Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

This is a real treasure off the beaten path and the fact that ‘Reekie Linn’ is a stunning, impressively large waterfall will certainly prove a good motivator for little legs to keep walking.

The word ‘reekie’ means mist and ‘linn’ means ‘deep, dark pool’ in Gaelic and indeed the waterfall lives up to its name due to the clouds of misty water spray that it produces, which fall into the pool which is allegedly over 30 metres deep. Surely a source of fantastical stories as you make your way up to it?

The walk is only 1km, which will take you under an hour. It’s located just off the SnowRoads, about 20 miles from the Spittal of Glenshee (about half an hour’s drive). If you’re driving the SnowRoads in a southerly direction, take a left off the A93 just south of Glenshee onto the B954 to reach Reekie Linn.

If you want to continue on your SnowRoads adventure, then head south on the A926 to Blairgowrie (around 10 miles, 20 minutes in the car), the official end/start of the SnowRoads.

You can find full details of the walk on Walk Highlands.

An Suidhe, a manageable hill in Kincraig

View from An Suidhe in the winter

This is a very manageable hill with kids, which overlooks the charming village of Kincraig. You can either take the longer ‘loop’ route which encompasses 3 summit cairns and the ridge walk to the main Suidhe summit. Or you can take the ‘steep’ shorter route directly up the hill.

Either way provides stunning views over Loch Insh and the hills in Glen Feshie beyond.

See here for route information.

Even better, bribe the kids with promise of cake afterwards at The Old Post Office Cafe & Gallery in Kincraig.

The Speyside Way, even possible for buggies

If you really want to start them young, then the Speyside Way, with its well-maintained wide tracks, is a good option for walking or biking with kids, or even pushing a buggy.

Within the Cairngorms National Park, the Way is split up into different sections. See here for more on the sections. You can break it up into these manageable sections, or you can tackle the entire route from Grantown to Kingussie in one go! There’s also a separate section from Tomintoul, on the SnowRoads, to Ballindalloch.

A particularly good section to build kids’ confidence is the Boat of Garten to Aviemore section. This is a 6 mile, well signposted, well maintained, wide track with beautiful open views over the Cairngorms. For much of it, too, the railways runs alongside which means kids are also treated to the toot toot of the famous Strathspey Steam Railway chugging past too.

Another bonus of this section, too, is the fact you can fuel up at the beginning, and end at some much-loved cafes and eateries. For instance, if you start at Aviemore and fancy a pancake or bacon roll to get you going, then why not stop first at Route 7 Cafe – aptly named because it is literally at the start of the route.

At the Boat of Garten end, why not split up the journey by having lunch at the child-friendly Andersons Restaurant? Or at The Boat Hotel?

Also, with these ideally placed eateries, if your children can only manage the one leg (6 miles) then that will give you time to run / cycle back to pick up the car (if you’re the type that wants to push yourself and find child-friendly walks don’t quite cut it!). Alternatively, you could drop a second car at end of the route before you start out.

Uath Lochans and Farleitter Crag, a versatile idyllic option

Stunning view over Uath Lochans from Farleitter Crag

This short but scenic walk affords some of the best views in the Cairngorms, and the ‘big stone’ at Farleitter Crag has become famous for impressive selfies and family photos, even weddings!

The Uath Lochans are not far from the village of Kincraig, and well signposted with a Forestry Commission car park.

There are two popular routes round the lochans – one up to the crag, the other a lowland loop, also with impressive views by the loch side. Both walks also make popular routes for family cycle rides, especially due to their proximity from Loch Insh Outdoor Centre, from which you can hike bikes.

For route description, see Walk Highlands.

Need a refuel and toilet stop afterwards? Loch Insh Outdoor Centre also has a cafe/restaurant and bar, should you be needing a drink after your exertions!

Creag nan Gabhar, in the ‘miracle’ glen

Summit of Creag nan Gabhar; credit Iain Russell

This is a longer route and perfect hill for slightly older kids as it’s lower and can be done in a circuit with stunning views. It’s just 3km from Braemar and lies beween Glen Clunie and Glen Callater.

It’s known as the ‘miracle glen’ due to its magical folklore associations (which kids will love!). For instance, there’s a stone above Loch Callater called ‘Peter’s Well’ to remember a local priest – Peter – who was said to have brought running water to the locals during a hard winter freeze.

For more on this route, read this newspaper article here.

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