The SnowRoads: the ideal choice for a Cairngorms road trip

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 thought it was time to experience the route for ourselves, so we set out for a Scottish road trip. And what an exhilarating journey it was! Beautiful Highland scenery, spectacular attractions, tasty cake and coffee stops, and total escapism.

This was “work” for us but the playful route made us feel like tourists for the day. Who doesn’t love that holiday feeling? So, from us to you, here are our top ten reasons to drive the SnowRoads.

Share yours with us using the #SnowRoads hashtag.

1. Good for the soul

In these frantic digital times, we can all crave a bit of escapism. That’s why we’d prescribe the SnowRoads. Getting out on the open road — surrounded by mountains, straths, and rivers — does wonders for clearing the mind. And you get to avoid the A9 and its pesky roadworks. Bonus!

Suspension Bridge at Cambus O’May. Image: CNPA Wee Epics

The Watchers

2. Standout scenery

Say hello to some of the best views you can get from a car or motorbike. Three stunning Scenic Route installations provide new reasons to stop and explore this wild and beautiful highland landscape. Look out for ‘Connecting Contours’ at the Devil’s Elbow, ‘The Watchers’ and ‘A Moment in Time’ at Corgarff and ‘Still’ at Tomintoul.

3. Ride the chairlift

At the highest point of the route, let the Cairnwell Chairlift at Glenshee (which runs year-round) take you even higher. Settle in for a relaxing trip up the side of the mountain and witness the glorious landscape of the glens at your feet – quite literally!

Cairnwell Chairlift

Image: Braemar Castle

4. Castles

Journey the SnowRoads and you journey through ‘castle country’. Wander through Braemar Castle, for example, a community-run project that hosts numerous events throughout the year – from Murder Mystery Dinners to Highland Flings. Behold beautiful Balmoral Castle and its grounds: a must-visit in spring and early summer. Or explore Corgarff Castle at Strathdon, which was once an army base for those hunting down Jacobite sympathisers and, later, whisky smugglers.

5. Royalty

Look out for the royal wave along the route. It’s not uncommon to see members of the Royal family out and about, particularly between August and September when they are in residence at Balmoral Castle.

Crathie Kirk where the Royal Family attend church

Cairngorms Scenic Photo Post

6. Photo opportunities

The Cairngorms, with its abundance of breathtaking scenery, is paradise for Instagrammers and TikTok lovers. Look out for the Cairngorms scenic photo posts at each installation: take a picture, upload it, and allow all the SnowRoads fans to enjoy the changes in the landscape.

7. Bragging rights

The route traverses the highest public road in Britain (the highest point is Cairnwell Pass, 670m (2199ft) above sea level by the Glenshee Ski Centre). Top Gear has filmed along the route, which is really popular with classic car drivers and motorcyclists. If driving the route in the depths of winter, check Traffic Scotland for road closures and be sure to follow any travel warnings.

A gritter keeping the road clear over the Lecht

Royal Lochnagar Distillery

8. Whisky

Lochanagar is just one of the many distilleries along the route. The establishment takes its name from the nearby mountain, which gained royal status following a visit from Queen Victoria in 1848. It’s a jewel in Royal Deeside and a great place to discover how Scottish whisky is made. At the end of the tour, enjoy a dram of 12-year-old single Highland malt or, if you’re driving, ask for a sample to take home with you.

9. Gin

Scotland’s mastered more than just whisky. Just before you enter Grantown, at the village of Cromdale, be sure to call into Balmenach Distillery, home of Caorunn Gin. This is a carefully handcrafted, small-batch gin produced in the Cairngorms; Caorunn is the Gaelic word for ‘rowan berry’ and forms the soul of this spirit. With tours twice daily throughout the week, book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Caorunn Gin

Cycling the tough Lecht road

10. The challenge

Do you like a physical challenge? Then cycle the route! Featuring some challenging ascents and alpine-esque descents, the SnowRoads wind up and over the Lecht, Gairnshiel, and Glenshee.

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