Top 18 in ’18

The experiences you can’t afford to miss this year in the Cairngorms National Park…we’re all guilty of it. Thoughts of holidays come around and we look further afield to fulfil our travelling fantasies…but why?

We literally have the best of the best on our doorstep and it’s about time we enjoyed it! The Cairngorms National Park is closer than you think, and with the Caledonian Sleeper you can literally go to bed in the city and wake up in paradise.  All this is just one sleep away…

We’ve put together our Top 18 experiences we think you should enjoy in 2018, so why not start compiling your list and let us know what you’d add!

1. Bag A Munro

With 43 Munros (mountains over 3,000ft) situated in the Cairngorms and 5 out of the 6 highest mountains having their home here, there is no shortage of routes to tackle. No matter what your experience level or scale of the expedition you want to undertake, you are guaranteed the most spectacular views.

Check out Wilderness Scotland for bespoke tours.

Cairngorms things to do
Bag a Munro

2. Have A Tipple

Whether it’s a dram, a pint or ice and a slice that floats your boat, the Cairngorms will ensure every whistle is kept wet. With our own brewery, countless whisky distilleries and a brand new gin distillery to tour round you are spoilt for choice. You can even get expert advice from team at the Whisky Castle in Tomintoul – what they don’t know about the amber nectar isn’t worth knowing!

Speyside Distillery in the Cairngorms
Have A Tipple: Speyside Distillery near Kingussie

3. Stay In Style

From beautiful Highland hotels to welcoming hostels, the Cairngorms National Park has accommodation to suit every taste and budget. However, if you truly want to leave it all behind and escape to a magical wilderness then book one of the three secluded cabins at the Lazy Duck Hostel. The Woodman’s Hut, Lambing Bothy and Duck’s Nest are situated in a stunning 6-acre homestead – be sure to keep your eyes open for a visiting red squirrel or stag as you shower!

Cairngorms Accommodation
Stay in Style: Great North Lodges

4. Your Adrenaline Rush

Adventure is at the heart of the Cairngorms and many famous adrenalin junkies have lived here or explored the landscape. Not only that, but some of the most passionate outdoors folk now run adventure businesses, passing on their knowledge and love of the land to those who want to push their boundaries that little bit further.  Ice climbing and canyoning are just two of the most exhilarating sports you can conquer. Check out G2 Outdoor who can get you out in the Cairngorms for your next adrenaline rush.

 Mixed climbing in winter on the famous Cairngorm Granite

5. Step Back In Time

There are plenty of places across the National Park that allow you to step back in time and escape the hub-bub of modern day living. Castles, museums, historic sites and even a walk through the spectacular countryside can leave you wondering about those who have gone before. If you want to learn more about Highland history then turn off your phone and immerse yourself in bygone years at the Highland Folk Museum (the setting for many of the scenes in Outlander). Or, alternatively, head to the Blair Atholl Water Mill where you can hone your baking skills in a mill dating back to the 1590’s, with the original kiln drying floor.

Things to do in the Cairngorms
Step back in time: Highland Folk Museum

6. Meet The Locals

The Cairngorms has long been home to an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna – long before us humans came along. Luckily many of these inhabitants are still enjoying the region and if you’re lucky you can catch a glimpse of some of the most majestic creatures in the British Isles. From red squirrels, Highland coos and Scottish wildcats to osprey, ptarmigan, Cairngorm reindeer and even 2 resident polar bears, there are plenty of creatures great and small to spot on your travels. Find out where you can spot these amazing animals and who can help you.

Highland Cows
Meet the Locals: Hairy Highland Cows

7. Hit The Big Screen

Create your own movie memories and walk in the footsteps of some movie giants. From Disney Pixar’s ‘Brave’ to the gruesome ‘Centurion’ and, most recently, the World War II set ‘Outlander’, the Cairngorms National Park has long been a magnet for the silver screen. It’s not hard to see why the area has provided film directors with inspiration – sweeping landscapes, ragged mountain tops, rolling hills and picturesque villages – we have it all. Read our blog on movies filmed here.

The Film Brave
Hit the Big Screen: Princess Merida of Brave

8. See A Gathering

The tradition and history of the Highland Games is still celebrated through the National Park each year, with Gatherings taking place across the length and the breadth of the region. From Highland dancing, tossing the caber and tug o’ war, to rousing Scottish music and formidable marches from clans across the globe; a Gathering is a must see if you are in the area in the Summer season. With ten Highland Games across the region there’s plenty to choose from.

Lonach Gathering
See a Gathering: Lonach Gathering

9. Take A Selfie

Where do we even start – selfie opportunities could be a list in its own right! What’s more exciting is that you don’t need to go far to get a photo that Annie Leibovitz would be proud of! A short walk from any town or village will take you to the shores of a Loch – the perfect romantic backdrop. Alternatively, head to the top of CairnGorm Mountain to snap breath-taking views across all five corners of the Park.

Things to do Cairngorms
Take a Selfie: Loch Morlich is a favourite spot

10. Reach For The Northern Sky

Nick Drake sang about it, countless artists have been inspired by it… and we are officially a designated dark sky area. If you’ve ever wanted to wish upon a shooting star or see the Aurora Borealis then look no further. The Cairngorms National Park naturally often comes alive at night and Scotland is one of the top places in the world to witness the Northern Lights in Autumn and Winter.

Reach For The Northern Sky
Reach For The Northern Sky: Aurora Borealis over the Cairngorms

11. Love It Like A Local

There are plenty of places to head to ‘off the beaten track’ and when you live within the Cairngorms National Park there is nothing better than finding that quiet, untouched place – whether that be cutting the first tracks in fresh snow on a winter’s day or mountain biking out to a lonely bothy for some wild camping. To find out about the best places to discover head to the local and get chatting over a pint of Cairngorm beer – you’re certain to glean all manner of nuggets of information! The Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore is a perfect spot.

Things to do in the Cairngorms
Love it like a Local: Beautiful Loch Vaa (Image Spectacular Scotland)

12. Go On Safari

We’ve already mentioned some of the unique wildlife residing here and what better way to get as close as you can than a safari? Many of the estates run behind the scenes tours introducing you to the work they do on the land and the animals that make the area their home. On the Rothiemurchus Estate safari you can even feed the deer – a truly magical experience.

Cairngorms things to do
Go On Safari: feeding the Deer at Rothiemurchus

13. Watch The Sun Go Down

Taking some ‘me time’ is what the Cairngorms National Park is all about, whether that’s adrenalin filled or enjoying the slower pace of life. There’s no better experience than snuggled under a blanket or basking in the evening Summer heat and watching the sun dip down behind the mountains, sending the skyline a brilliant shade of coral. Lochs, mountains, valleys and even verandas of some great eateries provide the perfect opportunity for you to watch the day head to bed!

Things to do in the Cairngorms
Watch The Sun Go Down: On the sand at Loch Morlich

14. Visit The Royal’s Summer Residence

The Cairngorms has long been a favourite with the Royal Family (as well as historically being the scene for some right Royal rumbles!) Throughout the year (except for August, September and October when the Royal’s are in residence) Balmoral Castle is open to the public and you can literally walk in the footsteps of our Kings & Queens.

Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle

15. Paddle The Water

Water is at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park – the frozen stuff on mountain tops, trickling in the streams, vast expanses of lochs, cascading waterfalls, torrents of white water and even the magical ingredient to our national drink – it’s everywhere. To truly experience the region, get out and explore the river and the lochs on a kayak or canoe. A guided tour is the perfect way to enjoy it all.

Cairngorms things to do
Cairngorms things to do

16. Eat Cake

Need we say anything more?! After all this activity you have a license to treat yourself, and the one thing you can always guarantee is that Cairngorm cake is delicious and they don’t scrimp on the size of the slice! What you’re also guaranteed is a cuppa and a cake with a view.If you want to watch red squirrels and all manner of birds feasting at the same time as you then head to The Pine Marten Bar.

Things to do in the Cairngorms
Eat Cake: and Enjoy!

17. Go on a Llama Trek

You will be bewitched by the Llama’s huge dark eyes, long eyelashes, deep soft fleece and velvety muzzles! Learn about their aloof and quirky behaviour and perfect adaptation to their native surroundings at Ecocamp Glenshee. After haltering, join them on a trek through the stunning Angus Glens or the Forests of the Southern Cairngorms where you will have the opportunity to lead one of our llamas. Enjoy a stop along the way for organic homemade cakes and hot chocolate and lots of time for photos!

Things to do in the Cairngorms
LLama at Ecocamp Glenshee

18. Master the mountain on one plank or two.

The Cairngorms are well known as a winter sports destination when the weather gods look favourably upon us. With three ski centres around the Park, getting out on your skis or learning to snowboard in the winter is a must. Cairngorm Mountain near Aviemore, The Lecht near Tomintoul and Glenshee near Braemar are all fantastic places to visit and enjoy Scottish snowsports. They say if you can ski in Scotland you can ski anywhere in the world!

Glenshee Ski Resort. Image: Mike Bell
Glenshee Ski Resort. Image: Mike Bell

Have we missed anything? Tell us about your Cairngorms experiences #CairngormsBucketList

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