There are many different options for travelling to the Cairngorms National Park. Whether you arrive by car, plane, train or bus, or even by bike or on foot, the UK’s largest National Park is closer than you might think.
The main road travelling north, the A9, connects central Scotland with the Cairngorms National Park, which means you can arrive from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee in the south and Inverness in the north.
The A9 enters the National Park in the south at Killicrankie/Blair Atholl and travels through the west of the Cairngorms, exiting just north of Carrbridge. The road continues to Inverness or you can branch off onto the ‘SnowRoads’, the A939 at Grantown-on-Spey, to head to the east of the National Park through Tomintoul and onto the Lecht Ski Centre and ultimately the Royal Deeside region including Braemar and Ballater.
The SnowRoads are so called because these roads are the highest public roads in Britain with some of the most stunning driving views in the country and snow on the hill tops almost all year round.
Alternatively, when travelling north, you can take the A93 from Perth and enter the Cairngorms National Park just south of Glenshee, travelling up the east via Glenshee Ski Centre, to Braemar and Ballater. Stay on the A93 to head out to Aberdeen or turn onto the A939 to head through Cock Bridge, The Lecht Ski Centre, Tomintoul and Grantown-on-Spey.
Approximate travel times:
From the South:
Glasgow to southern Cairngorms: 1 hour 45 minutes
Edinburgh to southern Cairngorms: 1 hour 40 minutes
Perth to southern Cairngorms: 50 minutes
Dundee to southern Cairngorms: 1 hour 15 minutes
Within the National Park
Killicrankie to Aviemore: 1 hour
Aviemore to Ballater via the A939:
From the North
Inverness to Aviemore: 40 minutes
Inverness Airport to Aviemore: 50 minutes
From the East
Aberdeen to Ballater: 1 hour
From there you could hire a car or make use of other public transport to reach the park.
The Caledonian Sleeper train departs London Euston and stops in 6 destinations in the National Park including Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge (on request). Trains also run to Aberdeen where you can easily hire a car and drive to the Cairngorms.
The Cairngorms National Park is well connected by rail within Scotland via the Scot Rail train lines that run from Perth to Aberdeen and to Inverness through Aviemore. The main stations include Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge.
Information about trains from Scottish cities and towns to the park can be found at National Rail Enquiries. The Caledonian Sleepers are overnight train services running between Scotland and London – getting you to your destination refreshed and ready to start your day. The sleeper trains stop at Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge making the Cairngorms very accessible from London.
What to pack for a trip to the Cairngorms National Park
Many people who visit the park are keen to enjoy the great outdoors. There are plenty of walking trails and cycling routes to suit all fitness levels and abilities. If you are new to these outdoor activities and like leisurely hikes and bike rides you’ll be surprised at how much there is to choose from.
This essential kit list will help you to enjoy time outdoors.
A word about the weather: In Scotland, it is generally warmer in spring and summer than in autumn and winter. However, you should expect rain at any time of the year. Temperatures can range a great deal, too. Snow is likely in the winter and can stay for a long time at higher altitude although rarely at lower levels. That means you should be prepared for a variety of weather year round.
A good quality jacket with a hood is useful all year round in Scotland. Choose a lighter weight jacket for the warmer seasons and a heavier weight jacket for chillier months.
Walking boots or shoes
Waterproof boots or shoes with soles that have good grip are useful for general walking in the Cairngorms National Park. Make sure you have worn them a few times before setting out to do a longer walk on holiday otherwise the footwear might rub your feet.
If you plan to hire a bike bring trainers or casual footwear that you can wear while cycling.
Walking socks are far more comfortable for wearing with walking boots or shoes.
Walking poles can be a good balancing aid on uneven trails. They have also been proven to lengthen walking endurance and can help to reduce leg muscle soreness.
Rucksack or daypack
It’s useful to have a small pack, between 10 and 20 litres in which you can carry spare clothes, food and water while exploring.
If you plan to be fairly active, such as walking or cycling, it’s a good idea to have a sports specific baselayer. A baselayer is made of synthetic fabrics or wool (merino).
(Cotton is not advised for wearing as a baselayer when you are active because when you sweat it holds the wet and damp and it will leave you chilly.)
Sports specific baselayers are breathable, therefore allowing sweat to pass through the fabric. Wearing two thinner baselayers will keep you warmer than wearing one thicker layer.
In winter, you can add baselayer leggings as well as a top layer to keep you warm.
A fleece jacket or a lightweight insulated jacket is very useful as an outer layer. It can also be worn as a mid-layer over a baselayer and underneath a waterproof jacket. You can adjust to suit the weather. Insulated jackets can be made with a synthetic or down filling.
Just in case items
These are items that you might need but you might not. They can be carried in your daypack just in case.
Gloves and hat: For keeping hands and head warm in cooler months.
Sunhat and sun cream: Summer can be warm in Scotland.
Sunglasses: The sun can be bright all year round.
Midge repellent spray: Especially for summer.
Midge head net: This is useful if you are outdoors in the early morning or at dusk when midges are more likely to be about.
Umbrella: Very useful for wet weather.
Water bottle: To ensure you remain properly hydrated. Ask pubs and cafes to refill it if you run out.
Camera: You can use a camera on a mobile phone or bring a separate camera.