Spend just a little time in the Cairngorms National Park and you will start to appreciate the scale of this very special place. The Park is 3,800 sq kilometres in area, that’s 40% larger than the Lake District and twice the size of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Officially opened in 2003, more than 16,000 people live and work in the towns and villages that scatter the area. The combination of soaring mountain peaks, wild moorland and tranquil lochs attract thousands of visitors every year. And it’s easy to see why Britain’s largest national park is so popular, as there is something for everyone to enjoy in this protected landscape. Royal Deeside is at the heart of the park.
Home to 25% of the UK’s threatened bird, animal and plant species, the Park is the best place to spot a golden eagle, capercaillie, badger, Scottish crossbill, red squirrel, pine martin, water vole or wild cat to name just a few. You can see all of these species in the Royal Deeside part of the park. The rivers here are home to a rising population of the globally endangered freshwater pearl mussel, as well as salmon, trout, and rare lampreys. From the month of March, the Park runs ranger-led group walks, where visitors can learn about the plants and animals in native pine woods.
The ever changing views from the spectacular mountain ridges await those with plenty of energy and a spirit for adventure. With four out of Scotland’s five highest mountains being located within the Park – and 52 summits coming in at over 900 metres – walkers will not be left disappointed. Over 25 Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) can be accessed from the Royal Deeside area of the park and in particular the Braemar and Ballater area. However, a slower pace can also be found on the lower slopes where the forests contain remnants of the original Caledonian pine forest and include a rare kind of pine wood found only in Scotland and Norway.
This unspoilt countryside is the place to come for many outdoor pursuits, whether it’s mountain biking, canoeing, cycling or climbing, skiing, fishing, shooting or stalking. And undertaking your favourite sport in such a stunning backdrop truly captures the imagination. Braemar, Strathdon and Ballater in Royal Deeside are fine centres for exploring and taking part in these activities.
The Park has a rich cultural heritage with castle, fortified houses and estates waiting to be explored. Hundreds of countryside events, outdoor activities, guided walks and talks take place each year – be sure to book as these are very popular.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority works with others to ensure the unique aspects of the Park – the natural environment, the cultural heritage and the local communities – are cared for, sustained and enhanced for current and future generations to enjoy.
For full information on the National Park and details of events and activities run by the Park’s Countryside Ranger Service, please visit www.cairngorms.co.uk.
The National Park has some great choices of bed and breakfast, hotels, self catering, hostels, camping or caravanning, attractions, outdoor activities, cafes, shops, pubs and restaurants. If you are coming to ski or snowboard at Aviemore, the Lecht or Glenshee in the Cairngorms National Park the Discover Royal Deeside website will link to ski hire and ski tuition and give information on accommodation.