The bountiful Cairngorms National Park is one of the largest national parks in Scotland, boasting a wealth of attractions, including wildlife hotspots, outdoor activities, food and drinks, history, and even accommodation!
If you plan to visit the plentiful attractions that dot the 4,528 square kilometres of stunning Scottish highlands and mountains that are the Cairngorms National Park, then you’re in for a real treat. If you’re looking for everything you need to know about this national park and the hot spots that need to be on your to-do list, you’ve come to the right place.
Learn more with our complete guide to the Cairngorms National Park.
In This Post
About the Cairngorms National Park
The massive Cairngorms National Park sits between Inverness and Perth and has been a national park of Scotland since 2003. Scotland expanded the park in 2008, covering a staggering 4,528 square kilometres (about 1,748 square miles) managed by the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
The national park contains a wealth of Scottish landscapes, from the highest mountains to the low heater moorlands and everything in between. The Cairngorms has six of Scotland’s highest peaks and 55 Munros! If you’re an avid hiker, this national park is a bountiful playground with stunning views.
In addition to towering, forested mountains, there’s plenty to see at sea level too. Keep your eyes peeled for the abundant wildlife around Loch Morlich or the visitor centres. And if you’re worried about accommodation, you’ll be glad to know that there are several welcoming towns among the foothills of the Cairngorms.
Things to Do in the Cairngorms National Park
We’ve outlined only a few of the national park’s attractions that dot the stunning scenery amongst the Scottish Highlands, but if you want more specific things to do, keep reading. Our guide will cover the top things to do in the Cairngorms, with a little something for everyone to look forward to as they explore this special place in Scotland.
Visit Wildlife Hotspots
With the abundance of natural beauty within the Cairngorms, visitors have much to look forward to in terms of native Scottish wildlife. Aside from the wildlife watching you can enjoy as you hike and walk the routes of this national park, the Cairngorms are also home to plenty of wildlife parks that are home to animals you may not expect:
RZSS Highland Wildlife Park
The RZSS Highland Wildlife Park is home to an extraordinary variety of wildlife, natively Scottish, like the Scottish Wildcat, and not! A trip to this wildlife park is well worth the trip, and guests can look forward to regal Amur tigers, Polar bears, European Grey Wolves, and so much more!
The Wildlife Park offers you the option to experience wildlife through their Woodlands Walk, Drive-through Reserve, or even learn about the vibrant ecology of the Cairngorms at the Wildlife Discovery Centre.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd Centre
This centre in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park is Britain’s only free-range reindeer herd! But that’s not even the best part, as this herd of reindeer number around 150 are more than happy to be petted, stroked, and given food!
The centre offers unique activities you can partake in, including hill walks with reindeer by your side or getting to feed and interact with the deer within their paddocks. If you want a dose of cuteness during your Cairngorms trip, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Reindeer Herd Centre.
Loch Garten Bird Watching
If you’re an avid birder, we highly recommend taking a trip to the stunning Loch Garten, home to the Loch Garten Nature Centre. You can expect everything from Barn Owls to Black Grouse, and the folks at the centre are always more than happy to lend you a hand with finding the bird species you’re looking for.
Loch Garten is also a great place to walk with your family and friends, and it can sometimes feel like you’ve left Scotland’s lands for an utterly fantastic world. Navigating through the picturesque forests on the lookout for birds, red squirrels, and more through binoculars is one adventure you’ll never forget!
Partake in Outdoor Activities
Looking for an adrenaline rush as you navigate the Cairngorm National Park? Then you’ll love the wide selection of outdoor activities that this magnificent place has to offer. Whether you’re keen to go on a walking trail, see the beautiful night sky, kayak and more, we bet you’ll find something to do!
Savour the Stars
When the sun sets below the horizon in the Cairngorms National Park, a magical world unlocks before your eyes. Thanks to low light pollution, you can walk the Cairngorms Dark Skies Path – the most northerly dark sky park in the world and the darkest in the UK.
You have clear and unobstructed vantage points throughout the path towards the cosmic landscape above us. Avid stargazers will be floored by the immense variety of constellations, the Milky Way, and even the Northern Lights without needing to bring any equipment besides your eyes and a pair of binoculars.
If you’re planning things to do in the Cairngorms National Park, we recommend checking out this international dark sky park.
Go on a Hike
With abundant natural scenery, mountains, and rivers within the Cairngorms National Park, hiking is a no-brainer activity. The national park offers plenty of trails that take you up and down the most scenic parts of the park, with a lot to discover along the way!
Not only do you have a wealth of stunning paths to take, including the Glenlivet Estate, Speyside Way, Corbetts, Deeside Way, and many more, but you have a range of Munros and more mountains to tackle if you want some great views.
You can also tour with a local guide who will help you explore the vast horizons of Scotland’s national park and show you the best places. If you plan to undertake any hiking or walking adventure within the Cairngorms, we recommend you pack appropriately.
Give a Shot at Water Sports
Within the Cairngorms are several beautiful lochs and lakes that you can take full advantage of while on your journey through Scotland. Guests to this prestigious park can enjoy everything from extreme white water rafting to kayaking and canoeing.
A few centres throughout the national park make for the perfect day out for family and friends. The most popular water sports hotspots are Loch Morlich and Loch Insh, with plenty of options for food and drink nearby.
If you want to take a guided tour instead through the transcendent lochs of the Cairngorms, we highly recommend you check out the many guided tours of the River Spey.
Try Out Some Cycling Routes
Do you want to tour the beautiful Cairngorms National Park and exercise along the way? You’ll be happy to know that there’s a wide selection of mountain biking and cycling routes to undertake that show off the region to its fullest.
You can tackle the mountain slopes and forest paths on your bike, racing through the woodlands and likely spotting some of Scotland’s red squirrels! Numerous cycle paths and loops lead past the region’s most famous sights and natural features that make your time visiting one remember.
If racing through the mountains sounds a bit intense, you can instead cover ground along the roads that run past the countryside towns of the Cairngorms! There are a lot of cycling centres, stores, and bike hire options for you to use if need be.
Snowboard in the Winter
If you happen to be visiting Scotland during the winter months, don’t be disheartened, as the Cairngorms offers a wide selection of winter sports to come and try out. Enjoy a skiing or snowboarding holiday down the mountain range and treat yourself to a hot cocoa after it’s all done!
The Glenshee Ski Centre is one of the most popular winter sports centres, situated on Cairnwell Munro, that treats you to incredible views and fun recreation. Other famous hotspots for winter sports include Cairngorms Mountain and The Lecht.
Forget driving or walking; why not explore the Cairngorms National Park on horseback? The multitude of paths, forest ways, and trails that navigate through the national park is perfect for horseback riding, and there are several centres to accommodate any budding equestrians who want to explore the region unconventionally.
Why not add Alvie Stables, Highland Horse Fun, and Rothie to your itinerary when you come to the Cairngorms National Park?
Along your journey, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Scottish countryside and maybe even some Highland Cattle!
Enjoy the Food & Drink Hotspots
No holiday is complete without enjoying plenty of good food and drink! The Cairngorms National Park is filled with delightful distilleries, cosy taverns, and some property Scottish Cuisine.
Visiting the scattered towns throughout the Cairngorms, like Aviemore, Rothiemurchus, or Braemar, will reveal fantastic drinking and dining options. If you’re looking for a romantic meal for two, we highly recommend Anderson’s Restaurant, while the Old Bridge Inn offers authentic Scottish food for the whole family!
If you’re an avid whisky drinker, you’ll love the region’s diverse range of whisky distilleries. Sample flavours sweet and citrusy from the Dalwhinnie Distillery, or head down to Ballater to see how the Royal Lochnager Distiller has used years of craftsmanship to cultivate the perfect tasting experience.
The Cairngorms are home to six impressive distilleries for you to try, so we recommend making room on your to-do list for at least one of them while here.
Immerse Yourself in Historic Landmarks
You can find incredible historical landmarks to explore among the beautiful scenery and amazing views within the Cairngorms National Park. Whether it’s the Neolithic ruins, ancient castles, or famous battle sites, the Cairngorms has it all!
First and foremost, the famed Balmoral Castle is the Scottish holiday home of the UK’s Royal Family. During the Winter months, guests can experience guided tours of one of the most prestigious castle homes.
If you want a historical site to explore for your whole family, we recommend checking out the Ruthven Barracks when the infamous Jacobite Risings occurred. The Highland Folk Museum is another premier attraction in Newtonmore, where you can learn about the day-to-day lives of the Highland ancestors in Scotland.
There are so many incredible places within the Cairngorms National Park where you can explore Scotland’s intricate and detailed history. The country’s rich and beautiful history is well-recorded, so you can easily spend several hours indulging in heritage and culture.
Stay at Premier Accommodation
In addition to stunning attractions, you won’t have to worry about finding suitable accommodation amongst the traditional friendly villages of Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park.
There’s a place that can accommodate every budget, so everything from camping and youth hostels to luxury hotels gives you more comfort than you can imagine. Or, if you want to indulge in the beautiful landscape of the Cairngorms, then you always have the option of wild camping within the national park.
But don’t worry; the large towns that dot the Cairngorms will offer you a warm welcome as expected of Scottish locals.Thinking Of Booking A Trip? Check Out Our Top Accommodation Options In Royal Deeside