Cairngorms National Park travel plan: 5 day itinerary

Take a trip to the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands to discover why 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland. The 1.4 million visitors to the park each year are treated to stunning panoramic landscapes, majestic wildlife and a range of outdoor activities to suit everyone. The scenic park covers 4528 square kilometres and is home to five of the UK’s highest mountains. Travellers looking to get away from it all can find compete peace in the vast, ancient woodlands; whereas youre looking for something a bit more lively, head to one of the small towns dotted amongst the mountains such as Aviemore.

This itinerary will show you the highlights of the Cairngorms to give you the quintessential Highland experience in only 5 days.

Day One – Arrive at the Cairngorms National Park

You won’t be stuck for accommodation in the Cairngorms. Whether you’re looking for a cosy woodland lodge or a modern hotel in town, you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for.

Use this day to unwind after your flight. If you’re a keen fisher, there are great opportunities to fish for salmon, sea trout and brown trout along 12 miles of both banks of the River Dulnain. Permits are only granted to visitors who are staying in the local area, so you’re guaranteed to find a quiet, relaxing spot along the river banks.
Fishing permits can be purchased from the Mortimers of Speyside website.

Day 2 – Go on a Nature Hike

The Cairngorms is home to over 25 % of the UK’s species of endangered plans and wildlife. Today, it’s time to discover why the Cairngorms National Park is famous for its nature hikes. There are enough food paths and hiking trails to keep walking enthusiasts entertained for months. Head to the Rothiemurchus Estate for a great selection of paths that wind across 50km of ancient forest land. The area is abundant in Red Deer and home to rare birds such as Crossbills, Crested Tits and Capercaillie. Don’t forget your camera, glimpses of these rare species will be fleeting.
A map of the self-guided walks can be purchased from the Rothiemurchus Centre. Choose from a walk around the tranquil lochs, a hike through the forest or the 3 hour long Views of the Mountains walk.

Day 3- Go Skiing

Time to hit the piste! The 4083ft high Cairngorm Mountain near the village of Aviemore, is the highest in the National Park and is known locally for having some of the best ski and snowboarding runs in the area. The mountain is easily reached by a direct bus service which runs from Aviemore; however, the roads can get blocked by heavy snow so watch out for any weather warnings if you are planning a trip to the mountain. Don’t worry if you’re a novice skier, there are plenty of easy runs and baby slopes to practice on. Thrill seekers will love the fast paced black ski runs; the steep drops and fast bends means that these runs are for expert skiers only!

After a long day on the slopes, take some time to enjoy the aprfès-ski opportunities in one of the many bars dotted about the mountain.

Ski hire and lift passes can be purchased at the resort, or book your passes in advance at the Cairngorm Mountain website.

Day 4- Visit Cultural Attractions.

Calm down the pace after a thrilling day of skiing by checking out the local cultural attractions. Take the 2-mile walk from the village of Laggan to discover the ancient hill fort, Dun-da-Lamh. The fort dates back to 500AD and its foundations remain at the summit of rocky, craggy hill. When you reach the top, you will be treated to stunning views across Glen Shira and the River Spey to the north as well as the River Mashie in the south.

Alternatively, if you want to put your feet up and have a well-deserved drink check out the Dalwhinnie Distillery, one of the highest distilleries in Scotland. The distillery offers guided tours and whiskey tasting experiences; don’t miss their 15 Year Old Single alt.

Distillery tours and whiskey tasting sessions range from £7.50 – £22. Visit their website for further details.

Day 5 – Catch a Steam Train

On your last day in the Cairngorms National Park take a trip on a vintage steam train around the park. The nostalgic train journey runs between the Aviemore, Boat of Garten and Broomhill areas of the National Park and offers spectacular views of the Cairngorm mountain and the River Spey. Nature enthusiasts will love the chance to see the National Park’s varying range of wildlife from the comfort of their carriage. There’s even a restaurant car so you can treat yourself to afternoon tea.

Prices range from £11 for an adult ticket to £33 for a child’s ticket. Visit the Strathspey Steam Railway’s website for more information.

Fiona writes for LHH Scotland, leading provider of luxury holiday homes across Scotland.

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