Climbing over the 1000m+ Cairngorm plateau, the highest and most extensive range of arctic mountain landscape anywhere in the British Isles, is an unforgettable experience. Glaciers have gouged deep, high altitude valleys and corries on the plateau; and the altitude and exposure, plus poor soils, produce their own rich eco-system of vegetation, insects and animals. At the foothills of the range is one of the UK’s biggest tracts of natural and largely untouched woodland. They contain fragments of the ancient Caledonian pine forest which is home to a variety of animals, including the rare and protected capercaillie.
Other rare animals include pine martens, wild cats, ospreys and ptarmigan. Also to be found is the world’s smallest tree, the tiny least willow, and a variety of wild flowers including the delicate pink twinflower. Heather moorland covers over 40 per cent of the Cairngorms and is a product of a particular form of land use. It is largely derived from woodland and scrub, and is the result of grazing and burning practiced over a long period. This has produced a patchwork of heather of different ages to provide food and nesting cover for red grouse and other ground nesting birds, and grazing for livestock and deer.
The straths and glens and other low ground provide the home and workplace for most people in the area. The water in the rivers Spey, Dee and Don is very pure and these rivers, together with freshwater lochs and marshes, are home to many forms of wildlife.
Many of the most beautiful parts of the Park are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). These include the Northern Corries and parts of Rothiemurchus Estate on the west side of the Park; and in the east, places such as Craigendarroch. The Park’s natural heritage is very special indeed but a unique and diverse cultural heritage also adds to the area’s charm. The cultural heritage of the Cairngorms National Park – from castles and mountain bothies to cultural landscapes and the language and folklore – go back thousands of years.
So why visit....?
There are lots of amazing places in the UK which all have something special about them, but the Cairngorms, Britain's largest National Park has lots of them all in the one place! The mountains that have shaped the people, culture, natural heritage, scenery and character of the area dominate the National Park and give it its name, but they're just one of our Top 10 Reasons to visit...
There is something for everyone from castles, distilleries and gentle strolls to fun parks, quad bikes and extreme sports. The Cairngorms contain some of the best wildlife habitats in the UK (Simon King and the BBC Springwatch Team certainly think so!). Ancient pine forests, arctic mountain tops, lochs, rivers and moorland are home to a quarter of the UK's threatened species. If history's your bag, Highland traditions are still very much alive in amongst a rich cultural heritage. Nowhere else in the British Isles can visitors enjoy such a collection of outstanding environments in one place in such a variety of different ways.
So, what are you waiting for...?!
The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA)
The CNPA was set up by the Scottish Parliament to ensure the unique aspects of the Cairngorms – both the natural environment and the local communities – are cared for, sustained and enhanced for current and future generations to enjoy. The CNPA is designed to be an ‘enabling’ organisation promoting partnership and giving leadership to all those involved in the Cairngorms. It must ensure the aims of the Park are “collectively achieved in relation to the Park in a co-ordinated way.”
It has regulatory powers to call in and determine planning applications which are of significance to the Park aims and make management rules and bylaws to: protect the natural and cultural heritage of the Park; prevent damage to the land or anything in, on or under it; secure the publics enjoyment of and safety in the Park.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority's board comprises 19 members. The Scottish Ministers appoint seven members, another seven are nominated to the board by the five councils in the Park area - Highland (2), Aberdeenshire (2), Moray (1), Angus (1) and Perth & Kinross (1) - and five are elected locally. The members will serve between 18 months and four years.
It is involved in a large number of projects around the Park through a variety of roles, including funding, advisory and delivery including more long term projects which focus on improving outdoor access, providing better information and interpretation services and helping tourism and other businesses operate more sustainably.
Considerable work is also focused on conserving and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage of the National Park through partnership initiatives such as the Local Biodiversity Action Plan and the Cairngorm Deer Advisory Group.
For further information on the work of the Cairngorms National Park Authority click here