Need some help deciding on exactly where to go, what do do and see while you're visiting the Cairngorms National Park? Look no further than our selection of 3 and 4 day itineraries. Mix and match or choose your area of interest and away you go! Whatever you decide to do you'll find everything you need to know including accommodation, activities, attractions, special offers and what's on all on this website www.visitcairngorms.com.
Itinerary 1: Tour the Park
Britain’s largest National Park is a living, working landscape with wild land at its heart, where there is an unrivalled range of outdoor activities to enjoy and so much to see and do in a relatively small area.
As you head up the main A9 road from the south, pull off at Dalwhinnie to tour Dalwhinnie Distillery before taking the A889 to Laggan, where much of the popular TV series, Monarch of the Glen, was filmed. Join the A86 north through Newtonmore and Kingussie home of many family favourite attractions and museums. Continue on the B970 to see wildlife at Kincraig before enjoying an evening in any of the local villages in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.
Start your day with a trip to Alvie and Dalraddy Estate and Rothiemurchus Estate. Don’t miss out on Loch an Eilean voted the best picnic spot in the UK and then head over to visit the reindeers at Glenmore, relax by Loch Morlich or try one of the many outdoor activities on offer in the Rothiemurchus and Glenmore area. Carry on up the hill road to the multi award winning funicular railway for some stunning views. To round off day two head back down to Aviemore for a trip on the old steam train before heading north on the A95 to your accommodation and evening meal in Aviemore or as you head north in any of the villages nearby; Nethy Bridge, Boat of Garten, Dulnain Bridge or Carrbridge.
Start your day at the famed RSPB Osprey Centre at Boat of Garten before heading over to the forest theme park at Carrbridge. Heading north don’t forget to pop into Grantown on Spey for morning coffee and a trip to the local museum. Now turn east on to the A939 until the B9136 to Glenlivet Distillery and the picturesque ruin of Drumin Castle. Take time to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Glenlivet Crown Estate before ending your day at Tomintoul with visits to the fascinating arts, crafts and local shops.
Leave Tomintoul eastwards on the A939 over the Lecht, an area of wild hills and popular ski slopes from where you can admire the magnificent panoramas around Corgarff Castle. Cross the moors on the A939 to Ballater on Royal Deeside and visit The Old Royal Station, before exploring the many shops displaying Royal Warrant plaques. Continue west along the A93 to Balmoral Castle and Estate and the adjacent Royal Lochnagar Distillery. Finally, visit Braemar Castle and Braemar Highland Heritage Centre and perhaps end the day amidst the spectacular scenery of Mar Lodge Estate and Linn of Dee.
Itinerary 2: Castles and History
With illustrious names like Braemar, Balmoral and Blair Castle, the entire story of Scotland can be discovered on a visit to Cairngorms National Park.
From Edinburgh or Glasgow, join the A93 at Perth and follow it through Glenshee, to Braemar, the eastern gateway to the Cairngorm Mountains. Visit Braemar Highland Heritage Centre and 17th century Braemar Castle, which is now run by the local community. Continue on the A93 to Balmoral Castle, Queen Victoria’s “dear paradise where everywhere I look seems to breathe freedom and peace”. Further east, The Old Royal Station at Ballater includes a Royal Carriage and Royal Waiting Room built for Queen Victoria. You can uncover more ancient history at The Kinord Stone, a 9th century Celtic symbol stone in Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve before leaving the A93 for the A97 up to Strathdon, where a short detour will bring you to the ruined 16th century Glenbuchat Castle, now protected by Historic Scotland, who also maintain spectacular Corgarff Castle, a 16th century tower house set in wild scenery in Upper Strathdon on the A939 to Tomintoul. Stop at the bottom of the Lecht pass to visit the Lecht Mine – active during the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue to the planned 18th century village of Tomintoul with its Square, Museum, Telford Church and Manse.
Start the day from Tomintoul and head north on the A939 and take the right hand turning after Bridge of Avon. Just beside the road is Fodderletter Lum – placed there by early road menders to provide warmth at night. Continue down Strathavon and turn left onto the B9136 to 15th century Drumin Castle, sometime home of the Wolf of Badenoch. Continue to Bridgend of Glenlivet and turn right onto the B9008 to the ancient Livet Pack Horse Bridge after quarter of a mile. Continue to Auchnarrow and take a left turning signposted Chapeltown and Scalan. Park at the end of the road and walk a mile on level ground to discover the Forbidden College of Scalan where Roman Catholic priests were trained in secret during the 18th century. End the day at Grantown and enjoy an evening of local hospitality.
From Grantown, head south and maybe visit Castle Roy by Nethybridge on your way to the ruined 18th century Ruthven Barracks near Kingussie, which were built following the first Jacobite uprising. From here it’s on to Clan MacPherson Museum at Newtonmore, where you will also find part of the multi award winning Highland Folk Museum where a 1700s township has been recreated. Finally head south past Dun da Lamh Pictish Hillfort at Laggan Bridge before taking the A9 south to Blair Atholl and magnificent Blair Castle, home of the Atholl Highlanders - the only remaining private army in the UK.
Itinerary 3: Wildlife Watching
If you’re looking for the special flora and fauna of Scotland, then the Cairngorms National Park is the place to come. Be it herds of Red Deer sweeping across the skyline, intimate encounters with Black Grouse and Pine Marten, majestic Golden Eagles, the delicate Twinflower, or just the ability to experience a huge variety of species within a few days, then this is the place for you. Below are 4 days’ itineraries, giving you a flavour of what can be found.
Join the A93 from Aberdeen as it heads west along Royal Deeside. At Aboyne, follow signs to Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve, where the ancient Caledonian Pinewoods house a wide variety of plants and wildlife including Scottish Crossbill, a bird unique to the Cairngorms. A few miles further west, Ospreys are often seen fishing at Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, where Otters are also active. Don’t miss the nearby Burn O’ Vat, a spectacular geological feature shaped by meltwater from the last ice Age. Just beyond Ballater, follow the narrow road to Loch Muick and Lochnagar Wildlife Reserve, home to Red Deer and Golden Eagle. End your day near Braemar at Mar Lodge Estate. Different areas of the estate host a vast variety of wildlife from Red Squirrels to Red Deer and breeding waders.
As you cross the Ladder Hills keep an eye out for Golden Eagle. They frequently hunt here because of the large numbers of Mountain Hare and Red Grouse. Continue to Tomintoul and drop in at the Estate Information Centre to find out more about wildlife on the Glenlivet Estate. Arrangements can be made (in advance) for a wildlife guide from the Glenlivet area to show you the Black Grouse Lek. Follow signs to Delnabo and the spectacular Ailnack Gorge, Scotland's largest glacial meltwater channel. The area around the Gorge is home to Roe Deer, Red Squirrel, Red Grouse and Red Deer.
Head out of Tomintoul on the B9008 for three miles to see breeding Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe at the Feith Musach during the spring. Continue past Tomnavoulin and turn right through Tombae where Roe Deer and Brown Hare browse amongst the birches. Stop at the end of the road by the River Livet to spot Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Sandpiper, and during late autumn spawning Salmon.
From Grantown on Spey head out to Abernethy Forest National Nature Reserve, the largest native Scots pinewood in Britain. View Osprey on their treetop nest at Loch Garten between April and August. The rare Capercaillie can also be seen here just after sunrise during April and May. Scottish specialities such as Scottish Crossbill and Crested Tit can be seen throughout the year in the forest nearby. Continue to Loch Morlich where you can visit Britain’s only wild herd of reindeer during summer at the Glenmore Forest Park or join one of the local guided walks to see Ptarmigan and other mountain wildlife. Head back down to Rothiemurchus where one of the local guides can take you out to enjoy the special wildlife, experience Ospreys coming in to fish or spend the evening in a forest hide to see animals that prefer coming out after dark, such as Pine Marten and Badger.
Before leaving Aviemore enjoy an early morning stroll through Craigellachie National Nature Reserve to spot the Peregrine Falcons, which regularly nest here from April to July.
Head down the A9 to the wildlife park at Kincraig to see Scottish wildlife, past and present, including wolves, bison, otters, wildcats and more. Now head south to Insh Marshes National Nature Reserve near Kingussie. This is one of Europe’s most important wetlands where you’re likely to see lapwings, redshanks and curlews as well as oystercatchers, snipe and, in the winter, vast flocks of whooper swans and greylag geese. Finally, for something a little different, end your day at Falls of Truim just south of Newtonmore, which are a great spot for salmon watching.
Itinerary 4: Golf
Highland golf has a character of its own and within the Cairngorms National Park you can choose from over a dozen great courses. See www.visitcairngorms.com/onthetee for details.
Heading north up the A9 turn off at Newtonmore Golf Club, situated on the banks of the river Spey and after lunch play Kingussie Golf Club, only six miles further north, which is much as Harry Vardon left it in 1908. If it’s a longer course you want, then take on the new Spey Valley Championship Course at Aviemore, an experience in itself. What a great first day to get you in the swing! There is a wide choice of accommodation in the area to choose from.
After a comfortable night you are spoilt for choice on Day 2 with 5 courses within fifteen miles of each other. 9-hole Abernethy Golf Club at Nethy Bridge or the James Braid Boat of Garten Courses are each delightful to play and Carrbridge (9-hole) is a lovely but challenging course. Craggan course is ideal for family fun and the highly rated Grantown Golf Club, famous for its scenic holes is nearby. After your day on the greens head east on the A939 over the Lecht to Royal Deeside to start day 3.
Your final day can be spent on a choice of scenic but challenging courses in Royal Deeside. Aboyne Golf Club was founded in 1883 and offers 18 holes that combine rolling parkland with links-like heathland and great views over the Loch of Aboyne. Nearby there are also attractive 9-hole courses at Aboyne Loch Golf Centre and Tarland Golf Club, where the course was designed by Old Tom Morris. Ballater Golf Club has an 18-hole course that hugs the River Dee in many places. Braemar Golf Club claims to be the highest 18-hole course in the UK and is set well over 1,000 feet above sea level. The perfect place to reach your peak on the golf course!