Discover Winter Escapes
Facts about the Cairngorm National Park
The Cairngorm National Park is the perfect place for year-round walking, along with a myriad of other activities from stand-up paddle boarding and rock climbing, to ski touring. On both our Cairngorms Winter Escape and Perthshire Winter Escape trips you'll enjoy walks in the National Park. Here are some interesting and fun facts about the park.
- After being originally proposed as an idea by Christopher Addison in 1931, and some minimal protection in the interim years, the area was finally established as a National Park in 2003. It was one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament, and the park boundaries were expanded further in 2010.
- The park is the UK's largest, covering an area of approximately 4500 square kilometres, and protecting a wide range of wildlife and habitats.
- Home to many native species the park is a protected haven for rare Scottish species like Scottish wildcats, pine martins, red squirrels, osprey, golden eagles and capercaillie, alongside Caledonian forest specialists like crested tits, crossbills and tundra experts such as ptarmigan, mountain hare and snow bunting.
- Located within the park, and forming part of the Cairngorm Plateau is Ben Macdui (1309m) the second highest mountain in the UK, and the highest in the park.
- The park is home to the UK's only herd of free-roaming reindeer. The reindeer were reintroduced to the Cairngorms from Sweden in the 1950s and are cared for by the staff and volunteers at the Reindeer Centre.
- Balmoral Castle, favourite Highland retreat of Queen Victoria, is located within the park near Braemar village. The castle's long-standing favour with the royal family mean that the estate is a popular filming location and has featured in The Crown (Netflix series), Victoria (TV series), Mary Queen of Scots (2019), The Queen (2006) and many more.
- There are also six whisky distilleries in the National Park, including Glenlivet and Royal Lochnagar!
Tips for eating and drinking in the Highlands
No holiday would be complete without sampling the best of the region's cuisine. Historically the British Isles, least of all the Scottish Highlands, haven't exactly been renowned for fine dining. However, things have certainly changed in the past couple of decades, and as tourism has increased in the Highlands the locals have risen to the challenge keen to showcase local specialties. Try everything from sophisticated cuisine on the menus of Michelin Guide listed restaurants, to small-batch coffee roasters, a smattering of gin producers, mouth-watering afternoon teas, freshly caught fish and chips, craft breweries and of course an array of whisky distilleries. There is plenty to go around! Treat your taste buds and sample these regional highlights from the Cairngorms and Perthshire.
- Visit Cafe Calluna in Pitlochry and savour the rich flavours of Glen Lyon coffee, an Aberfeldy-based roaster, accompanied by an indulgent brownie or home-baked slice of cake. Why not also buy a bag of beans to take home as a souvenir?
- For a refined dining experience we recommend Knockendarroch Hotel's restaurant in Pitlochry. Nibble canapes in the lounge with a pre-dinner drink before a delicious three course meal.
- Buy a freshly baked loaf from the Watermill Tearoom in Blair Atholl for lunch and enjoy a wonderful hillside picnic-lunch with a view.
- The Baronial Dining Room, complete with Minstrel's balcony, in the Atholl Arms of Blair Atholl is the perfect to step back in time while enjoying great local produce from the surrounding Perthshire countryside. Meanwhile the walkers bar at the hotel is the allows you to relax with a local ale after a day out on the trail.
- Just a 15 minute taxi ride from Aviemore you'll find The Cross at Kingussie restaurant (Michelin Guide-listed and with 3 AA rosettes) - head here to sample local cuisine with a deliciously modern twist.
- Fancy a beer? Well, technically it's ale, but Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore produces a range of hoppy seasonal ales. Visit their shop to for a tasting session, or sample in a local pub after your day out on the trail.