There is simply nowhere else in the UK like the Cairngorms. Walks in the Cairngorms place you in a vast landscape of magnificent corries, rough, rolling plateaus, exquisitely beautiful glens, and in amongst the majority of Britain’s highest mountains. The sense of space is awe-inspiring; this is a land that truly boasts the freedom of the hills.
If it’s sublime multi-day wilderness experiences you’re after, there’s no shortage of atmospheric bothies and majestic wild camping opportunities. Munro-bagging day hikers will rejoice at the number of options or, for something less strenuous, there are myriad trails that explore the gorgeous remnants of the ancient Caledonian pine forest.On your hikes in the Cairngorms you’re more likely to experience blissful solitude than in Britain’s other mountainous national parks. From windswept summits and silent crags to brooding, high lochs and tumbling burns, hiking here promises adventures you’ll remember for years to come.
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Covering 1,748 square miles (4,528 km2), the Cairngorms National Park is the largest in the UK. It is a landscape that has more in common with the Arctic than the Alps and its climate makes it one of the most ecologically important areas in the country. Incredible wildlife is found all over the national park. Look out for the curiously rotund ptarmigan, the majestic golden eagle circling high and the steely gaze of the Scottish wildcat.
There are numerous accommodation options throughout the Cairngorms. Aviemore is kitted-out to meet your every outdoor need and is a great base for expeditions in the north, whilst Braemar is ideally located for the south. For an authentic Highland wilderness experience, you can stay in a bothy. These basic mountain refuges are free and offer a characterful alternative to camping.
The best hiking trails in the Cairngorms venture into its mountainous heart. Nowhere is the atmosphere thicker than in the deep defile of the Lairig Ghru, where the spectacular, complex amphitheatre of Braeriach’s cluster of corries and the rising profile of the Devil’s Point are unforgettable sights.
Scowling back across the Lairig Ghru is Britain’s second highest mountain, Ben Macdui, at 4,295 feet (1,309 m). Hikes in the Cairngorms don’t get much more epic than an adventure to its extensive summit, featuring incredible views. The region’s corrie and crag scenery was famously epitomised in Lachin y Gair, a poem by Lord Byron, who described southern Cairngorm mountain Lochnagar as making England’s beauties seem ‘tame and domestic’ in comparison.
Walks in the Cairngorms are considerably easier in the summer months once the trails have thawed. Autumn sees a subtle shift of hues, as green fades to dusky brown and the evocative sounds of the deer rutting season reverberate in the glens.
Come winter, when the ferocious high winds whip up snowy spindrift, the Cairngorms take on an ethereal beauty. However, the hills are strictly the province of equipped and experienced mountaineers during this time. Due to vastness and featureless nature of the terrain, coupled with Scotland’s lowest temperatures, this wild place becomes the UK’s most dangerous mountain range. Don’t despair, you can enjoy some gorgeous rambles lower down instead, where a wonderland of snow-coated forest and frozen lochs await.
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