The most accessible mountain in the vast range that is named after it, Cairn Gorm’s gentle dome is a familiar sight from the gear shops, restaurants, pubs and cafés of Aviemore. Despite its popularity and the development of an extensive ski operation on its northern flanks, hikes to Cairn Gorm are spectacular, delivering you to the sixth highest summit in Britain.
Crucially, you can be given a leg-up by the car park at the skiers’ base station, which sits at about 1,900 feet (590 m). This is a short drive, or bus journey, from Aviemore’s many amenities. From the base station, a funicular railway climbs up to the Ptarmigan restaurant at 3,599 feet (1,097 m). Don’t get any ideas though, as hiking from the restaurant is not permitted.
Many walking routes to Cairn Gorm start from the base station and either ascend the Fiacaill a Coire Cas ridge alongside the ski paraphernalia or stride out west towards the wilder Northern Corries. Scrambles of all grades can be found on the glorious cliffs and ridges of the Northern Corries and it feels a world away from the manicured ski slopes.
Once you gain the plateau, it is quite an easy walk to the shallow domed summit, where you’ll find an automated weather station. The view across the vastness of the Cairngorm plateau towards tor-topped Beinn Mheadhoin and the giants of Ben Macdui and Braeriach is awesome. To the north west, the Monadh Liath rise in gentle waves beyond Aviemore.
The Cairngorms experience the UK’s most severe conditions in winter. In fact, the highest wind speed ever recorded on British soil was recorded at 173 mph on Cairn Gorm summit in March 1986. Suffice to say, the high Cairngorms are the preserve of experienced mountaineers in winter conditions.
Cairn Gorm is one of the most iconic mountains in Scotland. While it might not be the tallest at 4,085 feet (1,245 metres) tall, it is the namesake of this entire mountain range. From the summit you are rewarded with magnificent views over the national park. Cairn Gorm is home to the UK's highest Funicular Railway—if you fancy the easy option—and even has a restaurant and cafe.
February 4, 2019
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