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Cairngorms National Park
Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park

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Free admission
Cairngorms National Park, Aviemore

The Basics

The dramatic landscapes of the Cairngorms National Park were formed 40 million years ago, before the last ice age. The park has five of Scotland’s highest mountains and attracts outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike to the top of Cairngorm’s namesake mountain, which can also be reached via a funicular.

Stay in the resort town of Aviemore in the heart of the park, and enjoy the dramatic castles, mysterious stone circles and ancient Caledonian pine forests of Braemar Highland; sip whiskey at Dalwhinnie Distillery; or, in winter, hit the slopes near the mountain’s ski center. You can also opt for a single- or multi-day tour of the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh or Glasgow that includes time in the park.

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Things to Know Before You Go

  • Don’t forget waterproof shoes and raingear; the ground may be soft underfoot.

  • The national park is home to many endangered birds, so bring your binoculars if you want to do some birdwatching.

  • There are often snow-related road closures in the park in winter.

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How to Get There

It’s easy to reach Aviemore from Scotland’s major cities: The town is approximately a 30-minute drive from Inverness and a 2.5-hour drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow. Trains and buses run to the park for these cities as well. You can also opt for a guided tour that includes transportation from Edinburgh or Glasgow.

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When to Get There

Cairngorms National Park is busiest during the summer, when international travelers join locals in their highest numbers. That said, the park offers a variety of sights and adventures in any season, including skiing in winter. Be prepared for rain at any time of year.

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Royal Appeal

The famous Balmoral Castle is also located in Cairngorms National Park. The castle and the park around it were purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852 and have belonged to the royal family ever since. Queen Elizabeth II spends every summer here, and visitors can tour the estate at certain times of year or even rent a small cottage on the grounds.

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