Cairngorms Overview

Cairngorms National Park, established in 2003 and expanded in 2010, is located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. It is the largest national park in the United Kingdom, covering an area of approximately 4,528 square kilometers (1,748 square miles). This vast and breathtaking landscape is renowned for its rugged mountains, ancient forests, crystal-clear lochs, and expansive moorlands, offering a stunning representation of Scotland’s natural beauty.

The park encompasses the Cairngorms mountain range, which includes five of the six highest mountains in Scotland, making it a premier destination for mountaineering, hiking, and winter sports. The diverse terrain of Cairngorms National Park supports a wide array of wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles, and the elusive Scottish wildcat, making it an essential conservation area for the UK’s biodiversity. The park is also home to the ancient Caledonian pine forest, a remnant of the vast boreal forest that once covered much of Scotland.

Cairngorms National Park is not just a haven for outdoor enthusiasts; it is also a living, working landscape. The park’s boundaries encompass vibrant communities, traditional estates, and local businesses, all of which contribute to the area’s rich cultural heritage and economy. Sustainable tourism, outdoor recreation, and conservation efforts work hand in hand to protect this unique environment while supporting local livelihoods.

Visitors to the park can enjoy a wide range of activities, from scenic walks and wildlife watching to canoeing, cycling, and skiing. The park’s extensive trail network, visitor centers, and outdoor education programs provide ample opportunities for exploration and learning about the natural and cultural history of the Cairngorms.

Cairngorms National Park is a testament to Scotland’s commitment to preserving its natural landscapes and cultural heritage. Its stunning scenery, diverse ecosystems, and outdoor recreation opportunities make it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty and adventure of the Scottish Highlands.

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Park Map
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Cairngorms National Park Pictures

Cairngorms National Park Trails

Loch an Eilein Loop

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 3.7 miles (6 km) loop, minimal elevation gain

Description: Circumnavigating the picturesque Loch an Eilein, this family-friendly trail offers stunning views of the loch and its island castle ruins.

The path is well-defined and flat, making it accessible to all ages. Wildlife, including red squirrels and various bird species, can be seen along this tranquil forested walk.

The Lairig Ghru Trail

Rating: Challenging

Distance and Elevation Gain: 19 miles (31 km) one way, significant elevation gain

Description: One of Scotland’s most famous mountain passes, the Lairig Ghru cuts through the heart of the Cairngorms, offering breathtaking highland scenery.

This challenging trail requires good navigation skills and fitness, as it traverses rugged terrain, including boulder fields and steep sections, but rewards hikers with unparalleled views of the Cairngorms’ wild and remote beauty.

Ben Macdui Trail

Rating: Challenging

Distance and Elevation Gain: 11 miles (17.7 km) round trip, elevation gain of 2,900 feet (884 meters)

Description: As Britain’s second-highest peak, Ben Macdui offers a demanding but rewarding hike.

The trail takes you through the heart of the Cairngorms plateau, with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Weather conditions can change rapidly, so be prepared for a challenging hike with potentially difficult navigation.

Rothiemurchus Forest Walk

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: Variable, up to 4.3 miles (7 km) loop, minimal elevation gain

Description: Set in the beautiful Rothiemurchus Estate, this trail network winds through some of the most scenic ancient Caledonian Pine forests in Scotland.

Easy and accessible, these trails offer peaceful walks with opportunities to see local wildlife, including red deer and capercaillie, and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the forest and its lochs.

The Green Loch (An Lochan Uaine)

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip, elevation gain of 150 feet (46 meters)

Description: Starting from Glenmore, this easy-to-moderate trail leads to the enchanting Green Loch, nestled among ancient pines.

The trail is well-maintained and suitable for most walkers, offering a magical destination where folklore and natural beauty intertwine.

The vivid green waters of the loch, caused by reflections from the surrounding forestry, make for a peaceful and picturesque stop.

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  • All Trails, Best Trails in Cairngorms National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Britannica, Cairngorms National Nature Reserve,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Cairngorms National Park, Park Site,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Cairngorms National Park, Official Site,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Visit Scotland, Cairngorms National Park,, retrieved April 2024.