CAIRNGORMS: TRAVEL GUIDE


Find great places to stay and things to do

Welcome to our Cairngorms travel guide! Plan and book your perfect holiday with travel info, local tips, places to stay, things to do, holiday inspiration & destination info.

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The Cairngorms National Park is the largest park in the UK and has it all with mountains, lochs, ancient Caledonian pine forests and even a beach. It’s a place for lovers of wildlife and outdoor activities such as walking and skiiing.

Where are the Cairngorms?

When referring to the “Cairngorms” most people mean the Cairngorms National Park. It’s more than twice the size of the Lake District and stretches from Aviemore in the north to the Angus Glens in the south, and from Dalwhinnie in the west to Ballater and Royal Deeside in the east.

Best time to visit the Cairngorms

The best time to visit depends on what you want to see and do on your Outer Hebrides holiday.

Winter (December, January and February)

If seeing the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) is your priority, winter is the best time to go. You will have more hours of darkness to enjoy the star-filled skies and, if you’re lucky, the lights.

Winter is also a less popular time of year so there will be less tourists. It’s also a good time to see the famous reindeer.

Spring (March, April and May)

April is when some campsites re-open and so do many tourist attractions.

From May onwards it’s a good time for wildlife watchers as you may have seen on BBC Springwatch which was broadcast from the Abernethy Forest for several years. A popular wildlife attraction are the ospreys which nest at the RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre where there is a hide open to the public. Crested tits and red squirrels also visit the feeders around the centre. The spring also provides you with your best chance to see a capercaillie or black grouse lek.

Although it’s spring, it can still be quite cold at this time of year and could snow at village level. Wrap up warm and you can make the most of a cold, sunny day out on the hills or in the forest.

Summer (June, July and August)

Summer is wonderful for wildflowers and the hills turn purple when the heather is in bloom. You could also spot eagles and Scottish crossbills. Long summer evenings are perfect for completing longer walks but you have to stay up later if you’re keen to see the nocturnal wildlife such as pine martens.

In the summer you will also find cultural events including local Highland Games which mainly take place between mid-July and mid-August. Accommodation can be very busy at this time so it’s best to pre-book. Check the dates: Abernethy Highland Games (2nd Saturday in August), Newtonmore Highland Games (1st Saturday in August) etc and make sure if your visit coincides with the Games that you pre-book your accommodation.

As with anywhere, it can be hard to get accommodation at short notice during the summer holidays. Scotland’s school holidays run from the start of July to mid-August.

Autumn (September, October and November)

This is generally a quieter time of year with less tourists around. The autumn colours are stunning which makes it a beautiful time of year for a holiday, especially if you’re interested in photograohy.

How to get to the Cairngorms

Travelling to the Cairngorms by train

The Caledonian Sleeper service is an overnight train service running between London and Scotland. It leaves from Euston station in London and there is a Highland route which serves the Highland destinations of Fort William and Inverness plus Aberdeen, visiting various stations on the way.

Plan your train journey to Scotland

The Cairngorms has a train link Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh and there’s a direct service to Aviemore and Aberdeen from London and the south.

Trans Pennine Express – check timetables and fare prices for anywhere in the UK. On this website you can buy rail tickets in advance to get the best deals. They don’t charge booking and credit card fees unlike some other websites.

Travelling to the Cairngorms by plane

The two main airports in Scotland are in driving distance of the Cairngorms:

    • Glasgow airport
    • Edinburgh airport

There are also the local airports of:

    • Aberdeen
    • Inverness

You can book flights or find out more information on the Flybe website.

By car

The Cairngorms National Park is easily accessible by car. You can hire cars from various companies in the Scottish Highlands & Islands including local businesses and Hertz UK and Thrifty UK.

Travel around the Cairngorms

You can hire a car from a local car hire company.

Car-free travel around the Cairngorms

If you prefer to travel without a car or fancy a day off from driving, there are several options including public transport.

Public transport in the Cairngorm

There are public bus services provided by Stagecoach and you can see timetables on their website.

Cycle hire

Cycling is a popular activity in the park. Bring your own bike or hire a bike.

Taxis

Taxi hire is available.

Walking

Hiking is a great way to explore the area and there are lots of walks for all abilities.

Plan your trip

We hope this travel guide has inspired you to start planning your Cairngorms holiday. Also on our website, you can find holiday accommodation in the Cairngorms and Aviemore.

Walking

Maps

Ordnance Survey maps with free mobile download – various options are available for the Cairngorms from Ordnance Survey and Amazon.

What to do in the Cairngorms

The best tips on what to do and see and where to go from the people who know this area best

Oct 08
Local tips: things to do in the Cairngorms National Park – Merryn, author

Merryn Glover is an author who lives in Badenoch in the Cairngorms National Park. She…

Feb 07
Local tips: Things to see in northern Scotland – Katrina Stewart, photographer

Katrina Stewart lives in the north-east of Scotland but whenever she has time, she…

Jan 23
Local tips: Things to do in Aviemore, Scotland – Andi, Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

Andi Probert works at The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre in the Cairngorms near Aviemore.…

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