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Our Experts' Guide To The Cairngorms


The Cairngorms are the UK’s largest National Park covering 4,528 sq. km, and its sheer size, scale and remoteness make it one of the most dramatic environments in Britain.

 

A paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors, the National Park is also home to over a quarter of Scotland’s native forests, five lochs, 55 Munros and plenty of corbetts. Whether you’re looking for country walks, multi-day hikes or watersports, it won’t disappoint. And as the most arctic area in the UK, in winter you can also enjoy a range of snow sports activities. 

 

Our Islington Store Manager, Szabi Bandli and his partner Magda Nikitczuk, our Kingston Store Manager, were so blown away by the Cairngorms when they first visited they decided to make the UK their home. They now try to get up to Scotland whenever possible to escape the hustle and bustle of London. We caught up with them to discover some of their Cairngorms favourites as well as some top tips when visiting.

 

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Best Campsites

“Oakwood Caravan and Camping site at Aviemore is just five miles away from Loch Morlich and Loch Insh, making it ideal for watersports. It is also a haven for wildlife with deer, otters, osprey, and golden eagles in the area. Plus, with pitches for caravans, campers, tents and roof tents and good on-site facilities, there’s room for every kind of camper.

 

“Another site we recommend is Glenmore Campsite near Aviemore. Nestled between ancient pine trees and within walking distance of Loch Morlich, it’s ideally located for walkers and watersports lovers. 

 

“But our favourite is Braemar Caravan Park. Located in the heart of the Cairngorms, you are surrounded by mountains, moorland, rivers, pine trees and wildlife. For the more adventurous, the site sits within the Invercauld Estate, which is home to 12 Munros and eight Corbetts, so offers plenty of challenges.”

Best Places To Stay

“The Cairngorms is one of our favourite places in the UK, so we’d say just come and explore. We’ve stayed in lots of places, and each time we go back, we discover somewhere new, whether we’re wild camping or based at a campsite. 

 

“For those new to the area, Aviemore is a good base as it offers plenty of options when it comes to accommodation, from camping to hotels, B&Bs and glamping. The village also has a supermarket so you can top up supplies, and there are lots of cafes and restaurants, which are great when you don’t feel like cooking.”


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Best Places To Visit

“One of the things we love about the Cairngorms is that there is something for everyone. Although we love walking and wild camping, there are lots of other things to do too. Braemar is a lovely village to visit and is home to the famous Braemar Gathering and Highland Games in September. On wet and wild days, we recommend visiting Braemar’s community-run castle.

 

“Another must-visit place is the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, which is home to Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer. It offers a unique opportunity to get up close to these amazing animals in their natural environment.”

Best Places To Eat

“The Cairngorms gets lots of visitors each year, which means there are plenty of cafes and restaurants to grab something to eat.

 

“For a quick bite, after a day spent exploring the Munros, the Hungry Highlander in Braemar is our go-to. However, for a sit-down meal, we love The Flying Stag in the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar, which has a cosy hunting-lodge-feel and serves hearty, locally sourced food. They often have live entertainment on, so you can make a night of it with a dram or two.

 

“Aviemore has loads of options too, including the supermarket if you’re self-catering.”

Best Wild Camping Spots

“One of the biggest draws of the Cairngorms for Magda and I is wild camping. We love the freedom of waking up on our own, surrounded by nature. So, you’ll have to forgive us for not sharing the exact location of our favourites, but I can make some recommendations. 

 

“To wake up with a view of the water, pitch up near the Lochs, but for the best views of the area, I recommend pitching your tent higher up. 

 

“Camping in the mountains is an incredible experience, but not without risk! Conditions can get very windy, so you need a tent that can stand up to the job. Unfortunately, Magda and I learnt this the hard way, losing our tent during a particularly windy night in the mountains.

 

“Another thing to remember when wild camping is to respect nature, follow all the rules including toilet etiquette, and most importantly to leave no trace. That way, we can all continue to enjoy wild camping.”


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Best Walks

“For easier, family-friendly routes, I recommend the Linn of Dee. You can park at the National Trust for Scotland car park and follow one of the many marked routes. There is a permanent orienteering course here, so you can practice navigating with a map and compass before you head out onto the Munros. 

 

“One of our favourite walks is around Loch Callater - you can choose to walk just part of it or tackle the whole Loch. If you go for the entire route, be prepared as there is no bridge at the top of the Loch where the river feeds in, so you have to take off your boots and get your feet wet. 

 

“If you are looking for more of a challenge, there are plenty of high-level multi-day walks available. One of the most iconic, Lairig Ghru, takes you through the heart of the Cairngorms from Aviemore to Braemar. This 43km trail was originally used as direct access between settlements, but the terrain is rough, so you need a pair of comfortable and durable walking boots."

“Another bucket-list route is the Cairngorm 4000s, a 28km trek up all five 4000 ft+ Munros in the Cairngorms. Most people choose to do it over two days with an overnight wild camp or a stay in the Corrour Bothy. On nice days you will be rewarded with breathtaking views, but be aware conditions can change very quickly, so you need pack layers for every eventuality.”

Our Tips For Walking In The Cairngorms

“It’s hard to describe the remoteness of the Cairngorms - it truly is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places in the UK, but it can be dangerous. 

 

“Before bagging a Munro, you should make sure you are fully prepared. You should always carry a paper map and compass and know how to use them.

 

“You should always let someone know your planned route and estimated arrival time before you set off - then if things go wrong, and you are unable to raise the alarm due to poor mobile signal, someone can do it for you."


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“Be aware as the weather can change within minutes and can be more extreme than other parts of the UK. The Cairngorms holds the record for the strongest gust, 173mph, and lowest temperature, -27.2 degrees, ever recorded in the UK. So, even on a nice summer day, you need to take plenty of warm clothes and good waterproofs just in case.

 

“Something we’ve learnt from our trips to the Cairngorms is synthetic insulation is best because of the frequency of wet weather. If down gets wet, it loses its insulating properties and takes a long time to dry out, whereas synthetic fibres retain their insulating properties when wet and dry much quicker.”


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