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Cairngorms Walking Guide

Walking in the Cairngorms National Park, which was formed in 2003 to protect the unique aspects of the area, offers some of the great walks of Scotland. It is the UK's largest national park with a large mountain range at its heart with diverse communities around it. The habitat offers a secure haven for many of Britain's rarest bird, animal and plant species. Forests include remnants of the original Caledonian pine forest which contrast with large areas of heather moorland to foster ecological diversity. Of particular interest to hill walkers is that four of Scotland's five highest peaks can be found in this National Park where the arctic wilderness is the largest example of arctic mountain landscape in the British Isles.


The Cairngorm National Park is located in north-east Scotland to the south of Inverness and west of Aberdeen. It stretches from Grantown on Spey to the heads of the Angus Glens, from Ballater to Dalwhinnie and Drumochter including much of the Laggan area in the southwest and a large area of the Glen Livet estate and the Strathdon and Glen Buchat area.

The Park boundaries contain 3800 square kilometres making it 40% larger than the English Lake District and twice the size of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Dominated by a mountainous core, there are 52 summits topping 900 metres the highest being Ben Macdui which is the second highest Munro and therefore is overtopped only by Ben Nevis in the whole of the United Kingdom.

Much of the Cairngorm National Park lying above 600 metres is known as the 'montane zone'. It is the largest area of arctic mountain landscape in the British Isles and provides a unique range of wildlife. Of particular note to walkers is the fragility of this landscape which suffers badly from erosion so walkers need to treat this area with extra respect. Despite the barren character of much of the high ground the Cairngorms contain a variety of different landscapes including granite tors and remnants of Ice Age glaciers.

The central mountainous area provides a unique yet harsh habitat for a range of vegetation, insects and animals. This is in contrast to the forests which contain remnants of the original Caledonian pine forest. Golden Eagle, Osprey, Capercaillie, Dotterell, Scottish Crossbill and Crested Tit are just a few of the bird species found here. Their habitat is shared by a wide variety of animals including pine martens, red squirrels, badgers, wildcats, and otters.

Despite the emphasis on the natural world, the National Park is home to 16,000 people, living in substantial towns, villages, hamlets, and houses in the countryside. Major centres of population are Aviemore, Ballater, Braemar, Grantown-on-Spey, Kingussie, Newtonmore, and Tomintoul.

For more information on this area visit the
official web site for Cairngorms

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