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Cairngorm Walking Guide

The Cairngorm National Park was formed in 2003 to protect the unique aspects of the area. 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 Cairngorm

Recommended Books & eBooks

Walking in the Cairngorms

Walking in the CairngormsGuidebook describing a selection of over 100 walks in the Cairngorms National Park and Lochnagar, covering low-level, mid-level and mountain routes (including 18 Munro summits) and both day walks and multi-day treks. From gentle sandy trails to rocky scrambles, the routes suit most abilities, taking in mountains, forests, lochs and moorland.
More information

Great Mountain Days in Scotland

Great Mountain Days in ScotlandInspirational guidebook to 50 challenging routes for mountaineers, scramblers, hillwalkers and fell runners, many long enough to backpack over 2 days, especially in winter (12 to 25 miles). A mix of classic routes and unsung gems across Scotland from Galloway to the Outer Hebrides in widely differing wild landscapes. With customised OS mapping.
More information

The National Trails

The National TrailsThis inspirational guidebook looks at each of the UK's 19 National Trails, with information that allows ease of comparison and contrast, inspiring you to find out more and to take up a long-distance challenge. Some Trails are short and easy, others much longer, many have strong themes - they may follow a coastline, or traverse ranges of hills.
More information

Further Information

Regional Walking Guides

A full list of "Where to Walk" Walking Guides can be found at List of Regional Walking Guides.

Location Map

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Mountain Weather

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