We are all revelling in the delight of travel restrictions being eased around Scotland. So for us, first stop, Cairngorms National Park!
The Cairngorms National Park takes a leading role in many wildlife and adventure stories. It’s no co-incidence that Chris Packham and co are regularly spotted filming Springwatch and its seasonal counterparts here, as it boasts the full set of Scotland’s wildlife heroes, and a spectacular backdrop for every vibrant scene.
Aviemore is accessible by car (A9). Approx 40 mins from Inverness and 1hr 40mins from Perth, it is perfect to get there and back in the same day, and still have ample time for exploring.
Join us as we take our #GinspiredDayTrip around Aviemore.
Head a few miles up the ‘ski road’ to the stunning Loch Morlich. Fed by snow melt from high up on the sub-arctic tundra of the Cairngorm Plateau, the water here never feels anything less than baltic. However the local ducks will welcome you warmly, especially if you’ve brought some peas, sweetcorn, or porridge oats (never bread), to reward their attentions. A small parking fee will allow you to spend a while here. Paddling (for the brave), picnicking, watching the sailing boats and enjoying the views of the mountains behind.
Nearby Rothiemurchus Visitor Centre is a must during your day out. The Farm shop is open, and always worth a visit. Why not order a pre-packed meal kit for when you return home. A hamper or afternoon tea box and team it up with one (or two) of the local gins, for the ultimate ‘Luxury Lazy day by the Loch’. Here you can refresh yourselves with coffee and cakes from ‘The Barn’ which is open for takeaway only. If budgets and time allow, book clay pigeon shooting, quad trekking, hairy coo safaris, pony trekking or the ever popular Treezone. If not, a map of the estate and it’s many trails and paths is a great investment.
Some of the Activities available at the Cairngorm National Park
One of our favourites is the lovely path around Loch an Eilein. It’s £4.50 to park a car, but that does give access to toilets and a small visitor centre telling more about the local area. Please check before you travel to see if these facilities are open at this time. The walk encircles the loch which is home to a small medieval castle on a rocky island. Strolling through ancient pine forests, this walk is as good in winter as in summer. Red squirrels are evident, if you don’t see them in person, you’ll see the pine cones they’ve stripped littering the forest floor. Look out too for wood ant nests, which form huge piles of pine needles among the heather and other woodland shrubs. Interesting mosses, ferns and pine bark textures in among towering trees, some several hundred years old. It’s both atmospheric and somehow inspiring.
Bike Your Way Around the National Park
Mountain biking is very much in vogue in the Cairngorm National Park.. Bike and eBike hire is a great way to get around for the energetic. The trails are endless if you wish, shorter if required. But every possible level of talent and fitness can be accommodated. Hire a bike locally if you can’t bring your own. Wear a helmet though – those ancient pine trees can be hard! Segway taster sessions, fishing for beginners and children at the well stocked lochs are also available for pre-booking. Fun for all the family.
A little further toward the ski slopes is Glenmore. Here you can park and take the wide path up towards the Ryvoan Pass and the beautiful Lochan Uaine, or the Green Loch. It is said the colour comes from the fairies laundering their clothes here, and who knows, it may be true. It’s far enough to know you’ve stretched your legs, but not so far as to put your kids off hillwalking. So, enjoy the scenery and that feeling that you are properly ‘in the hills’, there is no feeling quite like it.
Heading south, the Inshriach Forest is home to the fascinating Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail. Following a short stroll alongside the River Feshie, it is a low level walk for all abilities. Enjoy the added interest of the works of art along the way.
The Highland Wildlife Park isn’t free to visit, those polar bears are hungry and expensive to keep, but on a ‘pounds per hour’ rating, we think it does rather well. There aren’t too many places where polar bears, amur tigers, wildcats and snow leopards can be seen, as well as a host of other wonderful animals, many of whom live, or once lived within the National Park. We highly recommend it, and you can no pre-book your tickets online.
Just a little further south, bordering the RSPB reserve of the Insh Marshes is Ruthven Barracks. High on a hump above the floodplain, this fortified spot has been a Castle from medieval times as home to the Comyn and Gordon families. Rebuilt as a barracks by King George II in 1719, as a defence against the Jacobites after the 1715 uprising. It’s free to visit, and full of atmosphere.
One of the area’s biggest bargains is the Highland Folk Museum at nearby Kingussie. However, not re-opening until the beginning of May 2021, it boasts free admission and free carparking giving access to a fabulous array of historical exhibits, showing how life was in days gone by. If history’s not your thing, it was also used as a location in the Outlander series, so channel your inner Jamie or Claire, and enjoy some time here. There’s plenty of shelter too if the weather’s not on your side, so dinnae fash yersel.
Travel Kindly, and Scotland will be Kind to You.
We hope we’ve ginspired you to spend your new found travel freedom in the beautiful Aviemore and the Cairngorm National Park. Even on a wee budget there’s loads to see and do, and some wonderful local gins to buy in the local shops.
Travel Kindly. Be kind to Scotland and you and everyone else will reap the benefits.
More Ginspired Day Trip Itineraries
Feel free to choose some of the other Day Trip Itineraries that we have created in the #ginspireddaytrips series. Adapt them to suit your needs, where you want to go and who is travelling you. They are completely FREE to use as is the Gincyclopedia, so get started and plan your 2nd, 3rd and 4th stop!
Do let us know what you enjoyed the most, what you’d recommend to others, and if you have some secret discoveries to share with us.
Have a great #ginspireddaytrip!
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