Cairngorms – The UK’s Largest National Park

Despite not capturing the public imagination in same way as some other UK national parks, this Caledonian wilderness in Northern Scotland covers an enormity of natural land. Its area is measured at 40% bigger than England’s largest national park, The Lake District and twice the size the size of Scotland’s sister Park, Loch Lomand and the Trossachs.

As TV exposure to a UK-wide audience on Winterwatch and Autumnwatch would suggest, it’s exciting times for the Highlands national park, as the marketing board have proposed a plan to renovate and develop the park and surrounding areas in 2020. Cairngorms has the natural land, flora and fauna to facilitate diverse potential tourism opportunities such as guided tours, cycle centres and cafes – to add to the existing Cairn Gorm ski centre.

Places to stay and go

The Cairngorms National Park Authority will review planning permission for new infrastructure in the pine forests once the paperwork is in place to effectively turn Cairngorms into a major tourist attraction. Currently, the pick of accommodation in the national park is The Dell of Abernethy lodge on the border of the forest, where the BBC broadcast an interesting documentary earlier in the month. The 16th century lodge is named after the Abernethy forest, which the episode likens to the land of Narnia from CS Lewis’ famous book series.

The Ben Macdui mountain range in Cairngorms is the second highest in Britain. Far more people have heard of Ben Nevis, perhaps due to its superior height, yet few outside of Scotland’s walking and hiking community know about the mountain hidden away in the middle of the Highlands. The flat summit, like the forests and galactic-like Northern Lights skyline in darkness, is steeped in mystery. Scottish legends say a grey old man once laid a curse on the land there.

Animals and Birds

As the region is much wilder than anywhere else in the UK, including Ben Nevis, a wider range of species can be seen. The Macdui reindeer, with its sizeable horns and brown coat, is a species specific to the mountainous area. Red deer can also be seen roaming around in the wilderness. Adorable birds of many colours lay their nests in Abernethy, as well as the sought-after Golden Eagle, which catches the eye as it flies over the woodlands.

Walking and Climbing

The Ben Macdui can be climbed or mountaineered from steep cliffs, though various hiking routes are in place. A favourite of many walkers is the Glen of Lairig Ghru hill, which has an altitude of 835 metres. In the summer, the summit offers a stunning view of the Cairngorm range. The easiest route to the highest mountaintop is to walk from the top of the mountain to the snowy Cain Gorm plateau, which has a height of 4,295-ft.

The Macdui is most commonly climbed from the two sides, Speyside to the north below the river Spey, which has a steeper gradient, and Deeside above the river Dee. However, there are three other routes. This includes an ascent of Glen Derry hill, up Coire Etchachan and Little Loch Etchachan – and finally up to the plateau.