Walking is a great way to explore the Cairngorms National Park. Here are some classic and some lesser-known walks within the Park. Happy exploring!
Anagach Woods, Grantown-on-Spey
Grantown-on-Spey is a bustling village with lots of independent shops and nice cafés. It is also home to the stunning Anagach Woods which are teeming with wildlife, full of natural pine trees and right by the River Spey. This walk starts in the centre of the village and takes you on waymarked trails through the woodland, partially on the long-distance path called ‘The Speyside Way’ and also following the Spey back into Grantown-on-Spey. The Speyside Way can be tackled in sections (lots of other day walks possible) and runs from Kingussie through the Spey Valley to where the River Spey meets the sea near the Morayshire town of Buckie.
11.5km (mostly flat) – 3 hours (with well-deserved refeshments available in Grantown)
An Lochan Uaine, Glenmore Forest
The green waters of An Lochan Uaine (‘the green lochan’ in Gaelic) are a real Highland gem and so named because, legend has it, it’s where the forest fairies wash their clothes. If you want to see this magical place for yourself, you can start the walk near the Glenmore Forest Visitor Centre (which has a café and toilets), and from there you follow a good path (great for cycling, too) to meander through some of the last remaining Caledonian pine forest which used to cover the whole country. Carry on past the lochan to visit Ryvoan Bothy which was once a shepherd’s bothy and is now maintained as a mountain shelter. Return the same way or follow the blue waymarkers for some more cracking views over the Cairngorm plateau.
10km – 2-3 hours (depending on your return journey)
Alvie Tor, near Aviemore
A lesser-known spot in the Cairngorms is the Monument of the Duke of Gordon, which offers spectacular views across the Spey valley. The walk starts at the Dalraddy Holiday Park near Alvie and is mostly on good paths. Halfway up the gentle incline, you will pass the Waterloo Cairn on your right. The Cairn is a great viewpoint and was erected in 1815 in memory of the soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders who fell at the Battle of Waterloo. Further along, the top is marked with a statue to commemorate the last Duke of Gordon who died in 1836. Enjoy the views before retracing your steps.
5km – 2 hours
Creagan a’Chaise, Cromdale
The Cromdale Hills are often overlooked to the benefit of their higher neighbours. This walk on which you can experience the remoteness and the history of these hills, leads to their highest point. Starting in Cromdale Village, you soon pass Lethendry Castle, a small L-shaped tower dating back to the 16th century which now forms part of the the farm buildings of Wester Lethendry. Further along, you come across the tall cairn on the ridge, which was placed there to commemorate the crowning of King Edward VII (1902). It’s then a further ‘grunt’ to the top of Creagan a’Chaise which is marked with a more substantial cairn, constructed to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. You can retrace your steps or make this a loop walk as highlighted in the description.
16km (some boggy) – 5 hours
Geal Charm Mor, near Aviemore
The Monadliath Mountains sit opposite the Cairngorm plateau and offer some of the finest views. This is a straightforward hillwalk with rewarding views following much of the Burma Road which leads to Carrbridge. The Burma Road can also be cycled (challenging) and the track gets its name from having been built by prisoners of war in the 1940’s.
12.5km – 4 ½ hours
Ben Macdui, Cairngorm Plateau
We finish with a real classic and the second highest mountain in the UK. After setting off from the Cairngorm ski carpark, you cross a large area of the exposed Cairngorm plateau– please don’t attempt the walk in poor weather and make sure you know how to use a map and a compass. The reward is an unforgettable day out.
Please always check the weather and be prepared for all eventualities, follow the Scottish Country Code and choose a walk to suit your abilities.
Helpful links for walking:
*Words and images by Stef Lauer*