It’s no secret that I have a sweet spot for Scotland. I confess, it’s more like a deep, passionate love fest for the place! What is it that I love so much about Scotland, and specifically, The Cairngorms?
It’s the raw and rugged beauty that gets me every time. Scotland has kind of scenery, wilderness and tranquillity you may think you’d have to travel to New Zealand or Canada for, yet it’s accessible with a one-hour flight from London. It’s the place I visit to step back, breathe, hang out in nature and reset my balance.
I have teamed up with Visit Cairngorms to share with you my favourite places; hidden gems as well as more well-known hot spots, experiences and adventures. Enjoy!
1 Ski touring Cairngorm Mountain
Scotland may not be the first place you think of for a ski holiday, but it’s definitely one to get on your bucket list! I spent a day touring the backcountry around Cairngorm Mountain with G2Outdoor Founder, Nick. We boot-packed and skied up hill, crossing rocky patches with our skies hitched on our shoulders, it really was a case of ‘earn your turns’. Even though the snow wasn’t the best on the day we went touring, I love the feeling of aching legs after a day in the mountains and I remember smiling a lot!
2. Climbing Meal a Buchaille for sunset
The Meal a Buchaille may be take some practice in the correct pronunciation, but if you want to see the best sunset in the Cairngorms, this is your mountain. One Friday evening I downed tools, drove to the mountain and set off to run up it. Standing on the summit I couldn’t believe there was no-one else around. You constantly get this sense of ‘why is no-one else here’ in Scotland. It’s just divine to have these incredible places to yourself! A 7 mile round trip to the summit and back from the car is do-able for any moderately fit person. You could also stay at the Ryvoan Bothy and head up from there for sunrise… Just saying!
3. Exploring the Cairngorm plateau
The wilderness of the Cairngorm plateau is unlike anything else. I spent days exploring up there without seeing anyone apart from a herd of reindeer. The weather can be pretty extreme so make sure you are prepared with the right kit, experience and if required, someone to guide you.
4. Hiking The Lairig Ghru
The Lairig Ghru is one of Scotland’s classic trails right through the heart of the Cairngorms. About 20 miles long with bothies at either end that you could stay at, if you want an epic adventure in the Cairngorms, go for this! The day we explored it was like something out of the movies. The sky was so blue and the snow so white. The smouldering cloud made it feel like we’d walked through some kind of wardrobe and entered a different kingdom. Days like this make me fall in love with Scotland all over again!
6. Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich is a true gem of the Cairngorms. 10 minutes drive from the centre of Aviemore, there’s a beach, watersports centre, picnic benches, a camp site nearby. Despite it being a recreational hotspot, it’s super easy to find peace and tranquility there. I was driving home one evening after a run in the mountains and saw these colours exploding across the sky at sunset. I ran to the beach to photograph it and only one other person was there, these moments are open to us we just have to grab them.
7. A night in the wild at Ryvoan bothy
Bothies are mountain shelters that are free for anyone to use and are scattered across Scotland. Some dating back over 100 years ago when they were shepherds huts. Now they provide a welcome base for adventure enthusiasts hiking, climbing or skiing in the mountains. Ryvoan Bothy is one of the more frequently visited bothies as it’s accessible within an hour’s walk. We spent a really fun night there cooking food round the fire, sharing whisky and learning about bothy culture from the seasoned mountaineers we shared it with.
8. Whisky Distillery tour
I am a whisky fan and although I’m not a connoisseur, I do love to learn more about where they come from and how they are made. I’ve never been to a distillery before so was thrilled when Speyside Distillery invited me for a tour. I learn that 75% of the taste and all the colour of whiskey comes from the Oak barrels it is stored in. I found out that there are 37 distilleries along the bank of the River Spey – maybe a kayaking distillery adventure is on the cards! I found a hipflask the size of my face and I snuck in a few cheeky tasters at the end of my tour. Absolutely loved it!
9. Eating at The Cairn, Carrbridge
Carrbridge, a gorgeous village situated15 minutes drive from Aviemore, is made famous by a stone bridge which is turning 300 years old this summer. To celebrate, they are hosting an entire summer of festivals such as the World Porridge Eating Championship. Not to be missed I am assured by Gareth, owner of The Cairn as I tuck into my meal. I loved his place the moment I walked in. It’s got a real country pub vibe with a quality of service and food you would expect in a restaurant. I had a starter of pigeon breast on black pudding, for mains duck with dauphinoise potatoes and for desert it had to be the chocolate fudge cake! So Yum and all using local produce.
10. The Caledonian Sleeper Train
The Sleeper Train is magical, it makes me feel like a child again. I used to read the 'The Polar Express' and dream of what it would be like to ride a train that transports you to a whole new world within 12 hours from the heart of London. The Sleeper is just like that. All the staff are super friendly, so I usually go to the bar for a whisky before settling into my cabin and then wake up with breakfast in bed and beautiful views of the snow capped mountains outside my window. Just heavenly!
The Cairngorms is a truly spectacular place to explore in summer or winter, I hope you jump on that over night train and create your own adventure up there. Here are the links if you want to check out the places I explored in this blog:
Visit Cairngorms for expert info and advice on the area. Inspiring pics on social media too
Speyside Distillery - try their Fumare whisky, my fave!
The Caledonian Sleeper Train for over night trains from London to Scotland
The Cairn Hotel for delicious dinners by the fire, local ales and a warm welcome into Carrbridge
Scot Mountain Holidays for snow cave and other guided mountain adventures in the Cairngorms
Let me know what you plan and if you have any questions drop me a message or get in touch with Visit Cairngorms sponsors of this blog post.