Hiking in the Cairngorms

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Hiking in the Cairngorm Mountains

Eager to walk?

  Distance of this hike 110 km (70 miles)
  What kind of hike is this? Hiking with backpack
  Where does the walk start? Aviemore
  What is the rating of this walk? Rating: 80/100

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Robert Macfarlane describes the Scottish Cairngorm Mountains in one of his books with the romantic image of "the last wilderness in Europe". And so it all felt when we arrived for our hiking adventure.

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Hiking around Aviemore

It was early June, still very cold and there was tons of rain waiting for us. We passed through an area south and east of the tourist resort of Aviemore. An empty, desolate, but also lovely area. We made a wonderful trip of six days.

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Hiking in the Cairngorm Mountains
Mountains, valleys & ancient forests

Often during a hike of several days, there are beautiful stretches and some lesser pieces. In the Cairngorm Mountains, all six walking days were beautiful and varied. Our path often led through open, mountainous area. But also we encountered secluded, ancient forests, and walked for miles along a beautiful wild river.

Help, where to camp?

After an arduous journey that refuse to end, we came into a valley we had labeled as 'promising pitch', based on the topographic map. Unfortunately, the valley was indeed open but everywhere so bumpy and especially wet, that there could be no question of camping. The valley stretched miles ahead of us and it looked quite swampy wherever we looked.

Screeching grouse

Dog tired we were and we walked like zombies in silence. The hope of a place for the night had almost disappeared, when we saw some hills looming. There, while the grouse were screeching in front of us, we found the only dry spot in the valley, with stunning views over the valley and mountains.

Eating in the sun

When we had set up our tents suddenly the clouds broke and we were warmed by the setting sun, enjoying our well deserved meal (freeze-dried pasta... we deserved better!).

Villages along the way

Occasionally we went down to the borders of the Cairngorms and we visited one of the few villages. Not only for the much-needed supplies, but also for a meal in a cozy pub. And especially of course for locally brewed whiskey and a pint of Guinness.

Fife Arms Hotel

In Braemar we went to a big old inn, the Fife Arms Hotel. We hung out because we were tired and the weather was not easy. Long deep armchairs, almost fell asleep.

Tomintoul: pub time!

And in Tomintoul the pub was begging us to come in. It was really not polite to refuse that offer... Later, much later, we unexpectedly had a great diner in a restaurant. In this town, the single malt whiskey Tomintoul is distilled, which I can recommend.

Hiking tips for Cairngorm Mountains

For this Scottish holiday we have flown to Edinburgh, and then rented a car which we drove to Aviemore. Don’t think it is easy to reach Aviemore by public transport. Aviemore is a great starting place for hikes in the Cairngorm Mountains.

Brace yourself for midges

In early June, we had no problems with midges, probably because it was so cold. Normally the midges season already started, which is no fun, I know from experience.

Topographic Maps & Compass

Detailed topographic maps and a compass are essential, we didn’t come across marked hikes. You have to find your own way and getting lost is very easy. But don’t let this put you off, it’s so wonderful in the Cairngorms!

Tags: Scottish Highlands, backpacking, Britain