Cairngorms, Scotland


The Cairngorms National Park is the largest of the UK’s national parks and one its most spectacular. Covering an area of over 4,500 km2, it’s home to a quarter of Scotland’s native forest, a third of the UK’s land above 600 meters, and five of the UK’s six highest mountains. The landscape is rugged, wild, and spectacular. Widely visited for outdoor activities such as hill walking, skiing, and rock climbing, it’s also home to some of the UK’s rarest and most unusual wildlife. With the open, mountainous landscape supporting populations of mountain hare, snow bunting, ptarmigan, capercaillie, and red deer. As well as the UK’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer!

Rumour also has it that the park was the inspiration for one of the greatest scientific discoveries of our time – when a revolutionary idea popped into the head of physicist Peter Higgs while he was walking in the Cairngorms in 1964. So get out there and be inspired!

Average rating: 4.5 (very good)

Average cost: entrance to the park is free so your costs typically depend on food, guides, accommodation, and transport. Reports from WildSide users suggests around $30-60 per day is enough. Wild camping is free in the park and a great way to see the area – or you can try staying in some of the Cairngorms free to use bothies.

Best time to visit: the Scottish Highlands are spectacular at any time of year. The (notoriously bad) weather is best from May to September although the warmer months are also the most midge heavy. If you want good weather and no midges go for May or September.

How to get there: despite its remote location, the Cairngorms National Park is relatively easy to reach from the nearby towns of Inverness, Aberdeen, and Dundee. There are routes into the park by train, car, bus, or even bike – for all the details check out this really useful guide to getting to the park.

Typical activities: camping, trekking, rock climbing, skiing, walking, wildlife watching

Number of reports: 2

WILDLIFE IN Cairngorms

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:


reindeer cairngorms wildside world wild webReindeers used to be found throughout Scotland but are thought to have died out sometime around the 12th to 13th Century. In 1952 a Sami reindeer herder visited the Cairngorms. Reminded of home he decided to bring a small herd over from Scandinavia to see if they could survive. Today that same herd still roams the Cairngorms mountains. There are around 150 reindeer in the herd, mostly free-ranging on the mountains with some living in enclosures on the Glenlivet Estate. They are not fully wild animals although they are, for the most part, allowed to roam and feed freely. You can visit the Cairngorms Reindeer Herd near Aviemore. There is a small shop and enclosure which lets you see the animals up close. You can also take a guided tour to see the reindeer roaming the hills. Although this depends on the weather and whether the herd can be found!


wildlife in cairngorms, wildside, world wild webThere are plenty of red deer in the Cairngorms – although finding them in this vast area of land can be difficult. You may well have some luck hiking through the mountains, moorlands, or forests. Or driving through the country lanes in the evening. Good spots to look include Glen Muick, taking the minor road from Ballater, or the uplands of Atholl estate and around the Ladder Hills, east of Glenlivet. If you want to give yourself the best chance of seeing them – a guided safari is a good idea. If you are heading to Aviemore to see the reindeer check out some of the local guides in the area. Reports on TripAdvsior suggest Highland Wildlife & Birdwatch Safaris and Speyside Wildlife are both great options.

Photo credit: Free-Photos under a Creative Commons license from Pixabay

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