Cairngorms National Park is located in the northeast region of Scotland, United Kingdom. The park covers an area of 1,748 square miles (4,528 sq km) creating the largest national park amongst the United Kingdom.
The park encompasses the Cairngorms mountain range and the neighboring foothills. There are almost 20,000 residents living within the park’s boundaries. The Cairngorms mountains are the pinnacle attraction of the park which draws visitors from across the UK as well as travelers from around the world who want to hike and explore the splendid range of mountains and forested rolling hills.
There are three significant rivers that meander amongst the mountains and foothills. The three rivers include the Dee River, the Don River, and the Spey River which is the second-longest river in Scotland.
The mountains resemble those found in Hardangervidda National Park in Norway. The key feature is a massive upland plateau with surrounding mountain landscapes that feature kopje, free-standing rock outcrops, and steep cliffs. The park is also highly attractive to rock climbers as well as ice climbers who want to take advantage of these diverse climbing opportunities.
The riverine vegetation, upland plateaus and grasslands, and the forested mountains create a tremendous ecosystem that supports the wildlife of the area. Some of the most popular sightings include the red deer and the reindeer. Bird lovers are attracted to the array of bird species found in the park which are highlighted by the golden eagle, ptarmigan, and snow bunting.
The number of hiking opportunities spread across the various mountains is a highlight for most who look to the Cairngorms as a way to get out in nature and explore the wonderful wilderness. There are a variety of rare wildlife and vegetation species that also serve as highlights such as the reindeer.
The Cairngorms is home to the only population of reindeer in all of the United Kingdom. The species is more commonly experienced in Russia, Canada, and northern Europe. The reindeer is of course one of the pinnacle representations of Santa Claus and Christmas.
Both the male and female reindeer grow antlers, losing them, and growing new ones each year. The antlers are second only to the moose in their length. The males are typically 71 to 84 inches (180-214 cm) in length and weighing as much as 400 pounds (182 kg). The females are usually a little shorter in length and weighing less coming in as much as 260 pounds (120 kg).
Trails of Cairngorms National Park
Hiking amongst the mountains and hills of Cairngorms National Park is one of the leading activities associated with the protected area. There are numerous trails that meander through and up into the mountains. Two of Scotland’s Great Trails also meander through the park.
There are 55 different mountains reaching heights of 3,000 feet (910 m) that are locally known as Munros. Each of them offers a chance for hikers and trekkers to ascend to the top to take in the views around the area. The trails range from easy to difficult and short to multi-day.
Loch Muick Trail: This is a loop trail covering a distance of 7.9 miles (12.71 km) while traveling around the lake. There is an elevation change of 800 feet (243.8 m), but the trail is rated easy. There are views of the lake and surrounding mountain landscape as well as chances to see wildlife.
Lochnagar Munro Trail: This loop trail is rated difficult while traveling 18.1 miles (29.13 km) and ascending up 4,220 feet (1,286.3 m). The panoramic views are astounding with chances to see wildflowers, wildlife, wilderness, and a waterfall along the way. Parts of the trail are quite rocky.
Cairnwell Trail: This is a 6.6-mile (10.62 km) loop trail which features an elevation gain of 1,932 feet (588.87 m). The loop trail will provide views of the mountains, a lake, and chances to see wildflowers, and wildlife.
Speyside Way Trail: This long-distance trail extends across 66 miles (107 km) running from Aviemore through to Buckpool Harbour. This is one of two of the Great Trails found in the park.
Cateran Trail: This is a second Great Trail adventure covering a distance of 64 miles (103 km) while meandering a loop allowing visitors to enter and exit at multiple points.
The park protects the unique upland plateau and surrounding Cairngorms mountain landscapes and many of the rare species of vegetation and wildlife located in the park. The park is protecting the only herd of reindeer located in the United Kingdom.
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- Britannica, Cairngorms National Nature Reserve, https://www.britannica.com/place/Cairngorms-National-Nature-Reserve, retrieved July 2020.
- Cairngorms National Park, Park Site, https://cairngorms.co.uk/, retrieved July 2020.
- Cairngorms National Park, Official Site, https://visitcairngorms.com/, retrieved July 2020.
- Visit Scotland, Cairngorms National Park, https://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/landscapes-nature/national-parks-gardens/cairngorms/, retrieved July 2020.