Things To Do In The Cairngorms & Aberdeenshire
Our list of 10 things to do in the Cairngorms National Park explores some of Aberdeenshire’s countryside jewels and ancient forests.
There are things to do and see for everyone in the Cairngorms National Park, from mountains, lochs and wildlife, to woodlands, moorlands and much more!
Visit some of the quaint villages, or get adventurous and go on one of the popular walking trails to discover the hidden gems, with our list of Cairngorms National Park things to do.
Walks in the Cairngorms
As Britain’s largest national park, the Cairngorms holds the most extensive range of mountains in the United Kingdom, with beautiful river valleys and rolling hills creating the most stunning landscapes. The park is well-known for its abundance of walking trails that have been enjoyed for hundreds of years. From high mountains, to wide woodlands and river trails, you can explore the park however you like, and at your own pace. The villages and towns have a large network of trails and community paths that will give you an insight into the park’s heritage, landscape and nature. Whether you want a low-level walk or an adventurous mountain hike, there will be a trail suitable for you regardless of where you are in the park. We've also listed some of our favourite walks in Aberdeenshire too, if you plan to stay a little longer.
Discover our list of Munros near Aberdeen.
1. Burn O‘Vat
The Burn O’Vat trail is a short 45 minute circuit walk, located close to Loch Kinord and the village of Dinnet.
Created by glacial meltwater, the Burn O’Vat is an ancient granite caldron, home to a stunning waterfall. The walking route trails through splendid woodlands along to the Burn O’Vat entrance that leads you in to see this geological wonder. Once you return to the walking circuit you will be greeted by panoramic views over the Dee Valley and Loch Kinord.
This is a great walk for adventure seekers and explorers that like to scramble over rocks and splash through streams. Although the woodland paths are well established and maintained, the entrance to the Burn O’Vat involves some manoeuvring through rocks – so make sure you wear sturdy shoes and take extra care!
2. Linn O’Dee
The Linn O’Dee, or Linn of Dee circuit is a waymarked walk in the Cairngorms National Park, that passes numerous
waterfalls, through old pine woods.
Start at the beautiful Linn O’Dee and take a closer look as the river flows through this rocky chasm, overlooked by an old stone bridge. Walk downstream by the River Dee and through the stately woodland. The track emerges beside the River Luibeg and boasts stunning pinewoods known to house deer and other Scottish wildlife. The path will eventually lead you out into open land with views up towards the summit of Derry Cairngorm. Continue on the paths through Glen Lui and back onto the circuit trail that will lead you down to where you started.
Once you have completed the circuit, you can explore around the rocky Linn O’Dee, which was a favourite picnic spot of Queen Victoria!
3. Creag Choinnich
The Creag Choinnich is a unique little hill that lies east of Braemar village. This is a short, but very steep walk cloaked in pinewoods, with a rocky ascent. There is a good path to follow but it is important to state that this is a steep route, with rocky trails further up the hill.
Beginning in Braemar, you can see Creag Choinnich as it rises above the village cottages. From the woods at the foot of the hill, the path climbs steeply through the woodland and heads straight up the hill to boast beautiful views back over Braemar. The path becomes rocky at the final summit approach and when you reach the top, incredible views are revealed. From the cairn at the summit, you can look down through the Dee Valley and watch the river head towards Balmoral and Lochnager. Look north and you’ll discover the great peaks of Ben Avon and Beinn a’Bhuird that rise above the forests. Creag Choinnich offers walkers and hikers panoramic views across Aberdeenshire’s rich countryside. Follow the paths back the way you came and there are many signposted options to discover more of the surrounding woodlands.
4. Castles in the Cairngorms
Visiting Ballater and Royal Deeside gives you the opportunity to live like a royal. Home to Her Majesty the Queen's holiday home, Balmoral Castle, the Balmoral Estate is a popular attraction for visitors when it opens at certain times of the year.
With public walking routes and trails around the estate all year round, this spectacular royal residence is definitely worth the visit.
Additionally, known as 'Scotland's Castle Country', Aberdeenshire is home to 19 of the country's castles, so if you are fascinated with Scotland's history and want to learn more, we recommend embarking on Scotland's Castle Trail.
Go back in time with our list of castles in Aberdeenshire.
5. Stargazing in the Cairngorms National Park
Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms is known to hold some of Scotland's darkest skies, with the Cairngorms being the first designated International Dark Sky Park in the Scottish Highlands.
Particularly through the winter, areas near Glenlivet and Tomintoul, head out in the late hours of the day and feast your eyes on the night sky to witness a spectacular display of stars.
6. Whisky Tasting
Speyside, within the Cairngorms National Park is responsible for producing over half of Scotland's whisky production. So, for the whisky lovers and connoisseurs, there are over 40 distilleries in the area, with many open to the public for daily tours and tasting experiences.
Explore our list of Aberdeenshire whisky distilleries.
Tourists from across the globe come to the Cairngorms National Park to emmerse themselves in the range of outdoor activities on offer. From cycling and kayaking in the summer, to climbing and skiing in the winter, there is so much to do around the park, all year round.
7. Mountain Biking
With a mix of mountain routes and quiet roads through forests, there are a number of great mountain biking trails across the national park. For family-friendly, purpose built trails, visit Laggan Wolftrax or the Glenlivet Estate. Or, if you prefer something a bit more rough around the edges, definitely head to Pitfichie Forest near our Balmoral Arms (formerly named Deeside Inn) in Ballater, or take a visit to High Burnside near Aviemore.
Read more with our list of cycling and mountain biking routes in the Cairngorms National Park.
In the mood for some adrenaline-pumping watersports? The Cairngorms has over 25 areas of paddle-friendly river.
With ranging difficulty, there are some exciting places to go whitewater kayaking as well as scenic lochs for a relaxing canoe excursion. If you’d prefer an easier kayak, head to the Feshie, or if you know what you’re doing and fancy something a bit more thrilling, pay a visit to the Falls of Muick.
For a fun family day out, Loch Insch and Loch Morlich both have watersports centres where you can hire a range of watersports equipment including kayaks and canoes, as well as many other floatation devices.
In the summer, there are so many places in the national park to go climbing, however, one of the most popular destinations is the Kingussie Crag. With panoramic views across the entire valley, there are different routes you can climb to reach the top, of varying difficulty, but we promise, the views are worth the climb.
There are also a number of routes that are great for winter climbing. From the main Cairngorm Mountain car park, there are around 50 listed routes that can be taken. However, please note to take extra care and precautions when climbing in the Cairngorms National Park.
In winter especially, please ensure you are well prepared with equipment, and appropriate levels of skill and knowledge.
10. Skiing in the Cairngorms
The Cairngorms is home to three out of five of Scotland’s ski resorts, including Glenshee, The Lecht and Cairngorm Mountain.
Cairngorm is the highest mountain, Glenshee is the largest resort, and The Lecht is particularly good for children and beginners.
So whether you’re looking for a winter getaway, a ski holiday at home, or want to get the family together to try something new, the Cairngorms is the ideal base to discover Scotland’s snowsports.
Explore Royal Deeside
Relax in Royal Deeside, the home of the River Dee that begins in the Cairngorms National Park and runs east through Deeside towards its mouth in Aberdeen.
This village is home to some of Scotland’s best scenery including a beautiful valley, a stunning mountain backdrop, a flowing river and an amazing variety of colours that bloom throughout the year.
The name ‘Royal’ Deeside comes from the Queen’s holiday home, Balmoral Castle, situated in Deeside that was built and is still occupied by the royal family as a summer retreat.
The attractive towns and villages of Deeside, such as Ballater and Braemar, invite visitors throughout the year to discover the iconic wildlife, amazing food and popular attractions, and the many more things to do in Ballater near Balmoral Castle.
Continue reading: Browse our pick of the best beaches in Aberdeenshire.