August is typically the month when most of the world takes a rest from the year’s daily grind, a tradition dating back to 18BC and the Romans’ ‘feriae augusti’. Even the Queen takes time off during this month when she heads to Balmoral Castle in Royal Deeside, near the Cairngorms village of Crathie.
This blog is, therefore, is dedicated to picking out the best opportunities to pursue pleasure and be playful in the Cairngorms this August!
1. Enjoy the thrills and spills of quad bike trekking
Apparently, one of the Queen’s favourite activities at Balmoral is driving her four wheel drive over the estate’s rough terrain. You can enjoy a similar experience around Ardverikie estate, through Laggan-based 4X4 Landrover Safaris, the filming location of Monarch of the Glen, The Crown and Outlander and now, allegedly, the set for the next James Bond movie…
As well as getting out into the wilderness, the quad bike tour also includes Ardverikie Castle. Rothiemurchus Estate offers quad biking treks too, famous for its friendly Heilan coos!
2. Horse around
Another favourite pastime of the Queen’s at Balmoral is apparently horse riding. She would surely jump at the chance to experience Highland Horse Fun’s ‘ladies night’ evenings, perfect for the busy working woman wanting to relax. For £15 you get to catch, groom and tack up your pony before you ride.
If you’d find it more fun to watch the experts with a glass of gin and tonic in hand, then head to the Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials on 22nd – 25th, where Glenshee-based Persie Gin is a sponsor and helping to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this event.
3. Get your game on!
There are plenty of games and fun competitions happening in August. If you’ve never experienced a traditional Highland Games then both Newtonmore’s (Saturday 3rd August), Ballater’s (Thursday 8th August) and Nethybridge’s (Saturday 10th) are well worth a visit.
If you’re intent on glimpsing a Royal, then you’ll have to wait until the Braemar Highland Gathering, which the Queen often attends, on Saturday 7th September. For a full list of highland games, see here.
4. Wander around a castle
Balmoral Castle and gardens may be closed because the Queen is in residence throughout August, but the Cairngorms has other regal castles, with a rich history, that you can visit. For instance, there’s Blair Castle, which featured in BBC Scotland TV series A History of Scotland. It offers tours, has gorgeous gardens and the Tullibardine restaurant, serving delicious local produce and home baking.
Or, on the east side of the Park, there’s Braemar Castle, which is open every day in August from 10am – 5pm. It also puts on tours as well as specialist events, such as a Jacobite re-enactment on August 10th and 11th.
5. This game of eye-spy is the cats pajamas
Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best, which is certainly true of Newtonmore’s Wildcat Experience. Players collect a ‘trackpack’ (£10, includes brochure, map, pen and bag) from the centre on Main Street then are let loose on the leafy, tranquil village to hunt the 132 brightly painted, life-size models of the endangered Scottish Wildcat. These are strategically placed everywhere from on roofs to in ponds. Kids and grannies alike will love it! Certificates and prizes are awarded, according to how many you find.
The ‘Wildcat Experience’ is not to be confused with the ‘Wildcat Trail’, the latter which is a 10K orbital walk which encompasses the village of Newtonmore. Model cats are not hidden along the trail, although 6 are visible from the trail.
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Another favourite “thing to do in Newtonmore without using the car” is search for one of 100+ painted wildcats hidden around the village and the #wildcattrail. Visit @thewildcatexperience to collect your pack and map to record your finds! Brilliant way to discover Newtonmore and our guests young and old love searching for them. Real Scottish wildcat are scarce in the wild but can be seen at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig. #visitscotland #newtonmore #bookdirect
6. Find the treasure on the SnowRoads
Download the SnowRoads app and bring the 90 mile scenic road to life with stories from people that live on the route, music and tales of local legends. From Blairgowrie to Grantown you can follow the interactive map and listen to the audio which will take you on a treasure hunt ‘collecting’ all the gems in each place.
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The Watchers 👀 Sat at the top of the Corgarff road hill climb the Watchers command an amazing view from the #SnowRoads 📸 | @snow_roads_and_slow_roads . . . . . . #adventuring #cairngormsnationalpark #cairngorms #tomintoul #corgarff #thewatchers #scenicroute #installation #architecture #scotland #viewpoint #scotlandisnow #lovescotland #exploremore #outside #freshair #omgb #countryside #instagood #photooftheday #travel #travelgram #instatravel
7. Witness the ‘Thunder in the Glens’: the Harley-Davidson rally
Always a fun spectacle to behold, on the last weekend in August every year (this year 23-26 August) Harley motorbike enthusiasts descend on Aviemore. The event has a carnival atmosphere complete with mass ride outs, live music and merchandise stalls, for more see this blog. Expect lots of friendly toot-toots and crowds lining the streets to get a passing glimpse of the elaborate bikes as they whizz on by! The rally typically attracts over 10,000 people.
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Vrrrrrrooom to #Aviemore and #grantown this weekend for thousands of Harley Davidson bikes, ride outs, live music, entertainment and an amazing atmosphere!🏍 📸 | Andy Martin #visitcairngorms #snowroads . . . . . #cairngorms #cairngormsnationalpark #scotland #scotlandisnow #harleydavidson #thunderintheglens #thunderintheglens2018 #photooftheday #instagood #instatravel #bankholiday #hog #scenery #motorbike #harleys #dunedinchapter #cairngormmountain #motorcycle #biker #harley #findyourfreedom #freedommachine @harleydavidson @harleydavidson_uk @visitscotland #chooseyourride
8. Carve it up in Carrbridge
Come to the forest village of Carrbridge on Saturday 31st for ‘Carve Carrbridge’ and be mesmerised by the chainsaw wood sculptors in action, as they compete to win an award. The competition attracts sculptors from all around the globe and thousands of spectators. Previous creations have included the weird and wonderful, from bears and bagpipes to warriors and Oor Wullie!
9. Relax loch-side
Temperatures often reach their peak in August and there’s no better way to cool down than a visit to one of the Park’s lovely lochs.
10. Savour the summer with a cold drink in a beer garden
If the sun’s shining and you’ve been out in the Cairngorms fresh air all day, there are few pleasures quite as delicious as sitting in a beer garden and savouring a cold drink. Friday 2nd August is ‘International Beer Day’ and 10th is ‘Lazy Day’ but, really, who needs an excuse? For inspiration on the best beer gardens in the area, like this one pictured of Glen Clova Hotel’s, see this blog.
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