“Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it.”
Princess Merida, Brave
This August, Disney/Pixar’s new 3D animation adventure film, Brave, hits cinema screens across the world. Telling the story of Scottish heroine Merida and her family, it is so clear to see that the producers were heavily influenced by the landscapes, wildlife, myths and legends of the Cairngorms National Park. We like to say that if it was not a cartoon, it would have been filmed here!
So, instead of tying ourselves to our cinema chairs, What’s On followed our destiny and headed out into the landscapes of the UK’s largest National Park to see just what we could get up to, walking in the footsteps of Princess Merida. Come and join us – we promise you won’t be disappointed!
One of the most magical and inspirational parts of the Highlands, Rothiemurchus is the epitome of all things Brave. Owned by the Grant family for more than 450 years the estate is home to some of the most stunning views and indigenous and endangered wildlife. Not only that, but if you want to saddle up and head out on horseback through the Ancient Caledonian Pine Forests – just like Merida – then you can. You can practice shooting the target with your bow and arrow during an archery session or simply sit and watch the world go by on the shores of Loch an Eilein – the award winning loch with an ancient castle on its island heart.
Highland Wildlife Park
You won’t come across a grisly brown bear like Merida does in the movie, but you will get to meet Walker and Arktos (the UK’s only resident polar bears in a public collection), Elara and Puika – the wolves (and their 5 pups!) and wildcats, Arctic foxes, bison, snow monkeys and elk. You can also time it right and see the Amur tigers getting their afternoon snack – it’s a must.
Blair Castle and Atholl Estates
Blair Castle is one of the most striking Highland Castles as the whitewashed walls sit splendidly against the lush green trees that surround Highland Perthshire. One of the first private homes to open to the public in Scotland, Blair Castle is an Aladdin’s Cave of history and Highland culture and on your visit you can take in a tour of 30 rooms and the fascinating collections they contain. Whilst there take advantage of discovering the Castle’s secrets by booking onto an attic tour. Hidden from view in the attic maze of rooms and corridors are many strange, wonderful and interesting artefacts that tell even more of the story of the castle’s chequered past. Atholl Estates boasts the only private army in Europe, a real life clan army that dates back to the times of Merida’s adventures.
Walk in the footsteps of Smugglers on the Glenlivet Estate
Keen walkers can follow in the footsteps of famous whisky smugglers like the legendary Robbie MacPherson, with three walks in the Glenlivet valley of varying length, from a family walk, to a one day hike to explore the secret smuggling paths of days gone by. Run by the Glenlivet Estate and the Glenlivet Distillery, the walks tell the history of the smugglers who distilled whisky in the remote climate and terrain of Glenlivet away from the prying eyes of excise men, before smuggling it out of the glen. Robbie MacPherson was not alone and at one time there were over 200 illicit stills operating in the glen due to economic hardship and a series of whisky taxes imposed by the British government.
Step back in time at Braemar Castle
Step back in time and visit Braemar Castle – one of the most spectacular castles in Scotland. Hear stories of the colourful characters associated with the castle, find out how Clan Farquharson began and discover the part played by Braemar Castle in the story of Scotland. Whilst there be sure to keep a look out for red deer, red squirrels, golden eagles and, if you’re very lucky, the elusive capercaillie. Braemar Castle really looks like it could have stepped out of an animation – truly magical!
Canoe around Loch Morlich
Imagine a golden sandy beach, surrounded by snow-capped mountains; with Caledonian Pine trees surrounding the water’s edge and you’ll being thinking of Loch Morlich. You can hire an open canoe and paddle around the loch – just like Merida – and take in some amazing views. Alternatively, if you want some encouragement of lessons then book a session with Loch Morlich Watersports where the fully experienced staff will be able to help. When finished, why not treat yourself to a homemade cake in the beach café?
Meet a real Clydesdale pony
Merida’s faithful companion is Angus her Clydesdale horse, who takes her off on her expeditions and adventures. Clydesdales are a unique, majestic breed of horse that were originally used for agriculture and haulage. Landmark Forest Adventure Park is home to Lex, a beautiful Clydesdale horse, who makes light work of hauling logs from the sawmill. He’s incredibly friendly and perfect to pet in between hitting the rollercoasters and log flumes at the Park!
So, if Merida has encouraged you to get out into the great outdoors and experienced a Brave new world then there is no better place to explore than the Cairngorms National Park. As Merida says: “Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it.” Are you Brave enough to explore the Cairngorms this summer? www.visitcairngorms.com
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