May is one of the busiest months of the year in the Cairngorms in terms of events and festivals. Spring is well under way and summer is fast approaching so What’s On ventured out to bring you a roundup of the Whisky, Biking, Nature and Walking Festivals and the impressive spectacle which is the Atholl Gathering which feature this month.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival
Discover the passion behind the World’s finest whiskies at the annual festival, now in its 15th year which celebrates Scotland’s National Drink. There is much more than just whisky to whet the appetite of visitors who descend on Speyside from all over the world to enjoy the long weekend. Visitors to the festival, which runs May 1 to 5, will be able to go scarecrow-watching, knit a giant cushion and even learn which single malt is best-paired with a bacon roll. Festival chairman James Campbell says the event aims to offer something for everyone, whether they are a whisky aficionado or just visiting to soak up the electric atmosphere in towns and villages across Speyside.
This year the Spirit of Speyside Sessions, a series of Music and Comedy events promises to add an extra dimension to the celebrations. Featuring favourites such as the Whisky River Boat Band at the Legion in Grantown on Spey, Ivor Novello Award winner Scott Matthews playing the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore and Trail West the ‘Scottish Dance Band of the Year’, who will get you in the spirit to Ceilidh at the Richmond Memorial Hall in Tomintoul.
Rock&Road Bike Festival – Cycling, Cranked Up
A weekend your bike will like! The Rock&Road Bike Festival over the 9-11 May brings a feast of events for mountain bikers, roadies, novices and families alike. The striking glens, flowing trails and winding roads of Tomintoul and Glenlivet are what cycling dreams are made of. With 80 and 110km sportives, sprint and a 80km mountain bike race for the pros, there’s also a packed programme of demos, guided rides and workshops for all ages – from trike to bike – not to mention awesome music, films, stunts, food and more.
Scottish Cycling will be on hand to help you to get skilled with a mobile pump track with rollers, ramps and berms in Tomintoul Square. Be part of the inaugural ‘Smugglers Soiree’, an 80km route that is set to challenge the brave, wipe the smiles off the mighty, and lure the foolhardy. For those of you who enjoy pushing your body and bike to the limits, the ‘Sportive’ has it all. With the areas unrivalled hill climbs it is set to become a quick classic on a route described as having bucket loads of personality. Keelan Phillips aka ‘the flatland wizard’, four times UK BMX Champion and two times Euro Champion will be wowing the Rock&Road crowds from 11am on Saturday and Sunday. The Rock&Road Tea Party on the Saturday evening will keep those smiles firmly on your faces after you’ve been cranking it up with a day of awesome biking. Join the crew until the wee hours for the official after party and enjoy a BBQ with tasty local produce, a great range of local craft beers and live music.
Cairngorms Nature Festival
Have you been inspired by the BBC’s Winterwatch at Mar Lodge? Are you desperate to spot a red squirrel or a golden eagle for yourself? If so, you can come and experience the fantastic nature in the Cairngorms National Park this May 17th-18th. Estates, venues and communities will open their doors and invite people to celebrate the unique nature of the Park where you will have the opportunity to get firsthand experience of some of the Park’s wildlife. Nature watching, guided walks, arts and crafts and landrover safaris are just some of the activities taking place across the Park. There are two main hubs of activities, one at Muir of Dinnet and one at Glenmore. Get involved in a mud-pie adventure, join a Peregrine Watch, take a walk on the wild side, rise early to go Caper-Watching, join a ranger to help make bird boxes and wildlife homes or join a Red Deer Ramble, just a few of the many activities on offer over this special weekend celebrating Cairngorms Nature.
Ballater and Kingussie Walking Festivals
Known as the ‘Friendly Festival’ The Ballater Walking Festival in Royal Deeside has expanded over the years since 1998 and now welcomes walkers of all abilities from ‘Munro-baggers’ to gentle strollers. The more strenuous walks are led by professional mountain guides who have great knowledge of the wild life, vegetation and local history. Each evening there is a talk or demonstration designed to appeal to visitors and on the Friday evening the week is rounded off by a traditional ceilidh.
Kingussie, The ‘Little Town of Festivals’ features for May a celebration of walking for all levels of ability on the 30th and 31st. On the Friday evening invited speakers ‘Talk the Walks’ and then ‘Walk the Talks’ on Saturday!
Atholl Gathering and Highlanders Parade
This unrivalled spectacle gives locals and visitors alike the chance to participate in a unique Highland tradition that has persisted for generations. The two day Atholl Gathering weekend consists of the Atholl Highlanders’ Parade on Saturday followed by the Highland Games on Sunday. Discover more about the fascinating history of the Atholl Highlanders, Blair Castle’s private army, then watch the annual parade in the afternoon. The army parades on the forecourt of historic Blair Castle, accompanied by the sound of their magnificent pipes and drums.
The Highland Gathering takes place on Sunday, with the Atholl Highlanders officially opening the Games with a “March On”, led by the skirl of their pipes and the deep, sonorous booming of their drums. Following this, heavyweight strong men from around Scotland take centre stage to battle it out in the Highland Games, with traditional events such as tossing the caber, putting the shot and throwing the hammer.
So this month of May make the most of the events on offer. See www.visitcairngorms.com/whatson for more information on the festivals throughout the Park.
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