Late summer sees a wealth of festivals and events across the Cairngorms National Park. A vast selection of traditional and innovative experiences are set to delight, educate and entertain. The dilemma is choosing what to do and see! To help you decide, we have highlighted some colourful events to give you just a flavour of what’s waiting to be enjoyed in Scotland’s largest National Park.
The spectacle of a traditional Highland Games is something special and August is the perfect time to catch Games in towns and villages throughout the Park. The month starts off (2 Aug) with Highland Games at Aboyne in the East and Newtonmore in the South. Marvel at the heavy events, tossing the caber, field and track events; admire the Highland dancing, pipers and marching pipe bands. All of these ingredients can be found at Abernethy Highland Games, Nethy Bridge (9 Aug) and Grantown-on-Spey Highland Gathering (24 Aug). Games on Royal Deeside include Ballater (14 Aug) followed by the Lonach Highland Gathering in Strathdon (23 Aug) and, favourite of Royal Family admirers, the Braemar Highland Gathering (6 Sept).
Summer fayres are an integral part of the community calendar. Examples include; Ballater Victoria Week (9-17 Aug) which is jam-packed with ghost tours, storytelling, traditional music and numerous other activities. The Figgat Fair (2 Aug), Grantown-on-Spey has its traditions in a historic form of farmers’ market. Today it is a community event with craft, food and second-hand goods stalls spread out over a grassy area. The Cairngorms Farmers’ Market – a modern day equivalent – will be setting up its stalls at this and other events during the summer.
If you are drawn to agricultural shows, then a visit to the Grantown Show (14 Aug) is for you. At this annual event you can see cattle, sheep and horses as well as vintage cars, pageants and crafts. For horse lovers, Blair Castle International Horse Trials and Country Fair, takes place in Blair Atholl (21-24 Aug). The occasion incorporates international event, show jumping and showing classes with a country fair and displays of traditional and modern countryside pursuits.
Motorbike and car enthusiasts are in for a treat with two unique annual events. “Thunder in the Glens” is an Aviemore-based motorcycling rally that attracts thousands of dedicated Harley Davidson fans. Live music and ride outs through the valley ensure a lively weekend (22-25 Aug). “Motor Mania” (7 Sept) is a celebration of motoring that showcases classic and modern cars, tractors and other vehicles in Grantown-on-Spey. Staying with the vintage theme, Blair Castle offers Vintage Tractor and Trailer Tours and you can even drive a steam engine at the Strathspey Railway.
A series of walking festivals and cycling events include the friendly Tomintoul and Glenlivet Walking/Cycling Festival (28 Aug – 1 Sept) which provides a range of spectacular walks, cycling and social events. For something seriously demanding, WildHearts WolfTrek is an epic team challenge (2 Aug) taking place across 45 miles of Highland terrain. September sees two exciting events on the same date – 13 Sept. Cairngorm Adventure Triathlon at Loch Morlich is an inspiring event in the special environment of the Park involving 3km canoe, 25km mountain bike on scenic forest trails and quiet roads and a 5km run on lochside forestry trails. Try Triathlon, Grantown-on-Spey involves swimming, cycling and running. While it attracts competitors with all levels of experience it is mainly targeted at novices of all ages.
For nature lovers, running until 3 August, Cairngorms Futureescapes Treefest is a celebration of the woodlands of the Cairngorms; family and adult events take place in Carrbridge in the North, Glen Tanar in the East, and Blair Atholl in the South. Kincraig is holding “Raptor Track” (12 Aug) – a fun day to celebrate the birds of prey of the Cairngorms National Park through art and craft activities. Being in a National Park means lots of countryside ranger-led activities taking place throughout the year. Twelve Ranger Services cover the area and the Rangers are key in promoting the enjoyment, understanding and care of the National Park. Check out at www.cairngorms.co.uk
Wildlife watching opportunities are always popular. Meet and feed Britain’s only herd of reindeer living in their natural habitat at Glenmore, near Aviemore with treks and daily hill trips in August. Discover the amazing birds and wildlife at Insh Marches, Kincraig with a family event every Monday in August or get your torch out and join a night time bat walk (10 and 19 Sept) in Grantown-on-Spey.
Arts, crafts and heritage devotees are not overlooked. During August, the Iona Gallery, Kingussie has an exhibition of work by artists and crafts-people who live and work in the Cairngorms National Park.Grantown Museum has permanent displays and visiting art exhibitions throughout the summer while the award-winning Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore brings to life the domestic and working conditions of earlier Highland peoples. Lovers of tradition music will be excited by The Blas Festival (5-13 Sept) when various venues across the Highlands and Islands play host to a massive celebration of the culture of traditional music and Gaelic. Artistic talent, of an unusual kind, can be witnessed at Carve Carrbridge (30 Aug). This annual chainsaw carving competition attracts chainsaw carvers from around the world who compete for a trophy and prize money. A great family day out involving live music, activities, games, stalls, food and drink.
Coming back in the autumn? Returning for half-term or over the festive period?
Many festivals, events and, of course the magnificent scenery, are here to be enjoyed at other times of the year too.
For something truly different, visit the “Golden Spurtle Porridge Championship” (4 Oct). The 21st annual World Porridge Making Championships in Carrbridge draws entries from around the globe to compete for the coveted title of “World Porridge Making Champion.” Later in the month, Braemar Creative Arts Festival (22-25 Oct) is an award-winning arts event offering a series of indoor and outdoor events and evening entertainment. The Ballater Winter Festival (30 Nov – 1 Dec) is a spectacular fun weekend and, in December, the Strathspey Steam Railway run “Mince Pie Specials” and a “Santa Express”. After the Hogmanay celebrations, the early months of the New Year are just as busy. Every January since 1984, mushers from across the UK have gathered in the forests around Aviemore for the biggest event in the British sled dog racing calendar, The Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain Aviemore Sled Dog Rally. Come and be amazed. A very different experience is “Food on Film” in Kingussie (5 – 8 Feb); a feast of local food, celebrity chefs, short films, documentaries and features to make you laugh, make you think and make you hungry!
If you’ve run out of time, or energy, on this visit we hope you will be back, another time, for more outstanding experiences and memories of the Cairngorms National Park. Check www.visitcairngorms.com regularly for details on events or keep up to date, while on the move, with our free downloadable app.
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