Pack your hamper with goodies and head off to one of Scotland’s best summer picnic areas – the Cairngorms National Park.
Covering over 4000 square kilometres of stunning, unspoilt countryside, the Cairngorms National Park is only two hours drive from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling and an hour or less from Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. So, no matter where in Scotland you live, you can enjoy the freedom, fresh air and fun of a picnic in one of our country’s biggest and best parks. And, if you stop off at one of the many excellent shops or delis in the Cairngorms area, you can also enjoy delicious, locally-produced food in its natural environment.
What better way to celebrate the Year of Natural Scotland?
To whet your appetite, here are ten spots which provide the perfect setting for al fresco summer dining in the great outdoors of the Cairngorms National Park…
1. Loch an Eilein, Rothiemurchus, Aviemore
Voted Britain’s Best Picnic Spot a couple of years ago, Loch an Eilein is a great location for outdoor eating. The loch, complete with its mysterious castle, is surrounded ancient Scots Pines – the perfect setting for after-lunch tales of lost princesses, mysterious creatures and mythical battles.
2. Glen Tilt, Blair Atholl
The Glen Tilt Trail, which begins in the Glen Tilt car park, is a ten-mile low-level walk following the spectacular River Tilt – but you don’t need to go all the way to find a picnic spot. There are potential picnic places all along the glen – simply throw down your table cloth to claim your river-view dining table.
3. Glen Doll, Glen Clova, by Kirriemuir
Hidden away at the top of Glen Clova, Glen Doll car park is the ideal location for a drive-to picnic. As well as picnic tables set up along the riverside, conveniently next to the car park, the Ranger Base provides information about the landscape and wildlife of the surrounding hills and glens – and toilets.
4. Loch Lee, Glen Esk, by Edzell
After parking at Invermark at the head of Glen Esk, half an hour’s gentle walking is rewarded with the idyllic sight of Loch Lee. The ruined church adds to the tranquillity of the loch’s surroundings, home to a diverse range of wildlife – in the air (look out for golden eagles) and on the ground (look out slow worms).
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5. Blair Castle Gardens, Blair Atholl
The entrance fee of £13.50 for a family day ticket to the castle’s extensive gardens offers good value as there’s so much to do. Exploring the walled garden (complete with a life-size statue of Hercules), the woodland children’s adventure playground, the gothic folly and the sculpture trail will certainly work up an appetite!
6. Loch Insh, Kincraig
If you’re looking for a picnic spot with the added bonus of canoeing, rowing and windsurfing, Loch Insh is perfect. Or, if you prefer a quieter spot where you can watch waterbirds drifting around on quiet, still waters, opt for the quieter end of the loch, near the village of Kincraig.
7. Abernethy National Nature Reserve, Nethybridge
Ospreys are the potential star attraction of a picnic lunch at Abernethy National Nature Reserve, home of the Loch Garten ospreys, as well as dragonflies, red squirrels and several species of rare birds. Find out more at the RSPB’s Osprey Centre (family ticket £8), which also has toilets, baby changing facilities and refreshments. Toilets are also available at the nearby Explore Abernethy Visitor Centre.
8. Old Bridge of Avon, Glen Livet
Picnic tables on a grassy riverbank, nearby parking and wheelchair access make this a very accessible picnic spot – with a stunning view of the Old Bridge of Avon, built in 1754 and recently renovated.
9. Bellabeg, Strathdon
The picnic area in the small but perfectly formed village of Bellabeg is well worth a visit – and there’s the added attraction of searching for the signpost pointing to the hamlet of Lost! And, if you plan your picnic at Bellabeg for August 24, you’ll have the added bonus of the Lonach Gathering.
10. Loch Muick, Ballater
The Spittal of Glen Muick has to have one of the most picturesque car parks in Scotland (complete with picnic tables) or why not walk to Loch Muick for lunch with a spectacular view? You might even catch sight of herds of red deer roaming across the valley floor. In addition, the visitor centre at Loch Muick provides information about local wildlife – and the weather forecast!
These are just a few of the fabulous places to picnic, and visit, in the Cairngorms National Park this summer. For more information, visit www.visitcairngorms.com.
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