Imagine the perfect winter picture postcard – frost twinkling on the branches of ancient Caledonian pine trees, snow-covered mountains, frozen lochs as far as the eye can see, flame-haired Highland cows and reindeer with small icicles on the tips of their noses, skiers and snowboarders with berry glowing faces, roaring log fires and a dram of whisky to warm the insides. We could go on, but you get the picture! But this isn’t just a postcard, this is winter in the Cairngorms National Park!
It was for good reason the area was voted as one of the top 20 places to visit in the world by the National Geographic Traveller Magazine. It contains four of Scotland’s five highest mountains and is home to 3 of the country’s ski areas. Only a short distance away – by train, plane or car – from Britain’s major cities you’ll soon find yourself a world away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and in a magical winter wonderland.
With the countdown now on to Christmas, we’ve put our heads together and come up with our 12 favourite things to do during the festive season in the Cairngorms National Park. Come rain, snow or shine, you’ll be feeling very festive after a visit to the Cairngorms.
1. There’s nothing that says winter in the Cairngorms quite like a walk round Loch an Eilein with family and friends followed by a hot chocolate at the Druie Cafe. Fancy something stronger? Swap the hot chocolate for a warming mulled wine by the fire at the Cairngorm Hotel.
2. Snow sport lovers will join us in testifying that there is nothing quite like making your way down a Scottish mountain as the sun sets over the valley below. It makes the short winter days really quite special.
3. The Santa train at Strathspey Steam Railway is always a big hit but have you tried their Mince Pie Special? Sit back, relax and enjoy a scenic vintage trip in a magnificent steam train. Indulge yourself with a mince pie and mulled wine as you watch the world go by.
4. Visit Santa’s reindeer either at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre or on one of the daily hill visits, where you can meet and greet these incredibly friendly and endearing animals. Feel their velvet soft noses as you hand feed them in the shadow of the UK’s highest mountain plateau. This one’s not just for the kids!
5. Christmas Eve is a very special occasion in the Cairngorms with Christmas Eve parades by Santa and his reindeer at Aviemore (including fireworks), Kingussie, Ballater and Newtonmore. Come along and join in the celebrations!
6. Put runners in Santa outfits and suddenly a 1 mile or 5K route becomes 10 times more fun! This is definitely the case with the Aviemore Santa Run. Join all the other wannabe Santa’s in the annual ‘Red & White’ bearded charge around Aviemore Macdonald Resort in this 1 mile or 5k festive charity fun run on 19th December.
7. Get crafty and make your own Christmas decorations. If like me, you’re a little challenged on the DIY front, get a helping hand from rangers at a craft event. Still not quite got the knack? Me neither… so give yourself a break and head along to one of the many great Christmas Gift Fairs around the Cairngorms this December. You’re guaranteed to find something really special.
8. Get that warm feeling inside with Christmas carols, mulled wine and mince pies round the Christmas tree at Nethy Bridge on the 22nd December.
9. Visiting the beach in the heart of winter may sound like we are pushing the British determination too far, but Loch Morlich – a golden, sandy beach, clear fresh water, with the shores surrounded by ancient Caledonian pine forests and dominated by majestic mountains – is a special place come rain or shine.
For even more ideas and help planning your trip to the Cairngorms National Park visit www.visitcairngorms.com
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