A gentle breeze rustles the silver birch as you meander beside a trickling stream; a wooded canopy path zigzags to a hidden loch; an expanse of heather moor opens up to a craggy overhang; catch your breath – and the stunning views – from the peak of a Munro: just some of the scenarios you may encounter while walking in the Cairngorms National Park. The backdrop and the experiences are as varied as they are magnificent.

Looking down on Lock Muick. Image: Stan Daniels
Looking down on Lock Muick. Image: Stan Daniels

Why not explore the National Park through the eyes of countryside rangers, estate managers and experienced guides who are there to share their knowledge of local history and wildlife and add to your enjoyment of this special place? One excellent way to do so is to take part in a Walking Festival. From short, low level, gentle excursions to demanding hikes and scaling some of the UK’s highest peaks, each organized walk makes the most of the Park’s renowned and awe-inspiring scenery.

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The Angus Glens Walking Festival with its impressive setting and superb walking conditions takes place early June. The four-day festival is a great event for meeting people from across the country and visitors from other parts of the world. A popular walk is Jock’s Road, (Scotland’s oldest right of way) and of course, there are some Munros to bag as well.

Later in June  you can take part in the Moray Walking and Outdoor Festival. On the periphery of the National Park, this Festival is a celebration of Moray’s splendid coast, its hills and forests, historic towns and villages. Mark Midsummer, walking in Scotland’s Malt Whisky Country.  Find out more, including details of the Moray Way 5-Day Challenge

In August, you are invited to take part in the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Walking Festival. Come and join in some spectacular walks and events in this glorious part of the National Park. The Festival has something for everyone; from long hill walks to shorter lower level outings.

Experience late summer amid the splendour of Blairgowrie and its surrounds at the
Blairgowrie & East Perthshire Walking Festival (September). An interesting historical trek is balanced with a range of gentle walks and a mix of Corbetts and Munros, adding up to a programme of diverse and challenging trips.

Other Walking Festival which take place earlier in the calendar include the Badenoch Walking Festival (May) and the Ballater Walking Festival which also takes place in May.

Whichever Walking Festival and location you are attracted to, the emphasis of each is to ensure you enjoy your time exploring the inspirational environs and breath-taking scenery of the Cairngorms National Park. Read about more walking routes in the Cairngorms.

Walkers enjoying a guided walk
Walkers enjoying a guided walk

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“Bothies – a refuge and hub for walkers and hill-goers”

Perhaps you are a seasoned walker who prefers to explore the hills independently and wishes to experience a real sense of wildness. If so, you may have come across one of several bothies in the Cairngorms National Park.

The hills tend to attract like-minded people where generosity of spirit and consideration for fellow hill-goers is second nature. This attitude is reflected by the ongoing provision and use of bothies and a sense of camaraderie by those who use them.

Traditionally a bothy was a building constructed to accommodate farm or estate workers; today it is a shelter for walkers and climbers. Often located in remote locations, the bothy can provide a welcome stop for rest and refreshment as well as shelter from the elements.

Cuiltmuic Bothy, Atholl Estates
Cuiltmuic Bothy, Atholl Estates

Here in the Cairngorms National Park you will find some of the best bothies in the country. Ranging from custom built and traditional bothies to former shooting lodges and farmhouses, bothies have one thing in common; the accommodation is basic. Even renovated bothies lack electricity and not all will have a stove or fire.

Anyone is welcome to use a bothy. Perhaps as a meal stop, an overnight stay or a base for a couple of days. If you do plan to spend the night, you will need to take your own cooking equipment and bedding. Here the term ‘roughing it’ is appropriate as you will be expected to sleep on a basic platform or even a stone floor.

Be aware though that bothies can’t be booked in advance so it is wise to make alternative accommodation plans in case the bothy is full when you arrive. Upon ‘checking in’ you may find you are the only resident; alternatively, you could be sharing with people of different nationalities and backgrounds. Add to the mix, engaging conversation and perhaps a musical instrument and you have the makings of a lively evening with new found companions.

Regular hill-goers should know the guidelines but if bothy life is new to you, check out the MBA Bothy Code which sets out the conditions of use.

Read more at; www.cairngormwanderer.wordpress.com/the-bothies and www.mountainsofscotland.co.uk/Bothies/bothies.htm

The Cairngorm bothies have been in use for many generations and, if treated with respect, this valuable resource should continue to be available for many years to come.

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