“Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.”
The iconic words of Robbie Burns are so easy to identify with when you have visited the Cairngorms; the region leaves an imprint on the soul and softens the hardest of hearts! So, with February being the month of love, What’s On went in search of some of the most amazing views, unique wildlife experiences, cosy hideaways and romantic trips around the Park. Get ready for your heart to firmly reside in the Highlands…
Stunning Natural Landscapes
Awash with a host of stunning natural landscapes the Cairngorms truly comes alive in the winter months. When the rest of the UK is grey and dull – the Cairngorms never fail to impress. From snow-capped mountain ranges and pine-lined glens to vast lochs full of wildlife and views that take your breath away, the region truly is picture perfect. One of the best ways to explore these views is to head for the hills with Newtonmore Riding Centre, which has been running for more than 60 years. The centre offer a range of treks that are suitable from absolute beginners to those wishing to do Trail Rides in true Rough Highland Country and you will be sure to see some stunning wildlife including wild goats and Red and Roe deer.
This Woodman’s Hut Eco Cabin is a rustic hideaway for two and the most perfect place to enjoy a romantic getaway in the Cairngorms National Park. Inspired by the 17th and 18th century woodcutters who lived in this area of Strathspey and worked the ancient Caledonian forest, the Woodman’s Hut is cosy and something completely different. It has magical feel about it – nestled amongst the ancient Caledonian pine trees and 100 acres of heather moor, the area is teaming with wildlife it is the perfect place to get away from it all. And where else would you boil a copper kettle from the fireside to provide hot water for the open-sky shower a couple of steps from the veranda? Romance at its finest!
If it’s a case of needing to get away from it all and not lift a finger then choose one of the award-winning restaurants or hotels that cater for every little detail. The Rowan Tree Country Hotel, just outside Aviemore, overlooks Loch Alvie and oozes romantic charm. It is one of the oldest hotels in the area having been built in the 1700’s as a coaching inn. Now fully modernised, the hotel still retains its original details with timber beams, open fires & the stained glass leaded window at the head of the splendid staircase.
Alternatively head up to Boat of Garten and fall in love with food at Anderson’s Restaurant. Chef and owner, Steve Anderson and his dedicated team are some of the most passionate foodies you will ever meet and their dishes are sure to make taste buds sing with delight. As well as the staple Highland fare of venison and beef, you will also find dishes including ox cheek and wood pigeon. What’s more, the home-made ice cream flavours will blow your mind!! Think bitter lemon and gin sorbet; chocolate, coconut curry; mandarin and rosewater sorbet; black treacle; and apricot and Cointreau.
If you plan to get your heart pounding in more ways than one in February then you could book on one of the many adventurous activities in the area. The list really is endless – from gentle walks through the Rothiemurchus Estate, cross country-skiing across the forest trails to hurtling down the hillside on one of the three ski areas – CairnGorm, The Lecht and Glenshee. On top of that, there is nothing more satisfying than a roaring open log fire, a hearty venison stew and a wee dram of the local Dalwhinnie or Lochnagar whisky one of the finest you’ll ever taste.
In winter our moors turn from heathery brown to snowy white and the local wildlife have to put on their best winter wear to keep camouflaged. However, there’s still plenty to see and track – you just have to use your senses! Check the snow tracks and take advantage of the still air so you can listen to the calls of the wild. Mountain hare, ptarmigan and stoats all change into their ermine coats, but can still be spotted on winter walks.
Winter is also a great time to see our owls as they struggle to survive in the cold. It can be especially hard for them when it snows, as the small mammals they feed on become even harder to find. Barn owls suffer particularly badly in the winter. They don’t have waterproofing in their feathers and so don’t fly in the rain and wind; so prolonged rainfall can be deadly to a hungry barn owl. They are therefore forced to hunt on clear days during ongoing bad weather. So get out on crisp winter days after the snow has stopped to spot them over fields and moors.
It’s easy to see why in amongst the cold, frosty days of February you can still warm the heart with a range of amazing experiences in the Cairngorms.
For more information see www.visitcairngorms.com
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