It’s not very often that you find somewhere in the UK that for 12 months a year can give you more than a few good reasons to visit. Some places look better in the sunshine, others fair better with a snow-laden landscape, and many come to life when the flowers are in bloom or the leaves on the trees are turning a russet red. However, we would like to lay claim that no matter what time of year you visit and no matter what the weather, a visit to the Cairngorms National Park can give you a pretty spectacular time. In this blog, we take you through a month-by-month events ‘best bits’ – you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Every year hundreds of huskies head for the Highlands to take part in the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain Rally in Glenmore. A beautiful sight to see with more than 1000 Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, Greenland Dogs and Canadian Eskimo Dogs enjoying the runs across the forest trails around the beautiful Loch Morlich, in the shadow of the imposing Cairngorms.
Competitors range in age from just eight to over 60, and there’s something for everyone at this great family event, which attracts over 3000 spectators each year. The rally features teams of between two and eight sled dogs pulling sleds at up to 25 miles an hour over a challenging, four-mile track. A perfect event for the start of the year.
Of course during January you’ll have been very healthy in an effort to recover from the excesses of the festive season, but come February it’s time to treat yourself again and what better way than heading to the Food & Film Festival in Kingussie! Celebrating and exploring the world of food with local food producers and showcasing the very best big screen movies, short films, documentaries and features to make you laugh, make you think and make you hungry! The Cairngorms Food Hall showcases the most delicious Highland produce as well as celebrity chef cooking – and a red carpet Film Award with Film Industry Judges – it’s a recipe for a fabulous weekend!
March can still offer varied weather in the Cairngorms National Park – we can still be under a winter-wonderland blanket or the early spring sunshine can start shining. Either way we will still have snow on the slopes so that the Scottish Slopestyle Championships on Cairngorm Mountain can go ahead. Some of the best riders in the UK battle it out to become slopestyle champion – and the mountain is alive with talent! Held annually and taking in some of the most beautiful road views in the UK, the Newtonmore 10 Mile Race is a great kick start to race season. Yet if you prefer a more laid back start to Spring the Badenoch & Strathspey Music Festival aims to encourage participation and promote the development and enjoyment of music, speech, dance and drama with all ages. The festival also showcases some of the best musical talent from the region.
Still feeling fit? Then join 5,000 others and head to Ballater for the Run Balmoral Festival taking place across the famous Highland Estate. Voted by Runners World as the most scenic road race in the country the event has a host of races – no matter what your ability or age. Alternatively, step back in time and head to the Kingussie Heritage Festival and listen to a host of eminent historians share their research and enthusiasm for the region’s past. Celebrating the best of outdoor film making, the Aviemore Adventure Film Festival also welcomes some of the most inspirational adventurers and athletes to regale their experiences on the international landscapes.
Celebrating the very best of the area’s ‘amber nectar’ the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is packed full with over 500 events across five days. It’s the perfect place to drink a dram and learn more about the nation’s favourite tipple!
With the days getting longer and more wildlife making an appearance, the Cairngorms Nature Festival is there to celebrate the wide variety of flora and fauna that live on our doorstep. Many of the events are free and open to all ages. The Atholl Gathering in Blair Atholl is one of the first gatherings of the year and a fantastic family event packed full of tradition – a real spectacle! Two more local events perfect for the family are the Teddy Bear Weekend at Strathspey Railway in Aviemore and the Spring Gathering in Nethy Bridge – enjoy travelling on the historic train with your trusted companion or enjoy all the fun of the fete in the Park’s ‘forest village’. If you are still hankering for more sporting events, then fear not! There’s another three events in May to test your sporting limits. The Laggan 10k Highland Road Race and 1 Mile Fun Run takes in such stunning scenery – you almost forget you are running, the 3 Pistes Cycle Sportive, encompassing routes from Glenshee to Cairngorm Mountain, is billed as the highest sportive in the UK and the King of the Mountain Sportive takes in two of Scotland’s toughest road routes – up steep mountain passes and down sweeping descents.
European Golf Challenge Tour at Spey Valley Golf Course attracts some of the most promising young players welcoming them to a course set in the shadows of the Cairngorm Mountains. Biking continues to play a big part of June’s events with the Rock & Road Bike Festival in Tomintoul and Glenlivet and the Kingussie Bikeathon & Bikefest welcoming mountain bikers, roadies, novices and families. Take this opportunity to explore some of the most exciting trails across the National Park. Alternatively, if you prefer two feet to two wheels then don your walking boots and enjoy everything that the Angus Glens Walking Festival or the Moray Walking Festival has to offer.
If you want to leave the big brands on the high street and support a host of local businesses and farmers, then get yourself down to the Figgat Fair in Grantown-on-Spey. Alternatively, grab your dancing shoes and enjoy the Cairngorms Ceilidh Trail as some of the best young musicians take to the road and tour the region showcasing their talents. You can also head to the most northern part of the Park to enjoy the Tomintoul Highland Games or east to check out the Braemar Junior Highland Games. If you’re feeling suitably fit, then push yourself to the limit in the gruelling Corrieyairack Challenge which finishes at Badaguish Outdoor Centre in Aviemore (just in case you want to support the finishers rather than actually take part!). Or if you want to hear the hills and glens filled with some rock music and celebrate all things two and three wheeled, then get down to the Tomintoul Motorcyle Gathering.
August sees even more Highland Games take place across the region with not one, but five of these traditional spectacles delighting visitors; Newtonmore Highland Games, Ballater Highland Games, Abernethy Highland Games, Lonach Gathering, Strathdon and Grantown on Spey Highland Games. If you want to support our local farmers and take a look at some of our traditional farming competitions as well as sampling some produce then head to the The Grantown Show; or travel over to Royal Deeside and take part in a host of activities during Ballater Victoria Week – with ghost tours, scarecrow competitions, talent, pet and fashion shows – the week is jam packed! The Tomintoul & Glenlivet Walking Festival is a long weekend celebrating all things walking; it’s the perfect place to discover and explore walks of all shapes and sizes – mountainous to low level. From two legs to four, in the shadow of the famous Blair Castle, more than 15 countries will compete at the Blair Horse Trials and Bruadar Country Fair in front of over 62,000 spectators. August also sees one of the most renowned events in the calendar take place – the “Thunder in the Glens” Harley Davidson Motorbike Rally. Officially the largest Harley Davidson rally in the UK with an ever growing number of loyal fans, Thunder in the Glens welcomes thousands of bikers who roar through the glens and bring with them a great range of rocking music to celebrate the gathering!
Although the weather changes to a more autumnal feel in September, the range of events does not slow down! You will marvel at the talent on show at the Carve Carrbridge, Scottish Chainsaw Carving Championships – carving pieces of art out of one piece of wood with a chainsaw is amazing to see and competitors head here from all over the world! The active amongst you will love the beautiful setting of the Cairngorm Adventure Triathlon which takes place around and on the stunning Loch Morlich and The Quilter Cheviot Etape Royale is the first and only 100 mile closed road cycle sportive in Scotland, taking in Royal roads, whisky country and panoramic views. For a more tranquil pace, head to the Blairgowrie and East Perthshire Walking Festival where there a host of Munro hikes and trail walks to enjoy. Motor Mania comes to Grantown on Spey and brings with it over 400 classic vehicles while the Royal Braemar Gathering welcomes international athletes to take part in ‘heavy’ and ‘track’ events. It’s a packed month all round for the Park with plenty of ‘not-to-be-missed’ events.
The Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships in Carrbridge is one of the most fun and quirky events in the UK drawing competitors from around the world to compete for the coveted Golden Spurtle award and title of “World Porridge Making Champion”. Combining the best of Scottish music with the tastiest of Scottish food, the Food and Fiddle Festival comes to Royal Deeside with a full programme of events around the region. Braemar Creative Arts Festival continues to be bigger and better than ever before with creativity bursting at the seams – events include Music workshops, Arts and Crafts workshops, Drama and Literature workshops and a Festival Fringe. And to feel the wind in your hair, an ache in your legs, but a satisfaction in your soul then sign up to the Aviemore Half Marathon! Whether you are taking part or supporting those completing the challenge, it’s bound to put a proud smile on your face!
It’s not just the Aurora Borealis that lights up the Highland skies; in November the Cairngorms National Park celebrates Bonfire Night in style with events across the region; Kincraig Fireworks & Bonfire Night, Boat of Garten Bonfire Night, Ballater Fireworks, Mar Lodge Bonfire Night, Macdonald Aviemore Resort Bonfire & Fireworks and the Fireworks Display at Cairngorm Hotel will be full of sparklers, toffee apples, fireworks and hot dogs – don’t forget to wrap up warm! As the month continues and we edge towards the festive season, Exclusively Highlands at Blair Castle will ensure you can fill your stockings with a range of unique gifts and experience this majestic Highland castle in all its Christmas glory. If you are planning to hit the slopes this winter, then you need to visit the Cairngorm Ski Club Snowsport Sale in Aviemore to grab a host of bargains. And you really need to get your skates on and head to the open air ice rink at the Ballater Winter Festival to really get into the Christmas spirit.
Think of a winter wonderland and you need look no further than the Cairngorms. After all, we’re home to Santa’s very own helpers – The Cairngorm Reindeer! Christmas Parades and Carols on Christmas Eve take place at various venues and times throughout the National Park, with Santa and the reindeer making special appearances throughout the day and early evening. Pantomimes also fill the calendar (oh yes they do!!) and the Braemar Christmas Pantomime and the MacDonald Aviemore Highland Resort Christmas Pantomime are both great shows for the children. If you’re looking for a festival full of mince pies, carol singers, a pipe band and gluwein then the Torchlight Parade in Grantown-on-Spey is the place to be and if you want to travel in style with a special appearance from the jolly fellow himself, then take the little ones on the Santa Train at Strathspey Steam Railway in Aviemore. The fun doesn’t stop there either… you can run off the Christmas goodies at the Aviemore Santa Run for Disability Snowsport and join hundreds of ‘Santas’ running through the streets of the Highland village. And if you’re not exhausted by the time New Year comes around then join the throngs and see in the Hogmanay Celebrations in one of the most beautiful places in the world… the Cairngorms National Park.
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