Spending a night under the stars on an adventure with your friends or family is the stuff of magical childhood (and adulthood!) memories.
The Cairngorms offers some of the best wild camping spots in the world, due to Scotland’s progressive access laws, which mean you are allowed to wild camp responsibly on most unenclosed land. With the temperatures at their highest, summer is the perfect time to pick an idyllic location, from hill tops to loch sides to bothies.
“The Cairngorms is an incredible place to wild camp and be in nature, with their vast sense of wilderness. I came here 17 years ago to work in fisheries but loved being out in the mountains so much that I retrained in order to be able to take groups into the hills,” says James Orpwood, founder of James Orpwood Mountaineering.
Nevertheless, although it’s summer, even July can be chilly here, especially at night, and so it’s vital that you are well prepared for all weather and eventualities.
Top wild camping tips:
• Do not light a fire; an out of control fire would be devastating for the Park’s ancient forests and protected areas. Use a camping stove instead.
• Check the weather before you leave, especially if heading into the hills. But bear in mind that, in the Cairngorms, four seasons in one day is common, so ensure you have enough spare clothes for every eventuality. Especially a change of socks – there’s nothing worse than waking up and having to put on soggy socks!
• Try and pick a calm, cloud-free night to wild camp as star gazing adds a magical touch to the experience, not to mention makes navigation easier
• If you’re less experienced, stick to a low level spot around the forest line
• If you’re camping with kids, pick an easily accessible spot. There are many gorgeous glens in the Cairngorms a short walk or cycle ride from a car park
• Use a good tent and sleeping bag
• Don’t forget your midgey spray, torch and first aid kit
• If you go alone, tell someone where you are going
• ensure your mobile is fully charged phone
• be careful not to disturb deer stalking or grouse shooting (season starts in August for the latter)
Walking at night time is a different ball game to daylight hours and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. If you’re not feeling confident, or lack basic necessary skills like navigation, a good half-way house experience would be camping in a location that has a sense of being in the wilderness.
For example, the Glenmore Caravan and Camping site. This is nestled in the pine forest with mountain views and just next to the majestic Loch Morlich. Or, you could camp at the Lazy Duck in Nethybridge, which has room for 4 tents is a peaceful plot in the lap of nature, with only basic but charming facilities, such as a simple wooden shelter to eat in and a bucket shower.
If you are sure you want the complete wild camping experience, James suggests the area around Derry Lodge, near the Linn of Dee on the Braemar side of the Park, is ideal because it’s a beautiful, secluded spot but only 3 miles from the car park.
Another good option for newbies is camping near an accessible bothy, see this blog for more information.
More experienced wild campers will probably want more wilderness, more height and less people.
Here are some top spots to pitch up:
• Ben Avon
If you want to do a more challenging adventure but feel slightly out of your comfort zone, then there are many great guiding companies in the Cairngorms which run wild camping trips.
For instance, Cairngorms Treks offers a wide range of different multi-day treks including one that encompasses 12 Munroes in 3 days, one that focuses on wellbeing, one inspired by the writings of Nan Shepherd and another which includes yoga.
Whatever adventure you choose, make sure you abide by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and leave no trace of your visit: take away all your litter, leave your tent pitch as if you’d never been there and do not cause any pollution. Keep the Cairngorms as clean and beautiful as you found them.
For more information, see www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/camping. For more walking tips and best practice guidelines, see: www.mountaineering.scot/activities/hillwalking.
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