I remember them well from my childhood days – wrapped up in a scratchy scarf, welly boots tugged onto my feet and a Cadbury’s chocolate éclair stuffed into my pocket for the journey – whatever the weather I loved heading out on walks to explore the countryside. The only problem with those walks was that- living in the Midlands – the space, views and abundance of nature I craved (thanks to Terry Nutkins and his pals) was not there. So when I was old enough I moved here – to the Cairngorms National Park. How’s that for space, views and as much wildlife as you can shake a stick at (only a phrase, please don’t literally do this kids!)?
So, with my comfy walking boots on my feet and my obligatory Cadbury’s chocolate éclair in my pocket (ok maybe a family size bag!) What’s On set out in search of some of the best family walks around the Cairngorms National Park. Get out there and explore this Autumn!
Bellabeg Forest Walk, Strathdon 1.75 miles/3km – 1 hour
This is a really pretty walk with a gentle climb through the trees, which allows you to access a host of stunning views across Donside and the picturesque village of Bellabeg. As you start out on the walk you follow the sign for “Lost” (don’t worry – it’s not a forewarning!) It is a rather steep initial climb, but the ground underfoot in not challenging.
This walk could be combined with a visit to The Lost Gallery or an exploration of the Doune of Invernochty, the large mound where a castle once stood.
Loch Brandy, Glen Clova 3.25 miles/5.5km – 2.5 hours
Loch Brandy is a superb example of a mountain Corrie. Backed by craggy slopes and cradling a perfect loch it is a great place to spend a few hours. The walk has the benefit of a very well constructed path making this a good short, and relatively easy, hill walk.
Once again you get excellent views, but this time they stretch across Glen Clova and the Eastern Grampians to Lochnagar and Mount Keen. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for mountain hare, red deer, peregrine falcon, raven, buzzard and golden eagle as wildlife is in abundance.
Uath Lochans, Feshiebridge 3 miles/5km – 3 hours
This is one of my favourite family walks as what’s great is that you don’t need any special footwear to enjoy it. The Uath Lochans are real gems – like a diamond necklace amongst the pine trees – and a great place to take in the wonder of the Cairngorms National Park.
You can break this walk into three mini walks depending on the time you have available, taking in views of Glen Feshie, the Cairngorm Mountains and exploring the lochans themselves. Lily pads burst into life during July, but the lochans look stunning throughout the year.
Battle of Glenlivet Path, Tomintoul 4 miles/6.5km – 2 hours
A perfect walk for anyone wanting a bit of history on a hike! The Battle of Glenlivet Path is a well-sheltered route, which gives some wonderful views of the Glenlivet area and provides access to the site of the Battle of Glenlivet, which took place in 1594. You can wander along the path where a force of about 2000 local men routed 10,000 highlanders in a dramatic victory.
In addition, you may even be fortunate enough to hear the piping call of a well disguised golden plover in the lichen rich heather and see herds of red deer browsing on the steep slopes of the local hills.
Wildcat Trail, Newtonmore 6.75 miles/10km – 3.5 hours
This wonderful way-marked trail, which encircles the village, takes in the banks of the River Spey, open heather moorland, wooded glens and burbling streams.
Easy and clear way marked trails take you through a site of a Pictish stone circle and along the side of Allt Laraidh falls. It’s very rare that you will come across a real wildcat, but keep your eyes peeled for some of the 50 Scottish wildcat models that have been placed on the trails and around the village. You can even get a Wildcat Experience Trackpack which allows you to mark you ‘found cats” on a map and receive a certificate or prize if you find 25 or more. A great fun activity for all the family and kids love it!
Glen Banvie Trail – 9miles/14km – 4.5 hours
This is a tad longer than the other featured walks, but the good thing is there are no hills just a gentle rise from Blair Atholl village. From birds, to butterflies, ruined villages, red deer rubbings on trees and more, the walk has it all as you pass through the farm and moor land of Atholl Estate.
You will also see the ruins of Bail an t’Sepail (Chapel Town) leading into Baluain Wood and if you take a slight detour you will find the Falls of Bruar, immortalized in a poem by Robert Burns in 1787, ‘The Humble Petition of Bruar Water to the Noble Duke of Atholl’.
There are so many more walks to chose from that we haven’t had the chance to cover in this feature – Loch An Eilein, Seven Bridge and Knock Tower and Glenmulliach Forest the list goes on! So check out www.visitcairngorms.com for more ideas and full descriptions of each walk featured in this article.
The Tomintoul and Glenlivet Walking Festival runs 8th-12th September and Blairgowrie and East Perthshire Walking Festival the 15th-18th September featuring some great walks in the Cairngorms National Park.
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