Walk among reindeer in Scotland’s National Park, the haunt of golden eagles and northern lights.
Scotland’s pristine National Park, the Cairngorms, have the highest, rugged mountain range in Britain rising to 4,296 feet. This country is heaven for walkers, skiers, rock climbing, nature lovers, and hiking. A number of species of rare birds are attracted to the thriving, unusual alpine flora.
Rock-climbers and skiers particularly love the challenge of the Cairngorms. Its craggy sides attract climbers from around the world—they practice at the Cairngorms before trips to the Himalayas. This was also the first ski center in Britain, with 28+ ski runs. It’s a popular recreation area for many reasons, despite (or because of) its remote location.
During the summer a funicular railway climbs Cairngorm. The views over the Spey Valley are spectacular. There’s also a steam railway, dating from 1863, that runs from Aviemore and Broomhila. This is a great way to get up-close to nature if you’re not into the thrills-and-chills of mountain sports! Also, many estates in the valley supplement their income by introducing visitors to the Highlands.
See Britain’s only herd of reindeer and walk among them. The Cairngorm Reindeer Center is happy to take you to these lovely animals—seeing them feels like a miracle. In fact, the real wonder of this area for many people is the wildlife and plants that cannot be seen anywhere else. (At least not with such ease!) With mixed woodlands at the base, and the summit forming a sub-polar plateau, the Cairngorms present a huge variety of flora. Ancient Caledonian pines, once common in the area, still survive in Abernathy Forest. Fragile and flourishing, Arctic flowers thrive in the heights.
Run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the Highland National Park is a sanctuary for the Scottish wildcat, which is in danger of becoming extinct. Other native animals include red deer, pine martens, otters, red squirrels, and red and black grouse. There are also European bison, European elk, lynx and wild boar, as well as animals from other mountainous areas of the world, including yaks and red pandas. Eagles soar above them all.
Take a drive through the Kincraig Highland Park Wildlife Park. You’ll spot bison alongside bears, wolves, and wild boar. These animals were all common, once, in the Highlands. The Rothiemurchus Estate Highland Cattle are different than any cattle you’ve ever seen. They look like a combination long-horned steer, buffalo, and shaggy dog. This is definitely camera time! The Loch Garten Nature Preserve is where Ospreys live and thrive. It was established in 1959 to protect the first pair seen in Britain for 50 years haven. You’re in wondrous and wild territory here, and Aviemore is a good base. With hotels, a spa, and a few nice shops, it’s part of the nature around it–no glitz.
This area is a fine place to see ribbon lakes, animals that roamed the earth long ago, walk among the reindeer, and hike hills that are the heart, history and soul of the Highlands.