Cairngorms National Park - Scotland
Located in the Highlands of Scotland, Cairngorms National Park is named after the Cairngorm mountain range, which in turn is named after the mountain Cairn Gorm which means Blue Hills. There are no public roads in The Cairngorms – all roads either skirt the edge of the range or stop short, providing access only.
The Cairngorms is a large elevated plateau, and is home to four of Scotland’s five highest mountains (there are 52 summits over 900 metres), the tallest of which being Ben Macdui (1309m). Queen Victoria, on reaching the summit in 1859 wrote: "It had a sublime and solemn effect, so wild, so solitary — no one but ourselves and our little party there . . . I had a little whisky and water, as the people declared pure water would be too chilling."
However, Cairngorms National Park is more than just The Cairngorms mountain range – there is also a rich tapestry of unique mountainous areas of wild land, moorlands, forests, rivers, lochs and glens. Cairngorms National Park also has sites listed as of importance to natural heritage that make up 39% of the total land area.
Cairngorms National Park is 3800 sq kilometres in area, nearly twice the size of the Lake District, with rich, heather-covered moorland covering much of the land, its rivers, lochs and marshes are some of the cleanest in Scotland - home are home to large populations of endangered freshwater pearl mussels, as well as salmon, trout, and rare lampreys.
The wild and varied environs of Cairngorms National Park are also home to a variety of animal and bird life. The Scottish Crossbill - the only bird unique to Britain – can be found here, as can Golden Eagle, Osprey, Dotterell, Capercaillie, and Crested Tit. Among animal life, pine martens, red squirrels, badgers, wildcats, water vole, and otters are all integral the Park’s unique ecosystem.
But it’s not just animals that are well represented in and around the rugged hills and mountains – Cairngorms National Park is also home to 17,000 people living an array of diverse lifestyles in towns, villages, hamlets and single houses. Population density is low at 4.2 people per square kilometre. Major conurbations include Aviemore, Ballater, Braemar, Badenoch, Strathspey and Grantown-on-Spey.
Tourism accounts for 80% of Cairngorms’ economy, providing skiing, climbing, fishing, shooting and canoeing opportunities for some of the 500,000 (2001 figures) visitors to the Park every year, with Badenoch and Strathspey attracting most of these.
For more information on walking in Cairngorms try The Cairngorms: Walks, Trails and Scrambles (2005 RRP £12.95) by Ronald Turnbull