The largest national park in the UK, the Cairngorms is world renowned. From snow sports, hill walking and mountain biking to spectacular scenery and wildlife watching, the Cairngorms is a haven for adventurers, photographers, animal lovers and, well, everyone really!
As you travel through the Cairngorms you’ll see castles aplenty, including Drumin, Blairfindy and Corgarff, fascinating villages rich in history and beautiful viewpoints between Glenlivet, Scalan, Tomintoul, the Lecht and Cock Bridge.
Situated between the Ladder and Cromdale Hills, and the Rivers Avon and Livet, Glenlivet covers 23,000 hectares of woodland and moorland and parts of Cairngorms National Park. Not only is it a place of stunning natural beauty, it is steeped in history and intriguing tales. The area’s complex geological past has shaped the Cairngorms into a landscape that looks significantly different to the rest of Scotland and the presence of limestone, which is unusual for the Highlands of Scotland, has created a landscape of lush greenery.
Created by a series of volcanic eruptions around 500 million years ago, the Scottish Highlands is home to some of the oldest rock formations in the world. Over time, glens were carved out of the granite and the River Livet, which means ‘smooth-flowing one’ in Gaelic, softened the granite’s edges. Glenlivet’s isolated location meant illicit whisky production could go on undisturbed by excisemen and the longer distilling time meant a smoother whisky. To this day, The Glenlivet whisky is renowned for its smoothness.
The Glenlivet distillery is built close to Josie’s well natural spring, with snow and rain water travelling through mineral-rich layers of limestone and granite. The location of The Glenlivet distillery with its abundance of natural resources creates a unique whisky, unlike others in the country.
Glenlivet’s isolated location meant it was not only perfect for secret whisky production but for the secret education of priests. In 1717, a small community was set up for their training. In Scalan today, you can still see this old college, or take the Scalan Heritage Trail to enjoy breath-taking views of the Braes of Glenlivet and the Ladder Hills.
From Glenlivet, make the ascent to Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands. This charming 18th century village has many attractions, including a museum, art galleries, malt whisky shop and an adventure playground.
The road between Tomintoul and Cock Bridge is one of the highest main roads in the UK, rising to 2,700 feet (775m) and taking you to the Lecht. Sitting on the eastern side of the Cairngorms, the Lecht offers a host of year-round activities, notably its fantastic ski and snowboarding facilities at Lecht 2090. And you’re not limited to winter activities at the Lecht as it also has great mountain bike trails.
Continue along the North East 250 to Cock Bridge on the road that is known as one of the most beautiful in Scotland – but be careful in winter though, as it is also notoriously one of the first roads in Scotland to be blocked by snow.
Along this sector of the route you’ll be spoiled for choice for beautiful spots to stop and admire the view. Head to The Watchers and the Still viewpoint, which have been specially created to enhance the spectacular surroundings – just make sure you have your camera ready!