Cairngorms, Scottish Highlands

Cairngorms, Scottish Highlands

Last weekend my Lithuanian and I set off for the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands. We hadn’t planned a route but knew that wherever we went we had to end up in Carrbridge for the night where we’d booked a B&B. I was also adamant to visit Ardverikie Estate in Perthshire. Before coming to Scotland in 2006, I was a great fan of BBC’s “Monarch of the Glen”. In fact most of what I knew about the country was based on what I’d seen on the telly! So it felt right to pay homage to the show.

We set off on Saturday morning and little did we know that a 350 mile journey through the Cairngorms lay ahead of us. It was just so very tempting to see as many places as possible. Thanks to Scotland’s excellent road sign system this was made very easy.

The Perthshire Tourist Route lets you avoid the boring A9 to Inverness. It’s a much more scenic route and takes in Aberfeldy and Crieff. At this time of year the area’s hills are dotted with white as all the sheep are out and have given birth to hundreds of wee lambs. The bunnies and pheasants are out in their dozens too.

Ardverikie Estate - building bridges

Pitlochry is where the scenic route joins the A9 once again. Unwilling to stay on the main road for a long time, we veered off on to the A889 and later the A86 that lead us to the aforementioned Ardverikie Estate. Not knowing how far the house was from the estate entrance we thought we’d walk it… This also involved building our very own, unstable bridge across a shallow but freezing river. But with a bit of elbow grease we made it across. The walk seemed to go on forever. At one point we both looked at each other and concluded it was time to make our way back. I made do with seeing the castle from afar and maybe one day I’ll make the epic trek to see it in its full glory.

As we drove along the A86 towards Newtonmore we stopped by the beautiful waterfall at the side of the road. It was teeming with fellow explorers all making use of the bank holiday weekend.

Carrbridge, Cairngorms

Soon after we arrived at our final destination for the day – Carrbridge. Our hostess Jane welcomed us into her lovely home where she’s set up the Mellon Patch B&B and cooks a wicked English breakfast (yep, no haggis or black pudd).The village is known for its ancient bridge and adventure park but we only visited the former. It’s just a ten minute drive away from Aviemore so that’s where we decided to go for dinner.

As one of Scotland’s biggest tourism towns, Aviemore’s high street is lined with bars, restaurants and even an Aussie pub. We opted for the local Chinese take away as it was the only place where we wouldn’t have had to wait for ages to get a meal! It seemed like everyone was out and about enjoying the relatively warm weather and occasional rays of sunshine.

Jane likes to cook early so we were out and about by 10am on Sunday morning. After a brief tour of Carrbridge we set off along the A938 tourist route towards Braemar and Balmoral. We could see the peaks of the Cairngorms covered in fresh snow. It was a chilly morning. Our first stop was the Grantown-on-Spey farmers’ market that was sadly quite disappointing. Fortunately, it didn’t dent our enthusiasm and we continued our epic drive stopping off at various places of interest along the way.

Balmoral royal estate

After a while we ended up just outside Balmoral, the royal estate. It seemed a shame not to see it as we were so close so we donated £9 each to the cause and went on a tour of the estate. Although “Monarch of the Glen” taught me a lot about how difficult it is to run an estate, it was interesting to see it in real life too. From growing vegetables for the royals to organising hunting trips to replacing soft furnishings, everything is done by a group of hardworking locals who live and breathe the estate. An excellent place to visit indeed and one I would highly recommend.

With that our journey almost came to an end. It was late and so we had to make a somewhat hasty return to Stirling so my Lithuanian could finish his assignment. The mountains along the way were spectacular and, as we were lucky enough to witness are home to many grazing deer.

Although I loved every minute of the trip, I didn’t quite have time to process everything as we crammed so much into two days. If you’re fortunate enough to have more than 2 free days on your hands by all means extend your trip to the Cairngorms. The Highlands are a whole new world! And one that I now love even more.

Let me know of any sights I should include in my next trip whenever that may be. We’re planning to take bikes next time but for that I need to fit in a fair few gym sessions first…

– Red

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