The Cairngorms National Park at 1467 square miles or 9390 acres (3800 sq km) is the largest national park in the UK, covering one eighth of Scotlandís land area. The granite mountain range sits between the Spey valley and Braemar in the central highlands.
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A pass, the Lairig Ghru, runs through the granite massif from north to south by way of Deeside and Speyside. At the top of the pass is the source of the river Dee.
The park is home to four of the five highest mountains in Scotland: the main ones being Ben Macdhui (4296 ft), Braeriach (4248 ft), Cairn Toul (4241 ft) and Cairngorm (4084 ft).
One fourth of the native woodland of Scotland lies in the park. Remnants of native pine forests are located in the valleys of the Dee and Spey rivers. Forestry is practiced in the woods.
The higher regions are cold and windswept producing an arctic-alpine habitat. Ptarmigan and snow bunting live here in the snowy landscape. Golden eagle and greenshank like the high land, too. Lichen, heather, and moss campion are typical of the vegetation of this climate.
A woodland grouse, the capercaillie, is one of the many endangered species that live in the park. Black grouse live on the edge of the woodlands. Red grouse are found in the heather moorland.
Lochs, rivers, fens, bogs and burns make up the wetlands of the park. In the lochs are Arctic char. Breeding wading birds, over wintering geese, whooper swans and golden-eye duck inhabit the straths.
Rare plants live in the Cairngorms. The brook saxifrage, alpine pearlwort and alpine hareís-foot sedge like the corries. Mosses are found in the bogs.
The folk museums at Newtonmore, Kingussie and Glen Esk give insight into the culture of the area, strong in its Gaelic background.
This is wild country with almost all of the Cairngorm park not accessible by car. Roads run along the edge only except for the minor roads to Glen Feshie, the Cairngorm ski area, the road from Braemar to Allanaquoich and the highway continuing on to Crathie.
The western and northern slopes of Cairngorm offer skiing. At Aviemore is a winter sports centre catering to year round enthusiasts of the outdoors. Nearby Loch-an-Eilean is a popular destination. Near Aviemore is Coylum Bridge, the beginning of a forestry road leading into the Cairngorms and Loch Morlich. Kingussie also serves as a holiday centre. Loch Morlich is a base for water sports.
The Cairngorms Partnership
14 The Square
Morayshire, PH26 3HG
Tel. 01479 873535
Website: Cairngorms National Park
Photos courtesy National Trust for Scotland and Steve Hayes.