The most effective nationwide parks in Scotland – Lonely Planet


Though Scotland has no scarcity of protected areas, from nationwide nature reserves to marine sanctuaries, solely two reserves are designated as nationwide parks – Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms. However what nationwide parks! Each are full of jaw-dropping landscapes and overflowing with out of doors adventures.

From stargazing in one of many UK’s first designated darkish sky parks to mountain climbing among the nation’s finest long-distance routes, listed here are the highest issues to do in Scotland’s nationwide parks.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

Finest for strolling and biking

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs was Scotland’s first nationwide park, created in 2002. The park extends over an enormous space, from Balloch north to Tyndrum and Killin, and from Callander west to the forests of Cowal. The “bonnie banks” and “bonnie braes” of Loch Lomond – a scenic area of hills, lochs and wholesome contemporary air – have lengthy been Glasgow’s favourite rural retreat, whereas the picturesque Trossachs area is a sprawl of thickly forested hills and romantic lochs that’s the definition of untamed highland magnificence.

The most effective walks round Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

There are strolling routes all through the nationwide park, with trails which are appropriate for walkers of all talents and all ranges of expertise. All provide beautiful highland views and limitless miles of peaceable serenity. For a taster, the village of Rowardennan is the place to begin for day ascents of Ben Lomond (974m), a well-liked and comparatively simple (if strenuous) climb. Here is a information to the best-loved long-distance hikes:

  • West Highland Approach (96 miles/154km) A giant stroll for surroundings, following Loch Lomond’s japanese shore.
  • Rob Roy Approach (80 miles/128km) An epic hike of 5 to eight days, heading from Drymen to Pitlochry through the Trossachs.
  • Three Lochs Approach (34 miles/55km) A multi-day loop west from Balloch via Helensburgh and Arrochar earlier than returning to Loch Lomond at Inveruglas.
  • Nice Trossachs Path (30 miles/48km) A effective two- to three-day stroll linking the loch with the Trossachs.

High cycle rides within the Trossachs

Many strolling trails are appropriate for mountain bikes and there are additionally devoted cycle routes. Cyclists can bike the largely traffic-free Clyde and Loch Lomond Cycle Approach that hyperlinks Glasgow to Balloch (20 miles/34km) in at some point. Dedicate a second day to the West Loch Lomond Cycle Path, which continues from Balloch alongside the loch shore to Tarbet (10 miles/16km). Quite a few shorter cycle routes can be found for a leisurely morning or afternoon pedal.

Hikers and bikers can cross Loch Lomond by waterbus in the course of the summer season mountain climbing season © Jaroslav Moravcik / Shutterstock

The way to get to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: Loch Lomond is simply 20 miles (34km) from Glasgow and simply accessible by bus or practice, whereas the Trossachs will be reached from Edinburgh, both straight, or with a change in Stirling.

There are many lodging round Loch Lomond, from resorts aimed toward tour teams to characterful conventional inns and Hostelling Scotland hostels for walkers on the West Highland Approach. The Trossachs space is effectively stocked with high quality B&Bs, with Callander specifically providing a big selection, and Aberfoyle and Killin additionally make good in a single day stops. Campsites e book up quick in summer season so e book forward; wild tenting is permitted.

The pure barrier of Loch Lomond implies that crossing between the western a part of the park and the Trossachs within the east entails an extended detour, both to the far north of the area through Crianlarich, or to the far south through Drymen. Walkers and cyclists can hyperlink the 2 extra simply through the waterbuses that criss-cross Loch Lomond.

There are glorious mountain climbing routes snaking everywhere in the Cairngorms © jacquesvandinteren / Getty Pictures

The Cairngorms

Finest for prime mountain hikes and snowboarding

Cairngorms Nationwide Park is the most important nationwide park within the UK, greater than twice the scale of the Lake District, and it feels suitably epic. This huge expanse of untamed nation stretches from Aviemore within the north to the Angus Glens within the south, and from Dalwhinnie within the west to Ballater and Royal Deeside within the east. The royal household’s vacation house, Balmoral Citadel, is situated inside the nationwide park, and is open to guests from April to August.

The park encompasses the best landmass in Britain – a broad mountain plateau, riven solely by the deep valleys of the Lairig Ghru and Loch Avon, with a median altitude of greater than 1000m. The vary consists of 5 of the six highest summits within the nation, and 55 peaks designated as Munros (summits over 3000ft/914m).

This wild mountain panorama of granite and heather has a sub-Arctic local weather and helps uncommon alpine tundra vegetation and high-altitude hen species, comparable to snow bunting, ptarmigan and dotterel. There’s additionally an opportunity of recognizing Scottish wildcats, pink squirrels and pink deer, and feathered predators comparable to ospreys and golden eagles.

In winter, the Cairngorms are Britain’s prime spot for downhill snowboarding and ski touring © Westend61 / Getty Pictures

The place to ski within the Cairngorms

Cairngorm Mountain is Scotland’s hottest ski space and a well-liked winter vacation spot for each downhill snowboarding and ski touring. The mountain resort gives greater than 30km of managed runs, with 11 floor lifts and ski and snowboard rental on-site, and it sits simply 11 miles (18km) from Aviemore, the park’s foremost hub for lodging, consuming and nightlife. There’s extra family-friendly snowboarding at Glenshee and The Lecht.

Aviemore is straightforward to achieve by automobile, bus or practice, although winter circumstances can have an effect on schedules; shuttle Bus 31 runs from Aviemore as much as the Cairngorm Mountain automobile park. Observe that the snow within the Cairngorms will be variable – with winter temperatures in Scotland getting hotter resulting from local weather change, the resorts typically should spray artifical snow onto the decrease slopes.

The uncovered summits of the Cairngorms name out to skiers in winter and hikers and climbers at any time of yr © iweta0077 / Shutterstock

The Cairngorms’ finest strolling and biking

There are many strolling and biking routes throughout the nationwide park, and bike rent is broadly obtainable at vacationer hubs. Mountaineering is feasible year-round on the uncovered summits of the Cairngorm vary, however winter mountain climbing can entails some critical climate circumstances, and is just for the skilled and well-equipped. Standard long-distance routes embrace:

  • The Speyside Approach (65 miles/105km) A difficult tramp from the Moray coast to the sting of the Grampian Mountains alongside the River Spey.
  • The Deeside Approach (41 miles/66km) A hike alongside a vanished railway line from central Aberdeen into the nationwide park to Ballater.
  • The Cateran Path (64 miles/103km) Certainly one of Scotland’s Nice Trails, traversing Perthshire and the Angus Glens in 5 levels.
  • The Dava Approach (24 miles/39km) A rewarding muti-day trek from Forres in Moray to Grantown-on-Spey through the summit of 1052ft (320m) Dava.

Water actions and darkish skies within the Cairngorms

Southwest of Aviemore, the Spey widens into Loch Insh, house of the Loch Insh Out of doors Centre, which gives canoeing, windsurfing, crusing, mountain biking and fishing. Grantown is one other common spot for anglers chasing sea trout and salmon on the River Spey.

Stargazing and astronomy occasions are held at the least month-to-month from August to April within the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Cairngorms Darkish Sky Park, one of many UK’s first designated darkish sky reserves.

Traditional Scottish Highlands surroundings in Cairngorms Nationwide Park © Milosz Maslanka / Shutterstock

Visiting the Cairngorms: The principle lodging facilities within the Cairngorms are at Aviemore, Newtonmore and Kingussie, Grantown-on-Spey, Ballater and Braemar, however wild tenting is one of the simplest ways to expertise the distant glens and mountains of the nationwide park. Trains and buses run frequently to Aviemore from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness, and native buses join the villages inside the nationwide park.

The principle A9 Perth-Inverness street (and the railway line) run alongside the western and northern boundaries of the nationwide park, whereas the A93 Aberdeen-Braemar street gives the primary entry to the japanese half. The Angus Glens within the south are reached alongside minor roads branching out from the small cities of Kirriemuir and Brechin, to the north of Dundee. The closest airport is at Inverness, an hour’s drive north of Aviemore.

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