Cairngorms National Park

Inspired By The Challenge: Exploring The Cairngorms

There are few things more exciting than setting off on a new adventure to one of the world’s most impressive landscapes. The Cairngorms National Park is one such area, and is home to five of the six tallest peaks in Scotland.

Wild and misty mountains

The tallest of these peaks is Ben Macdhui, which sits at 1,309m above sea level and just 35m lower than the peak of Ben Nevis. While an estimated 100,000 walkers climb Ben Nevis each year, Ben Macdhui is shrouded in a little more mystery. It is a wild mountain that, according to rumours, is haunted by the Big Grey Man – a legendary, yeti-type creature that became famous when Professor Norman Collie reported an encounter at the Cairngorm Club in 1925. Collie was a respected chemistry professor at University College London (UCL), and his experience gave greater authority and publicity to the legend. A short film about the Big Grey Man has recently been made, and the mountain remains one of the eeriest and most unique features of Scotland.

There is something to be said for exploring an area that is a little out of the ordinary, but in the wilderness of the Cairngorms it is better not to go it alone. The outdoor centre at Gulabin provides the opportunity for organised, overnight expeditions to take the stress and worry out of organising your own trip. The qualified instructors will also be able to tell you more than any walking book can. IgluSki’s collection of mountaineering videos will provide you with all the inspiration you need before you set off on your journey, and as you reach the snowy peak of Ben Macdhui you can think of Edmund Hillary’s Everest expedition, and let his success encourage you onwards. In an interview about his Everest success shown on one of the videos, Hillary states that “our motivation was that it was a big challenge”, and so let that be your mantra as you attempt the high peaks of the Cairngorms.

Munro’s mountains

Alongside Ben Macdhui lie the peaks of Braeriach (at 1,296m), Cairn Toul (at 1,291m), Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (at 1,258m) and Cairn Gorm itself (at 1,245m). In the winter months, Cairn Gorm is a popular spot for skiing and has gained popularity since the resort was opened in 1960. Cairn Toul is an excellent mountain to explore by foot, particularly as the walk can be extended to visit other mountains as well. Walk Highlands suggests a ‘magnificent walk‘ that takes you from Cairn Toul to neighbouring Braeriach, either on a long day’s walk in the summer or over two days. The walk allows the explorer to witness the summits of The Devil’s Point and Sgòr an Lochain Uaine in addition to Cairn Toul and Braeriach.

These peaks of the Cairngorms all qualify as Munro Mountains. Visitors to the area will quickly become acquainted with the term that refers to any Scottish mountain that has a height exceeding 914.4m. Sir Hugh Munro collated the list himself in 1891 and it has since been updated, and many walkers have taken the challenge upon themselves to reach the top of every Munro. With five of the highest peaks in Scotland, what better place is there to start the challenge than the Cairngorms National Park?

Many thanks to Laura Chapman for providing us with this text.