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All things hiking Events in the Cairngorms Explaining Scotland News

5 hiking breaks in the Cairngorms

using the sleeper service:

Sleeper discount available with Scot Mountain Holidays (see below for details) 

There’s a lifetime of walking opportunities here in the Cairngorms National park, unfortunately most of us don’t have a lifetime to explore all those possibilities, and we have to squeeze in the chances to visit the Highlands into our busy lifestyles. The sleeper service from London to Aviemore makes the most of the limited time windows you might have. If you then combine the sleeper with an organised trip, you’ll not waste a minute.

Autumn hiking

Hiking in the autumn (Cairngorms, Highlands)

Advantages of the sleeper service

Leave London after a full day’s work (train departs about 9pm) and wake up in the mountains. Then at the end of your trip, get in a full day’s walk/ride/challenge (and even have time to shower) before departing from the Highlands and waking up back in the Big Smoke ready for a full day at work.

Organised hiking opportunties

Make even more of the limited time you have available by joining an organised group or booking a local guide. The guide/tour company will take on the responsibility for organising the logistics of your trip leaving you free to concentrate on the hiking.

Some tour companies (as opposed to individual guides) will offer fully inclusive packages where they organise the accommodation, the transport, the meals and the guiding, so all you have to do is pack your hiking gear and book your train ticket.

Red deer in the Cairngorms

Monarch of the Glens (Cairngorms)

Autumn hiking Highlands:

Try one of these organised hiking packages this autumn and spring:

Mountains and Malts:

Linking 2 of Scotland’s iconic themes – whisky and walking – this tour is a must for any active would-be whisky connoisseur. We’ll be walking in whisky country following the complete whisky story including a visit to the Speyside Cooperage (where the whisky barrels are formed), touring a distillery and finally going behind the scenes at the Whisky Castle in Tomintoul (an independent whisky shop, stocking unusual and one-off Scotch malt whiskies)

Full details and booking links here.

Malt Whisky

Sampling Scotland’s top export

Cairngorm 4000ers:

A challenging mountain adventure conquering all 5 of the Cairngorm peaks over 4000ft. Also attempted by Challenge Sophie (though her time was limited so they didn’t master all the peaks).

Full details and booking links here.

Gentle Giants

A weekend of high peak walking in the Cairngorms. We’ll head out to master Cairngorm and Ben Macdui, taking routes at the brink for the most amazing views and sunset colours (we hope).

Full details and booking links here.

Wild scenery of Scotland

Glorious wild scenery for the Cairngorms National Park

Spirit of the Cairngorms

Experience all the habitats of the Cairngorms from the ancient Caledonian pine forests at the foot of the mountain massif, rich in foraging opportunities and home to roe deer and the rare Capercaillie and crested tits; to the moorland where red grouse roam and finally explore the high mountain massif where if you’re lucky you’ll encounter reindeer and ptarmigan, who only live at altitudes above 800m.

Full details and booking links here.

Hiking in Scotland

Hiking through the varied habitats of the Cairngorms

Wild Cairngorms

Spring Watch and Autumn Watch are very well-known wildlife programmes on BBC television and always contain a focus on wildlife here in the Cairngorms National Park. 3 out of 5 of the Big Five (Golden Eagle, Red Deer and Red Squirrel) make their home here and for good measure you can also find ptarmigan, Capercaillie, crested tit and pine marten. All in all, if you’re keen on encountering the wild beasties in their natural habitats, you’ll love the hikes we’ve put together here.

Full details and booking links here.

Sleeper special

If you do decide to take advantage of the less busy autumn period to head up to the Highlands, now you can take advantage of the special sleeper discount we have added to the above trips. (Not available over bank holiday weekends.)

Take the sleeper to Aviemore and back and save £60 per person!!

Autumn hiking Highlands

Autumn Sunset in the Cairngorms

When to come to the Cairngorms?

You may not have much freedom of choice when it comes to picking the dates for your holiday. However, if you are retired, or if you have a flexible job, or if you don’t have any kids – you may be able to choose freely. We’ve lived in the Cairngorms for nearly 20 years now. Over the last 20 years, we’ve noticed highlights in every season. We’ve picked a few out for you, which might help you decide when to come and visit.

Jan & Feb

February is perceived to be the best of all the winter months to come to the Cairngorms. This perception is helped by the fact that the schools have a break in mid-February. Many families utilise this time to go on a ski holiday. In Scotland, February is not always the best time to catch the snow conditions. There is usually skiing available. Some years conditions can be pretty thin in February but March and April have phenomenal snow cover. January & February can also be affected by winter storms bringing winds well in excess of 100 mph. However, when the weather does play ball, you can have the most glorious winter day out with views of over 50 miles in crystal clear air.

If you do plan to visit the area with your family during the half-term weeks in February, we would strongly advise that you prebook your accommodation

winter munros

Typical Cairngorm scenery in the snow

If you think it would be advisable to join a guide at this time of year, check out these options:

Classic Winter Cairngorms – a guided winter walking holiday

5 day winter skills course – to improve your own techniques and safety in the hills


It’s definitely still winter in March but the daylight hours have already extended. You don’t have to make an early retreat from your hike, but neither do you have to rise unsociably early. In mid-winter, early rising is necessary to get to the start of your route so that you can finish it before dark.

It’s often a good time to go out for a Snow Hole Expedition as the snow cover will have accumulated significantly at this point, most seasons. We do run other winter expeditions between January and March. These expeditions require a high level of fitness. They are the most strenuous and rewarding of the trips we do.

Trips include: The Cairngorm 4000ers in winter, the Southern Cairngorms Winter Odyssey, Winter Affric Shangri-La, Loch Nevis Winter Expedition, Knoydart Winter Walking. For full details contact us.

winter mountain challenge

Climbing up to the summit of Cairngorm


April & May

Prime time for birdwatchers as you may have seen on BBC Springwatch. This is when the Ospreys return to Loch Garten along with the beginning of the Spring migrations for most of our summer visitors. It’s also your best opportunity to see a Capercaillie or Black Grouse lec. The RSPB open up the Osprey hide at Loch Garten at 5.30am to help keen birdwatchers see the Capercaillie.

April and May can be quite cold months here. It is still common to have snow fall down to village level in April. Fortunately the sun is that bit stronger than mid winter. So when you’re in a sunny spot it will feel pretty warm. It’s a great time to be out in the hills as the air is often clear, the daylight hours are a wee bit longer and the sun can be out for long periods Watch out for the April showers which often fall as snow or sleet rather than rain.

April/Easter often mark the start of the tour season here in the Highlands. Pre-booking for accommodation, especially during the school Easter holidays is highly recommended.

When the weather is right in April, you can get very warm when out hiking in the Cairngorms.

Snow patches remaining on the high hills can mean that sun burn is a serious risk due to the reflection of sunlight on the snow.

The weather can change incredibly in April – you always need to be prepared for any season. It can go from this:

To this within 24 hours:

when to come to the Cairngorms

Sometimes a late snowfall can catch you out

Activity options:

April is generally when the caravans start to visit the area. The campsites open up again. There are more possibilities to get outdoors without worrying about too much snow everywhere.

We’re going to run our first Outlander Adventure Experience in April. How about it? A chance to get out in the outdoors – try a piece of the experience Clare and Jamie would have lived here in the Highlands.

You’re also more likely to be able to find tourist sites open once April starts. You can visit places like:

– all without travelling more than 1hr from Fraoch Lodge.


This is a fantastic time for the wildflowers and also a good time to spot birds such as eagles and Scottish crossbills. We’ve had families of crossbills visiting the garden in June. It’s not quite such a good time for going to the wildlife hide to spot the nocturnal night life as dusk is so late in the day, if it arrives at all!

Weather can be variable in June. It has been known to snow on the high mountain tops. Some people have skied on Cairngorm on mid-summer’s day – more for publicity than good quality skiing though.

when to come to the Cairngorms

Up above in the northern corries of the Cairngorms

Top tip:

Don’t forget June 21st is mid-summer’s day – in the Highlands, including the Cairngorms, this means the sun hardly sets. June is a great time to get all those Munros with long walk-ins done. Watch our for the June Monsoon though.


July & August

We have in the past couple of years had glorious weather in July. We often have a week of clear skies and warm weather with temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s. It is by no means guaranteed. The better weather is usually earlier in the month, before most of the English schools are out for their holidays.

August is a great month to catch the Highland Games but is the busiest for all accommodation businesses across the Highlands. Pre-booking is almost essential at this time of year unless you want to be trawling round the country at 9pm still looking for beds. August can also be very showery with the highest chance of thunderstorms

Bonus: glorious colours of the heather out in full bloom turning the hills purple.

Top tip: Most of our local Highland Games take place between mid- July and mid-August. Check the dates: Abernethy Highland Games (2nd Saturday in August), Newtonmore Highland Games (1st Saturday in August) etc and make sure if your visit coincides with the Games that you pre-book your accommodation.

Highland Explorer

Mass pipe bands in genuine Scottish tradition at the Highland Games



Some of our most reliable warm, dry weather happens in September. In addition, the end of the Highland Games season can be experienced by attending the Braemar Gathering at the beginning of the month.

Some of the best edible mushrooms start to appear in September. If you’re not familiar with the area, join one of the guided ranger walks with an expert to start to get your eye in. Make sure you follow the mushroom picking code.

Events to watch out for:

Blairgowrie Walking Festival

Cairngorm Adventure Triathlon

Grantown Try Tri

Glenmore 24 Trail Race

Loch Insh Highland Splash-In – first waterplane event to be organised by the model flying club in Scotland, now on the 31st consecutive event.


Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland?

Nature’s bounty: handpicked chanterelles mushrooms



Check out the colours and light in October. It is the perfect time for a photography extravaganza.

November and December

Quieter times and shorter days but with the right weather conditions. It is the perfect time to get those early morning and later evening quality light shots with a touch of winter, if the first of the snow showers have arrived.


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