We’re very lucky where we live in Scotland to be less than two hours’ drive from one of the most amazing natural areas of beauty in the central belt – the Cairngorms National Park. And we just love picnicking in the Cairngorms!
The park takes up over 4000 square km of beautiful countryside, and in the winter is a bustling and popular ski resort! It’s also a short drive away from Aviemore, one of our absolute favourite towns to go and visit – but more on that in a later article!
Here are some of our favourite places to picnic, or stop off for a quick snack and leg-stretch, in the area!
Loch Morlich is simply stunning, and has one of the best settings of any loch in the country. It’s surrounded by forests and fringed by beaches, so it’s easy to find a picnic spot even when it’s busy, and still not feel crowded!
If you can brave a picnic on the cooler days you can also enjoy the stunning backdrop of the snow-topped peaks of the northern Cairngorms. The circuit of the loch is a very popular walk, and at just under four miles on straightforward terrain is very do-able with a buggy, or with older kids.
Loch an Eilein
This was voted Britain’s Best Picnic Spot some years ago! Loch an Eilein is a great location for outdoor eating, with its island castle ruins – the kids will love it!
The perfect setting for after-lunch games of knights and princesses, there are a great selection of marked, easy-going walks around the loch. Keep your eye out for the local wildlife – you might even see a red squirrel!
Nestled at the top of Glen Clova, Glen Doll is a great location for a drive-to picnic. There’s something for everyone!
Picnic beside the South Esk burn, or choose from six scenic trails to explore. You could also head for the natural amphitheatre atthe National Nature Reserve of Corrie Fee.
If you don’t feel like venturing far there are plenty of picnic tables and spots for blankets set up along the riverside, conveniently close to the car park. The nearby Ranger Base provides information about the landscape and wildlife – and has the added bonus (especially when you’re travelling with children!) of toilets.
Blair Castle stands in spectacular grounds near the quaint village of Blair Atholl. It’s the ancestral home of the Clan Murray, and is an impressive sight!
The entrance fee of £7.70 for adults and £3.50 for children to access the castle’s extensive gardens is really good value as there’s so much to do. You can explore the walled garden (complete with a life-size statue of Hercules!), play in the woodland children’s adventure playground, and investigate the gothic folly and the sculpture trail. There are plenty of spots for settling down for a bit of lunch too.
The castle also hosts the famous Blair Castle International Horse Trials every August – this is a fantastic family day out!
Abernethy Nature Reserve
Wild birds (in particular Ospreys) are the star attraction of a picnic lunch at Abernethy National Nature Reserve – if you’re lucky enough to spot them that is…
The reserve is home of the Loch Garten ospreys, as well as dragonflies, red squirrels and several other species of rare birds. The on-site RSPB’s Osprey Centre has toilets, baby changing facilities and refreshments – and there are plenty of great picnic spots too. Bring your binoculars!
The Glen Tilt Trail begins in the car park, is a ten-mile walk following the impressive River Tilt – but you don’t need to go all the way to find a picnic spot! It is a lovely walk though, and we used to love walking with Emily when she was still in her Mountain Buggy.
There are great picnic places everywhere – again this is somewhere where you won’t feel cramped and can enjoy some tranquility! Just throw down your picnic blanket and enjoy the gorgeous views.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas for picnicking in the Cairngorms – If you live within driving distance or are planning a trip this way then I’d heartily recommend it!