Five things you wouldn’t expect to find in the Cairngorms National Park
22 August 2019
Twice the size of the Lake District, bigger than the whole of Luxembourg and the largest National Park in the UK - the Cairngorms National Park has plenty for history buffs and outdoor adventurers alike. It’s home to four of the five largest mountains in the UK, a luxury hotel which is sweeping up all the awards including ‘Best Boutique Break’ in the National Geographic Big Sleep Awards 2019, numerous castles including the Royal Family’s Scottish residence and the most jaw-dropping landscapes you can imagine.
But what about the lesser known attractions in the Cairngorms National Park? Check out our top picks for the best hidden gems in the Cairngorms National Park that you’ll want to visit on your trip to Aberdeenshire:
1. A glacial pothole
When you think of standing on a glacier you probably imagine yourself being in Antarctica or Alaska. But did you know that you can go inside a glacial pothole in Aberdeenshire? The Burn o’Vat in the Muir of Dinnet was covered by a glacial ice sheet around 16,000 years ago which evolved into the visitor attraction you can visit today. Legend has it that Rob Roy Macgregor, a notorious Scottish outlaw, hid in the cave behind the waterfall in the vat however it was actually used by Patrick Gilroy Macgregor, another outlaw who was potentially related to Rob Roy.
2. A medieval punch bowl
Another natural wonder of the world - over thousands of years the Linn of Quoich in Mar Lodge Estate has carved a natural hole in the rock known today as the ‘Earl of Mar’s punchbowl’. Legend has it that the Earl of Mar poured a strong drink into the punch bowl which was then used to toast the Jacobite cause in 1715.
3. Scottish pyramids
It’s not everyday that you stumble across pyramids in the vast Scottish countryside but that’s exactly what you’ll find on the Balmoral Estate. There are 11 stone cairns across the Estate (and one on Birkhall Estate too) to commemorate members of the British Royal family. The most prolific cairn is Prince Albert’s cairn, pictured below. The full route takes roughly three hours but the walk straight to Prince Albert’s cairn is considerably less.
4. A tiny museum
As your driving along the A93 you’ll spy an AA Box situated on the south kerb near Cambus O’May near Ballater. You might not realise but this is no ordinary AA Box. This is a mini museum on motoring history. It was restored by five passionate local residents in 2009. It’s completely free to check out but just make sure to close the door securely after your visit.
5. A “would-be” train station
As though it had appeared from a Wes Anderson film, the bright colour palette of the Great North of Scotland Railway House in Braemar contrasts with the traditional Scottish architecture that the rest of the village showcases. This building was originally built to be the last stop of the Deeside Railway Line that would run from Aberdeen to Braemar however the railway line never quite made it as Queen Victoria didn’t want her privacy to be invaded whilst staying at Balmoral Castle.
For more inspiration on where to visit in the Cairngorms National Park in Aberdeenshire click here.