IN the first of a new series highlighting some of Scotland’s top holiday destinations, scotsman.com packs its skiing gear and hikes up to the Cairngorms
The snowfall of the last few days has been something of an inconvenience for many commuters across the UK, but it’s the lifebloodof the Cairngorms mountain range, situated near Aviemore. In then winter months (Dec-Apr), the Cairngorms is one of Scotland’s most popular snowsports destinations, but it has much more to offer. The region offers unparalleled views of the Highlands, whether you are on the slopes, dining in the UK’s highest restaurant, or aboard the mountain railway. Nature lovers will find plenty of wildlife to admire, and in summer months the Cairngorms National Park offers a whole new perspective on the area as the mountain sheds its white coat.
Things to do
Going to the Cairngorms without trying the slopes would be a great shame: if you’re a beginner, you can pre-book lessons in either groups or one-on-one with professional instructors. Otherwise, if you’re handy with a pair of skiis but are unfamiliar with the terrain, then a team of ambassadors offer guided tours of the slopes. Disability Snowsports UK also offers lessons for disables skiers. If skiing (or walking) isn’t for you, then the Funicular Mountain Railway is the best way to see the mountain range: an eight-minute trip from Base Station to Ptarmigan Top Station will take you to the UK’s highest restaurant, sitting 1,097m above sea level. Prices are reasonable, which is just as well considering the lack of options in the surrounding area. A Camera Obscura on Base Station enables yet another way of seeing the Cairngorms; a trip to the Mountain Garden is also recommended.
How to get there
By car, the Cairngorm Mountain car park is accessible via the B970. Trains regularly depart to Aviemore from Perth, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and there are also smaller, neighbouring stations to the west of the park such as Kingussie, Newtonmore and Dalwhinnie. Stagecoach and Citylink operate regular bus services to Aviemore. If you’re arriving from London, a flight is your best option - the closest airport is Inverness, which is an hour’s drive away.
Accommodation options for long and short stays in the Cairngorms are varied and plentiful. Hotels, hostels, B&Bs, self-catering properties and chalets are among the seasonal options available - you probably won’t want to bother with camping for the forseeable future.
Recommended hotel: Cairngorm Hotel, 01479 810 233, double room for £102.50
Recommended hostel: Ardenbeg Bunkhouse, 01479 872824, £18.50 pppn for 2 nights or more
The popular two day skiing courses will set adults back £163. The prce includes tuition, equipment hire and a lift pass. Under-16s will pay £138 (“I wish”, might be the plaintive cry of parents everywhere). Hire prices for equipment vary depending on how much you need. If you don’t own your own gear, then getting ‘the works’ (ski/board, boots, poles) will cost an adult £37.75 for a full day. Jacket and trouser hire come to £9.50 each per day, and helmet hire is £7.25.
Getting to Aviemore from Glasgow on a Citylink service will set you back approximately £25, while a single journey from Aberdeen to Aviemore on the same service costs £35 (assuming both tickets are booked a week in advance).
• To check ski and snowboarding conditions on the day of your visit, go to http://ski.visitscotland.com/conditions/cairngorm. The range is open from 9am - 3.30pm, seven days a week. For general queries, contact 01479 861 261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The ski centre will host World Snow Day on Sun 20 Jan, where beginners will be offered free two-hour skiing or snowboarding lessons.