10 fascinating facts about the Cairngorms

The Cairngorm mountains are some of Scotland’s most striking natural features.

Five of Scotland’s highest mountains are in the area, and around 1.4 million people visit the Cairngorms each year to ski, walk and fish.

Here’s ten fascinating facts about the area which you probably didn’t know.

The Cairngorms stretch from Aviemore in the north-east to Glen Cairn and Braemar in the south-east and Glen Feshie in the south-west. It is set within the Cairngorms National Park, which was formed in 2003. The national park is home to around 16,000 people, but at 4.2 people per square kilometre, the population density is very low. The Cairngorms National Park is twice the size of the Lake District, covering 6% of the whole of Scotland.

Three of Scotland’s five ski resorts are in the area: Cairngorm Mountain, Lecht and Glenshee.

The Cairngorms contains five of the six highest mountains in Scotland and is the coldest, snowiest plateau in the British Isles.

The Cairngorms National Park is home to one-quarter of the rare and endangered species in the UK.

Its unique habitat is home to ptarmigans, dotterels, golden eagles, ospreys, pine martens, deer, crested tits, mountain hares, capercaillie, red squirrels, wildcats and otters.

The area’s woodlands contain remnants of the original Caledonian forest that once covered the whole of Scotland, the last major ancient woodland in the British Isles. The Caledonian Forest is thought to be the location of the seventh of King Arthur’s Twelve Battles – Cat Coit Celidon.

The Glenshee Ski Centre (Photo: Brendan Howard/Shutterstock)

The official English name, Cairngorms National Park, means ‘Blue Hills National Park’ in Gaelic, whereas the official Gaelic name, ‘Pairc Naiseanta a Mhonaidh Ruaidh’, is translated as ‘Red Hills National Park’.

Physicist Peter Higgs was allegedly walking in the Cairngorms when he had his idea about broken symmetry in electroweak theory, an important theory in particle physics.

As a proportion of the population, it is believed that more Olympians were born or brought up in Aviemore than anywhere else.

Ben Macdhui, the Cairngorms’ highest peak, is home to the Am Fear Liath Mor (Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui), believed by some to be a yeti, and by others to be a brocken spectre, a shadow created by the sun shining through mist.