Skip to main content

The great escape

The Cairngorms

Getty Images

“Want to forget that other people, cities, civilisation exist?” Look no further than the Scottish Highlands, says the Telegraph. Twice the size of the Lake District, the Cairngorms National Park is the largest in the UK: it’s full of mountains, forests, rivers, lochs and wildlife, with “friendly villages and distilleries to provide the essential bunks and drams”.

Places of note The Cairngorms are home to five of the UK’s six highest mountains, and 55 peaks classed as Munros (taller than 3,000ft). The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd has been roaming the slopes around Glenmore since the 1950s and the Dalwhinnie distillery offers a whisky and chocolate tasting. There’s an array of castles in the area, including Braemar, Loch An Eilein – built on an island – and the Queen’s estate at Balmoral.

Weather Conditions here “can turn faster than the local mountain hares”, so this is no place for fair-weather strollers. There’s a lot of snow on the mountains in winter, making it Britain’s number one spot for skiing and snowboarding.

Famous faces Bob Dylan bought a secluded Edwardian house in the Cairngorms in 2007 and the Fife Arms, in Braemar (see below), has hosted Judi Dench and Prince Charles.

To eat Named after the cycle path that passes its door, Route 7 takes a bit of finding, but its hearty menu of burgers, wood-fired pizzas and salads makes up for it. The Cross at Kingussie hotel, housed in a converted watermill, has one of the finest restaurants in the Highlands, with an open fire and a patio overlooking a stream. It serves fresh local produce and the wine list is excellent. Visit the Rothiemurchus farm shop and barn for picnic goodies.

1 To stay

Owned by gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth, of Hauser & Wirth fame, the Fife Arms in Braemar merges Scottish culture and history with world-class contemporary art. It was named best place to stay in Britain in 2019 by The Sunday Times: “Most Highland hotels do not have a Picasso in the drawing room. But the Fife Arms is not most Highland hotels.” Doubles from £718 for two nights, B&B.

2 To rent

The Macdonald Aviemore resort’s woodland lodges are in a pine forest, with a swimming pool, a golf course and activity areas for children. They sleep four or six and have kitchens, wood-burning stoves and outdoor decks. From £328 for two nights.

3 To Airbnb

The Bird’s Nest is a converted workshop two miles from Aviemore, a popular base for exploring the Cairngorms. It’s a cosy, rustic house sleeping two, with views of the mountains and woodlands and lochs to explore. From £317 for three nights.

4 To buy

Dalrachney Lodge is a recently refurbished Edwardian house in the heart of the national park, with two acres of grounds, views of the Monadhliath Mountains and fishing rights on the River Dulnain. The 16-bedroom property is currently a hotel, but could easily be converted into a private home. Inverness is 23 miles away. £845,000.