Summer Fun in the Cairngorms
Photo: Braemar Gathering
The natural attractions of the Cairngorms are well documented. The skiing, cycling and hill walking are truly second to none. For the outdoors enthusiast the ease of access to the national park and the variety of activities available combined with the fact that the park is free makes it the ideal destination. The Cairngorms and the surrounding areas are also home to a huge number of festival and events all through the summer. There is something to appeal to everyone here whether they are foodies, sporty tyres or music fans. These are a selection of our favourites, some traditional, some for families and some for the more adventurous.
The 24rd annual World Porridge Making Championships takes place in Carrbridge this October. This cook-off draws competitors from across the globe to compete for the coveted Golden Spurtle. Entries formally open this month and anyone can compete in the standard category using only three ingredients, oats, water and salt or the speciality competition that celebrates the diversity of porridge with past winners including sticky toffee porridge and fruity date porridge. It’s a fun day out for all the family with stalls and entertainments for children and a party atmosphere for the whole day. Woodlands is in nearby Nethy Bridge, and has a brilliant modern kitchen where you can hone your porridge skills if the contest inspires you.
Thunder in the Glens started out 20 years ago as a small gathering of Harley Davidson enthusiasts but has evolved into one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in Europe. Last year saw more than 4,000 riders arrive and set up an event village with live music, trade stands supporting local charities, demo bike rides and a custom bike show. Far from their outlaw reputation the bikers ensure that this is a community event with everyone made welcome, especially with the carnival atmosphere of the mass ride out to Granton on Spey on the Saturday. Mallachie at Boat of Garten is ideally placed to take in the sights and smells of the occasion but is also a peaceful retreat when the sun goes down.
The Spirit of Speyside is perhaps the best known festival in the area. Since 1999 this celebration of Scotland’s national drink has developed into one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the world. With over 500 different events scheduled to take place all around Speyside, Moray and The Cairngorms there truly is something here for everyone, from the whisky curious to the single malt connoisseur. Take a ride on the whisky train, attend the illustrious whisky school, how about a canoe trip on the River Spey or a whisky afternoon tea at Tamdhu Distillery. If you need a break from bagging Munros or are looking for some unique evening entertainment then check out the detailed programme here. Shenval Farmhouse is right in the thick of the action, only a short hop to the majority of what the festival and the wider area has to offer.
Highland games have a long and illustrious tradition in Scotland and none more so than the Braemar Highland Gathering. The proximity to the Queen’s residence at Balmoral has ensured a strong royal connection over the years. It’s not just for royalty though, no visitor to Scotland should miss the chance to see such spectacles as Highland dancing, traditional pipe bands and tossing the caber. Drumrunie is right in the village, overlooking the river dee and the mountains but still walking distance to the centre of activities.
For a change of pace how about one of the most intriguing new races on the calendar. Combining two of life’s greatest pleasures The Dramathon will take place through the heart of whisky country this summer. Runners will navigate 26 miles along the Speyside way from Glenfarclas to Glenfiddich, stopping off at a number of distilleries along the way to pick up stamps that will be redeemed for miniatures at the finish. Shorter routes and relays are also available for those daunted by the marathon distance. The route uses mainly forest tracks with some hilly terrain and finishers are promised a massive party at the end. Clashindeugle Farmhouse is in the heart of the surrounding countryside, even if you don’t fancy taking part in an organised event like the The Dramathon there is huge scope for you to set off on your own from here with ample distilleries you can visit independently and hundreds of km of mountain paths you could run on.
The Braemar Creative Arts Festival is now firmly established as the top weekend in The Cairngorms for those who have an interest in creative pursuits. This year will see exhibitions, demonstrations and masterclasses for bakers, knitters and crafters and much more. With classes in creative writing, Scottish country dancing, group singing and drama you could return from holiday with a whole new collection of skills. Inver lodge is just outside of Braemar and is perfect for large groups of walkers and outdoors enthusiasts but also for family get togethers. If the weathers bad then it’s great to know there are some more cerebral alternatives on hand to pass the time.