Cairngorms Circular Drive

Cairngorms Circular Drive

August 21, 2022 2024-01-15 16:28

A driving day along amazing nature, castles and highland villages. This circular drive uses part of the famous Snow Roads Trail and is best navigated by map as the satnav is not always correct. Some parts of this route are single track roads (with passing places), sharp bends and steep bits. All doable with a normal car, but an experienced driver is recommended. The route is about 90 miles but if you do all the stops and explore a bit it will take 6-8 hours to complete the drive.

  1. Start: From the clock tower drive down Five Street and take the right to Huntly (A920). After 1 mile take a right turn to Rhynie (A 941).
  2. Continue on the A941, after Cabrach turn right on the B9002 to Lumsden. After Lumsden turn right  onto the A97. 
  3. First stop: Kildrummy Castle. Although now a ruin, Kildrummy’s great size and strength are easy to appreciate. North-east Scotland has many fine strongholds, but Kildrummy is known as ‘the noblest of northern castles’. In its medieval heyday, the huge castle dominated Strathdon as seat of the mighty earls of Mar. Open from 1 April 2024 to 30 September. 
  4. Continue on the A97, after a few miles turn right onto the B9119 to visit (stop 2) the natural phenomenon Burn O Vat. There is a spacious car park (Muir of Dinnet). Take the path from the visitor centre and follow the signs to the Vat. Returning from the vat cross the bridge on your left for a short walk through the woods and a view point. Follow this track back to the car park.
  5. Continue on the B9119 and turn right onto the A93 to Ballatar village (stop 3) for a coffee or lunch, we can recommend The Bothy. Ballatar is one of the royal villages due to its close proximity to Balmoral Castle – the former queens favourite holiday home. It has some nice shops to explore and check if you need to fuel your car for the rest of the trip.
  6. From Ballatar go back to the A93 and turn right onto the A939 to Tomintoul.
  7. Stop 4: Corgarff Castle. Unravel the two very different tales of this medieval tower house. Originally a noble residence, Corgarff became an army base for hunting down Jacobite sympathisers and, later, whisky smugglers. Open from 1 April 2024 to 30 September. 
  8. Continue on the A939 and stop at the Lecht Ski Centre (stop 5) for more pictures and stretching your legs.
  9. Keep on driving until you reach Highland village Tomintoul (stop 6), in the middle of the high street there is a parking lot on your right (free parking). Have a browse at Spindrift giftshop, the Whisky Castle (whisky shop specialised in independent bottlers) and the Highland Market. They also serve coffee and lunch.
  10. At the end of the High Street turn left onto the B9008/B9009 back to Dufftown.


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