Our Journal

Informational, Places to visit
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08 June 2021
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Kim Pierce

Our Guide to the ‘SnowRoads’ of Scotland

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Scotland’s ‘SnowRoads’ was the title of a dramatic film but it’s actually 90 miles of spectacular roads that will lead you through several stunning counties. Taking you from breath taking valleys, to beautiful glens and into the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland’s biggest National Park, it’s a must see for the road trip enthusiast. 

You’ll drive by some of Scotland’s highest hills and find yourself in the land of skiing, snowboarding and Munro ‘bagging’.  If a dramatic poem hasn’t been written about this outstanding part of Scotland then it really should be.  

Views west towards Inchrory in the Cairngorms – Image by Damian Shields via VisitScotland

Starting in Blairgowrie in the County of Perth and Kinross this route takes you through some of Scotlands most scenic points in Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, Moray Speyside and the Highlands with it finishing in Grantown-on-Spey in Morayshire. You’ll drive some of the highest public roads in Scotland with the beautiful sight of snow peaked mountains in summer or the full Scottish snow experience in winter.  The Snow Roads also boast two of Scotland’s ski centres, Glenshee and Lecht.  For those looking for a less active day out there are also eight distilleries and breweries along the way (although we recommend you assign your designated driver first!). And remember to keep an out as you may even catch a glimpse of the Queen at the world famous Balmoral Castle. 

Blairgowrie (Blar Ghobhraidh) is one of the largest towns in Perthshire, only sixteen miles from Perth itself, and sits on the River Ericht in the foot of the Grampian Mountains.  As well as being the gateway to Glenshee it also marks the beginning of the fully waymarked, 60 mile circular Cateran trail, said to be one of Scotland’s best trails. The Cateran trail allows walkers the chance to follow the historic drove roads used by cattle rustlers.  If on the other hand hedges are your thing, yes, you read that right, the nearby village of Meikleour boasts the Meikleour Beech Hedge, planted in 1846 it is officially recognised as the tallest hedge in the world!

The war memorial in Blairgowrie town square – Image by Kenny Lam via VisitScotland

Continuing along the A93, blink and you might miss it, (and you certainly wouldn’t want to, the Persie Distillery at Auchenflower.  At the foot of Glenshee this distillery makes hand-crafted, award winning gins.  In 2018 the distillery joined forces with Perthshire Abandoned Dogs Society (PADS) with the mission to release a family of dog gins – pick up Labrador or Spaniel Gin or a Dachshund gin liqueur!

Not much further up the road you can sample a haven of friendly Scottish hospitality at The Wee House of Glenshee.  Refuel yourself with beautiful homemade soups, toasties, cakes and snacks.

If skiing and/or snowboarding is your thing then your next stop is going to be the Glenshee Ski Centre but if you’re out in the summer months don’t let that stop you paying the ski centre a visit.  You can have ‘Tea @ The Shee’ and The Cairnwell Chair Lift runs throughout the summer to give you a birds eye view of the Cairngorms. Don’t forget to take a photo of your Highland Overland truck as a memento when the chair lift gives you the perfect view of it in the car park.  During the summer months there is also plenty of walking, hiking and mountain biking to be done so be sure to check out the Glenshee and Strathardle Outdoor Activity Guide for walking and cycling trails in the Cairngorms National Park.

The Glenshee Activity Guide gives you all the information on things to do.

As your journey continues you’ll pass into Aberdeenshire and soon come across the village of Braemar (Braigh Mharr) around 58 miles west of Aberdeen and at the eastern gateway to the highest mountains of the Cairngorms National Park – there are no less than 24 Munros to ‘bag’ in the area.  Braemar also sits on the River Dee, 87 miles long and renowned as one of the great salmon rivers of the world.  The character of the river is said to make it ideal for fly fishing and the fast-flowing clear waters are home to a succession of salmon pools said to be some of the finest fly water in Europe.  Sitting on the banks of the Dee is Braemar Castle, owned by the chief of the Clan Farquharson but leased to local charitable foundation, it is open to the public throughout the summer. This seventeenth century castle plays host to the annual Braemar Gathering which some call the best Highland Games in Scotland and the village is looking forward to the return of the games in 2022.  If you’d like a luxury night away from your camping adventure then the award winning Fife Arms Hotel in the centre of Braemar is a luxury five star boutique hotel, waiting to welcome you.

North of Braemar and the Fife Arms Hotel you can enjoy a tour of the world famous Balmoral Castle, situated midway between Braemar and Ballater, just off the A93.  The Scottish “holiday home” of the Royal Family, it welcomes the public into its grounds, gardens, exhibitions, gift shop and restaurant during the summer months when the royal family aren’t in residence.  Each year the Ranger Service offer a number of guided walks and luxury Land rover safaris which may allow you to catch a glimpse of some special Scottish wildlife in their natural surroundings.  

Balmoral Castle has been a Royal residence since 1852 – Image by Damian Shields via VisitScotland

Neighbouring the castle is the Royal Lochnagar Distillery, the perfect place to learn how Scotch Whisky is made.  Even better the tour ends with a dram of the award-winning Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old Single Highland Malt!  Named after the nearby Lochnagar Mountain and fed by the crystal clear waters of the Scarnock Springs you can learn how the Distillery was awarded the prestigious Green Tourism Gold Award, the highest level of certification, for their commitment to sustainable tourism.

The next seven miles of road are going to give you some of the most breath taking roads and views on your journey, now well and truly in the heart of the Cairngorm Mountains.  The A939, one of the most scenically beautiful roads in Scotland, will lead you to the Lecht Ski Centre, 2,090 feet above sea level!  With 20 maintained ski runs and 14 lifts it is one of Scotland’s top ski resorts.  With on-site snow-making facilities it offers some of the most consistent snow and is ideal for all levels.  In the summer months the centre has two mountain bike trails and you can even attach your bike to the three man chairlift and go!  

Cairngorms Snow Roads – Image by Damian Shields via VisitScotland

At the end of these seven miles, in the heart of Deeside, is Ballater (Bealadair) once thought to be visted by the Knights Templar as they were reported to have visited in 1245 to drink from Pannanich Wells, the site of a natural spring, thought to have healing power and attracting visitors for hundreds of years to sample the water. There are many well mapped walks and cycle trails from Ballater and of course the abundance of Munros.  Every May the town also plays host to the Ballater Walking Festival during which walkers are guided through the hills and valleys of the Eastern Cairngorms.  

A family of cyclists follow the Deeside country paths in The Cairngorms National Park – Image by Jakub Iwanicki via VisitScotland

Onwards to Tomintoul (Tom an t-Sabhail) the highest village in the Scottish Highlands and home to another famous distillery.  The Tomintoul-Glenlivet Distillery situated in the Glenlivet Estate in Ballindalloch, the Speyside region of Scotland, produces malt whisky for blends and is bottled as single malt.  It was founded in 1964 by the Glasgow whisky traders Hey & Macleod and W. and S. Strong.  In 2009 it entered the Guinness Book of World Records by producing the largest bottle of whisky in the world, containing 105.3 litres of 14-year-old Tomintoul malt whisky!  Tomintoul is on the 70 mile long famous Malt Whisky Trail which takes in Dufftown, Keith, Tomnavoulin and Marypark.  Scotland’s Malt Whisky Trail is the only trail of its kind in the world and takes in seven world-famous working distilleries.  Speyside, famous for its whisky and often called ‘Malt Whisky Country’ is home to more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries and the area is one of Scotland’s five whisky regions.  

The Glenlivet Distillery – Image by Damian Shields via VisitScotland

North of Tomintoul and marking the end of this unforgettable road is Grantown-on-Spey (Baile nan Granndach) founded in 1765 and home to the Clan Grant.  Whilst Grantown-on-Spey marks the end of the Snow Roads it doesn’t mean the adventure has to be over, continueNorth until you reach the sea and you can end your journey with a few days in the relaxing and friendly seaside resort of Nairn (Inbhir Narann), around 17 miles east of Inverness.

Described as “Scotland’s Highland Playground”, there is certainly plenty of places to play; making it a popular destination for visitors and locals alike – especially on a hot summer day!  There are three glorious beaches to choose from – Central (or Nairn beach), East and West beach and a glorious promenade running alongside the beaches which provides stunning views out to the Moray Firth and over to Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle.  Central Beach has won a Scotland Best Beach Award for 23 consecutive years! 

Looking Along the West Beach From Nairn – Image by Paul Tomkins via VisitScotland

Find out more about the beautiful ‘Snow Roads’ of Scotland or get in touch with your tales of driving through this stunning area. We’d love to hear your favourite places to stop, hidden gem eateries or tips on how to make the most of your time on the road.

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