‘The Birds and the Trees’ – The Snow Roads in the Cairngorms
‘The Birds and the Trees’ – The Snow Roads in the Cairngorms

‘The Birds and the Trees’ – The Snow Roads in the Cairngorms

Episode 19 (Season 2): ‘The Birds and the Trees’

Let’s immerse ourselves in nature and spend time exploring one of Scotland’s national parks: on the Snow Roads through the Cairngorms!

‘The Birds and the Trees’ is a story about a scenic road trip through the Cairngorms National Park. But it is also a story about Scottish wilderness – or rather what’s left of it.

We’re driving down the Snow Roads scenic route, from the jaw-dropping drama of the Lecht Road to the lush glens of the Royal Deeside and the high Munros in the heart of the Cairngorms.

After getting a taste of this landscape from the roadside, we visit Mar Lodge Estate and go for a walk through one of the Scots pine regeneration areas managed by the National Trust for Scotland.

After the story, I’ll tell you my top tips to make the most of your drive down the Snow Roads and things to do on the Cairngorms National Park.


Find out what else to do in the Cairngorms by reading my Cairngorms travel guide.

Buy my Mountains & Lochs itinerary to see the best of Scotland’s national parks, nature reserves and scenic landscapes.

Get Andrew Painting’s book Regeneration: Rescue of a Wild Land.

Learn more about the conservation work at Mar Lodge Estate.

Minimise your impact with my responsible travel tips.

Disclaimer: All information provided in this podcast is based on personal travel experiences. Companies mentioned in the story or tips were active at the time of release. If you listen to episodes at a later point, note that this information may have changed in the meantime.


Written and hosted by Kathi Kamleitner.
Produced and edited by Fran Turauskis.
Cover Art illustrated by Lizzie Vaughan-Knight.
All original music composed by Bruce Wallace.
Additional sound effects from Zapsplat, Pond5 and SoundBoard.
All photographs by Kathi Kamleitner.

Bird sounds sourced via RSPB: Northern Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Meadow Pipit, European Stonechat.

Useful tips for the Cairngorms National Park

1) Read Andrew Painting’s book

There are some amazing books out there inspired by the Cairngorm mountains, their natural landscapes and wildlife. Andrew’s book is one of them and I highly recommend you read it. It’s called Regeneration: The Rescue of a Wild Land.

I took away so much from the book and it has really changed the way I experience Scottish landscapes. I’ll link to the book in the show notes but will also share some more mountain-inspired books to read, music to listen to and films to watch in this week’s newsletter which comes out on Thursday. You’ll find the sign-up link in the show notes too.

2) If you only have a few days, choose an area to focus on

The Cairngorms National Park is absolutely massive and as such, it can be quite difficult to see all of its areas in one trip. Driving down the Snow Roads route, you get a sense of the northern part of the park, as well as the Royal Deeside and the area around Braemar and Glenshee.

Over on the other side of the Cairngorm massif, lies Aviemore and Rothiemurchus Forest. Further southeast, you can go off the beaten path in the Angus Glens. Each area has a lot to offer, so make sure you choose one or two and explore those more in-depth.

I like staying in the Royal Deeside because you get to see a vast variety of landscapes.

3) Hike, hike, hike

To me, the Cairngorms National Park has to be experienced away from the roads. It doesn’t have to be a long or technical hike – in fact, sticking to a low-lying route is always safer if you’re new to these mountains. I hiked the Clais Fhearnaig circuit, which is about 10 miles long and is very varied.

If hiking by yourself is intimidating, hire a local guide or book an outdoorsy experience. You’ll find anything from hiring mountain bikes to going pony trekking.

4) Take your rest days

If you need a rest day from all your walking and exploring, the Royal Deeside has a lot of other things to offer. For example, you could hit the Scottish Castle Trail and visit one of my favourite castles – Craigievar. Or head over to Crathes Castle where you can climb among treetops at Go Ape.

5) Don’t stop at this national park

If you are keen to learn more about Scottish wildlife, plants and ecosystems – or just find beautiful scenery to go for a hike, there is a whole network of nature reserves waiting for you. Of course there is also the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, as well as two UNESCO Biospheres in Wester Ross and in Galloway.

One of my ready-made itineraries will focus on such areas where you can immerse yourself in nature. They’ll be out soon.

Pictures from the Cairngorms National Park


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