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The History of the Cairngorms (and Visitor Attractions to Find Out More!)

The History of the Cairngorms (and Visitor Attractions to Find Out More!)

Posted by Maria Mangion, March, 2018

The Cairngorms have been a major site for human settlement for millennia, so it’s no surprise that the vast National Park still teems with relics of yesteryear. 2017 was themed the Year of History, Culture and Archaeology in the Cairngorms and with such a wide historical arc, this area offers some of the best historical sightseeing and exploring in the UK.

From the Gaelic names of the mountains, lochs and rivers to the prehistoric remains from Celtic and Pictish times, you can see how Scottish ancestors laid down the roots for the beautifully diverse country we inhabit today.

A Glance at the Last 1000 Years

  • The Celts and the Picts populated the Cairngorms in the prehistoric era beginning 7,000 years ago. These societies were to influence Scottish culture in big ways and laid down the roots for the clan system to dominate ways of living in Caledonia. To this day, the Highlands are washed in brushstrokes of Scottish Gaelic so you can still feel the extent of these ancient peoples’ contribution to the national heritage.
  • From the 10th to the 18th centuries, people in the Cairngorms coagulated into clans – or nuclei of kinship grouping Scots with a shared identity, scattered across the Highlands. Then came the Jacobite uprising, which dismantled the clan communities. Barracks and roads were built, new plantations, planned towns, industries and empty glens prevailed. This important historical moment changed the face and the culture of the Cairngorms forever.

  • Few pre-19th century castles survive in the Cairngorms area, and the majority of our fortresses were built shortly before, during or after the reign of Queen Victoria. She was a frequent visitor to the northern wilderness of Scotland and instilled a national interest in the Highlands, which saw a marked increase in human traffic when she held the crown. Tourism flourished and in the Windsor tradition, wealthy visitors built large estates and shooting lodges, altering the landscape once more.

Here are some of the marks of this vivid, dramatic history which still stand tall and proud today. There’s a lot more to be learned about the history of the Cairngorms if you visit these landmarks!


Corgarff Castle

An ethereal yet imposing 4-storey tower house constructed in the 16th century and converted to a fort in 1748. The castle’s restoration brought it as close as possible to its appearance between the crucial years of 1748 and 1831, when it was bought by the government and used as a military garrison.


Ruthven Barracks

Built in 1719 following the Jacobite rising of 1715, this infantry barracks has two ranges of quarters and a stable block. Ruthven Barracks were captured and burnt by Prince Charles Edward Stuart's army in 1746.


Gairnshiel Bridge

This picturesque hump-backed bridge lies around halfway on the old military road between the two garrisons of Braemar and Corgarff. It’s also one of the most popularly photographed locations in the Cairngorms.


Highland Folk Museum

Rural Highland life laid bare for all to observe and marvel at, providing unique insight into how people lived over the last 200 years. This living history museum boasts recreations of a township, schoolhouse, farming activities and much more that brings back memories of a long-gone historic Highland scene.


Enjoy the Cairngorms in Our Very Own Historic Hotel

We turned 50 years old in November 2015 and boy, what a nostalgic celebration we had! 1960's-themed menus and cocktails, a reproduction of our original skiing image, a huge 50th cake and drinks for everyone, complete with a small fireworks display at the end.

We’ve been catering for skiers, honeymooners, toddlers and clan chiefs for more than half a century. Take a look at our current packages and deals and get yourself up to the Cairngorms for a privileged front row seat to the vibrant history of our nation.