Cairngorms National Park in Scotland has a lot to offer to visitors: Land of mountains, forests, rivers, castles and wildlife.
Below is a guide to road tripping on the scenic Old Military Road Cairngorms - map, video, best stops and photos.
This article contains affiliate links (Disclosure page). If you purchase using my link, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.
Why drive the Old Military Road in Cairngorms?
Established in 2003, the Cairngorms National Park Scotland is larger than the famous Lake districts park. It covers the Cairngorms mountain range and the surrounding hills.
It has a large upland plateau, many rivers, lochs and wildlife.
The Old Military road takes you through the heart of the park, in the mountains, to castles and valleys.
Below is a short video showing you the drive through the Cairngorms National Park Scotland on the Old Military Road from North to South, one of the best drives in Scotland - a virtual drive!
Note: there are several Old Military Road in Scotland. Don't mix-them up. This one goes through the Cairngorms National Park.
More photos after the planning tips.
PLANNING TIPS & Map - Cairngorms National Park Scotland
How to get to Cairngorms National Park
- Aviemore is the main town in Cairngorms National Park Scotland
- Located between Inverness and Edinburgh
- Aviemore in the North West of the Park is 45 min drive from Inverness and 3h drive from Edinburgh
- You can find my favorite stops on the drive with their GPS coordinates in my eBook:
Plan your dream trip around Scotland!
Driving through Cairngorms National Park - Map
2 roads go through Cairngorms National Park:
- The main Road is A9 to the West
- The Old Military Road goes to the East and the center (A939 in the North & A93 in the South). It is a scenic road which leads to Balmoral Castle and Braemar Castle. It offers beautiful landscapes and a road with curves and ups-and downs. A really enjoyable drive.
- Below is a map to help you get oriented:
How long to drive the old military road Cairngorms?
- From Speybridge in the North to Dalrulzian in the South = 2h drive when not stopping (68 miles - 110km)
- If you start and finish further from the National Park know that: from St Andrews to Inverness, via the inland route through Cairngorms, takes 4 hours of driving.
- Note - depending on the conditions, it can be closed some days in winter and after a landslide.
Need to rent a car in Scotland?
- Compare prices on my favorite platform: Discovercars.com - one of the best rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (prefer a compact car for the single-lane roads)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- Cairngorms has 5 of the 6 highest mountains in the UK and 55 munroes (peaks over 3000ft). It is the main ski destination in Winter and a favorite in summer for wildlife, mountain bike, rock climbing...
- Balmoral Castle: open from 1st April to 21st July from 10am to 5pm - Adult entry is £11.50 (see latest)
- Braemar Castle: open Easter to October from 10am to 5pm - Adult entry is £8 (see latest)
- Official Website of Cairngorms
Where to stay?
- You can stay in a valley around the castles - Check out the best rated accommodations around Braemar
- Or around the Lecht Ski center - check out options
- Or you can stay in Aviemore before or after driving the Old Military Road - Check out the best rated accommodations in Aviemore
Cairngorms Road - Highlands (North - A939)
Beginning of the drive (arriving from Inverness)
Before arriving at the ski resort of Lecht, I noticed a small sign for the Well of Lecht. We stopped and enjoyed the vivid colors. You can do a hike from there or just enjoy a nice picnic.
Lecht Ski Area
Of course, the ski area in summer is not the most beautiful place. The equipment does not really enhance the scenery. But as we were now on the upland plateau, the views started to be really beautiful with all those patches of colors typical of the park.
Cairngorms Drive - on the upland plateau
Then the road stays on the upland plateau of the Cairngorms National Park. The views are stunning, and the road goes up and down.
North of Gairnshiel, I spotted this art piece of fake monoliths.
Cairngorms Drive - Lowlands (South A93)
Most of the Old Military Road through Cairngorms is dual lane. However sometimes you have narrower spots; One of the most famous is the Gairnshiel Bridge. Only one vehicle at a time... but the problem is you cannot really see if one is coming because of the shape of the bridge!
Take some time to stop and enjoy the peaceful scenery:
After that the Old Military Road winds though lower lands and forest.
Not much to see except trees, trees, and trees!
Inside that forest, the Balmoral Castle is indicated.
There is a large car park with a cafe and toilets.
Access to the castle is via the bridge. You cannot see the castle from the road.
Admission charges include parking, access to the formal and vegetable gardens, the exhibitions in the stable area and largest room in the Castle, the Ballroom. The rest is not accessible as it is the Queen's summer house.
Warning - it is a very touristic place.
Here is a picture of the castle to help you decide:
Later you discover the Braemar Castle that is very visible from the road. Built in 1628, it is a really strange looking castle with an L-shape. It was used as a base for hunting parties.
You can visit the castle from Easter to October.
As we had been through a lot of forest, I thought we were over with beautiful scenery.
But the South of Cairngorms National Park Scotland still had much to offer.
South of the castles, the Old Military Road enters Glen Clunie.
Discover it in photos:
Want to see more wonderful Roads to drive in Scotland? Here are a few:
- A82 through the Valley of Glencoe - read article
- Glen Etive to reach Loch Etive - read article
- The Road around Loch Leven - read article
- The Road to the Isles from Fort William to Mallaig - read article
- The Road to Skye - read article
- The road through Wester Ross - read article
Planning a trip to Scotland? Check out my travel guide to help you plan it:
Plan your dream trip around Scotland!
And keep track of your own trip!
Inspired? Share it on your favorite platform!