Cairngorm – Scotland
Resort height: 550m – 1,080m
Total piste length: 30km
Cairngorm is certainly not on most people’s radar when it comes to selecting a ski destination. The unpredictable weather and remote location have led to it being somewhat neglected in recent years. Of late the resort has been enjoying burgeoning popularity and many cite its ‘character’ as the main appeal. Rustic and rugged, the Cairngorm Mountains give out what you put in. There is a distinct lack of formality and regulations here, those you see on the slopes are often locals who will have been skiing this same mountain for generations. The weather is highly changeable which puts many off, but often lures in those looking for a unique ski experience. Sheet rain, fog and icy roads are all regular occurrences, and the mountain stays open in most weathers. The funicular only stops for winds of 75mph or more, so it’s perhaps suited to the more hardy. The mountain recently made it onto Skyscanner’s list of Top 10 alternative ski destinations.
Cairngorm has a reasonably new Snow School, and is the only on-site ski and snowboard cchool which offers professional direction for all levels. Amateurs and seasoned skiers are welcome to attend lessons which are catered to specific needs and experience levels. Group lessons are most popular but private lessons are also offered.
Where to lunch
Cairngorm doesn’t have the same choice that some of the larger, more tourist-oriented resorts have. However what it does have is charming and rustic eateries with honest home cooking and a great atmosphere. The Ptarmigan Restaurant, located at the Top Station of the Mountain railway, is the highest restaurant in the UK. The view alone of Loch Morlich, Ben Nevis and Ben Hope are enough to entice people through the doors. Traditional food is served and you can opt for a more substantial main course or lighter lunchtime bites.
Where to stay
The Duke of Gordon Hotel is a family owned place steeped in history. It is located in the quaint town on Kingussie and was originally a 19th century coaching inn. The hotel prides itself on its warm Highland welcome and has comfortable, well-kept lodgings with a hearty-home atmosphere.
Alternatively, The Boat House is set in idyllic surrounding in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park close to Aviemore. This award winning hotel and bistro lies adjacent to the Boat of Garten Gold Club and has 2 AA Rosettes. The interiors are sleek and finished well, but there is still a relaxed and informal atmosphere.
The après-ski scene is certainly not as vibrant as some larger resorts, but for those willing to get involved there is still a good time to be had. Live music is usually playing in most of the bars and can consist of traditional Scottish folk singers.
For a more refined evening head to the Hilton Coylumbridge Hotel’s Foyer Lounge and Bar. Serving classic malt and rich merlot, the bar has elegant interiors and comfortable sofas with a view of the pool. The bar is open from midday until late. Alternatively the hotel has a more relaxed Woodshed bar, where you can meet up with friends and relax in front of a log fire. Also serving traditional drinks such as malts and ale, the bar has cocktails too and live entertainment as well as sporting events. If the weather isn’t too bad there’s also outside decking, open 11:00am until 1:00am.