A guide to Scotland's best national parks

Days out, Walking

Posted by Hayley Kitto on 1st July 2021

A guide to Scotland's best national parks

Scotland: lochs, forests and mountainsides

There has never been a better time than now to visit these two remarkable national parks in Scotland. These idyllic landscapes are home to fascinating wildlife, exhilarating outdoor activities and miles and miles of beauty - yet with markedly different things to offer their visitors. 

The remote hillsides of the Cairngorms bloom with life in the summertime and become a winter sports mecca during the snowy months, while Loch Lomond is somewhat of a family and romantic haven all year round. The national parks in Scotland are such a significant part of Scottish culture that we knew they deserved a guide of their own, so we've written one. 

How many National Parks are there in Wales?

How many national parks are there in Scotland?

Scotland is home to two national parks: the Cairngorms National Park, and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Learn more about these impressive national parks below. 

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Stay at one of our self-catering holiday lets in the national parks - we have properties deep in the countryside, in glens, by rivers and on the slopes of Munros. You can discover Scotland's wonderful national parks while staying in a restful lodge or cosy cottage.

Cottages in Scotland

The Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in Scotland and in the UK, located in the north-east of the country and established in 2003. The unspoilt wilderness of this spectacular landscape provides hours of fun for any age or ability. The Cairngorms National Park covers 4,500 sq km of stunning mountains, vast green forests filled with wildlife, friendly villages and picturesque clear lochs across four regions.

Enjoy some of the best hillwalking in the country, ski down snow-covered mountains, explore Britain’s highest and biggest mountain range – this special place will take you back to your childhood and allow for the best exploration you could possibly experience.

Cairngorms ultimate guide

Highlights in the Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms wildlife

A sanctuary for wildlife

A staggering 25% of the UK’s endangered species can be found in the Cairngorms National Park, providing a wealth of opportunity when it comes to seeking out the wildlife inhabiting the area. If the idea of discovering some of the UK’s most fascinating bugs and animals appeals, then you can join an organised tour and go out and about with one of the park rangers. 

However, if free-roaming is more your thing, then you certainly won’t be disappointed when taking a simple stroll in the woods either; you are sure to bump into a red squirrel or see a wide variety of birdlife. The rich density of wildlife to be found makes it a dream for photographers, with the land providing many opportunities to capture some stunning shots.

Waterfall and mountain landscape

A rich cultural landscape

Separated by the great bulk of the mountains, different areas of the Cairngorms National Park have their own distinct identity and cultural traditions, however the diverse areas all share the same strong connections to the same environment. 

Scotland’s Cairngorms Park is steeped in character and history waiting to be explored, you can delve into the past at the many fairy-tale castles and other historical sites dating back thousands of years. Although much of the culture stems from previous stories and traditions, the culture of Scotland today lives on and can be clearly seen in this area. With a rich heritage and a focus on music, you will find huge amounts of live entertainment at all times of the year throughout the Cairngorms, helping to celebrate the variety of the Scottish arts. Trek to roaring waterfalls in this remarkable landscape, stop by traditional Scottish villages, you might even be able to see the northern lights! 

Uncover Cairngorms culture and heritage: 

Northern lights in Scotland

A place for adventure

A place for adventure

The Cairngorms is a natural playground, the area offers such diverse terrains and landscapes which provides the perfect opportunity for sports of all types with a fantastic host of things to do throughout the region. For the more adrenaline-seeking of you, the area offers water sports, snow sports and some incredible walking and cycling routes. The fantastic skiing and climbing opportunities are why many argue that the Cairngorms is the best national park in Scotland. 

It’s even home to the only sled dog centre, and the first permanent bridge-based bungee jump, in the UK. If you are after a more relaxed, low-level sport there are plenty of short walks to be explored and golfers are very well catered for, with 12 courses available in the park.

Free family days out

Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in the Cairngorms National Park. Escape to one of these fantastic places to visit in Scotland for an unforgettable holiday with family and friends, or just you and your partner. We have a wonderful collection of holiday cottages in the Cairngorms so if you have yet to decide on your ideal holiday home, have a browse of our collection for inspiration.

Cairngorms cottages

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was Scotland’s first National Park and comprises 720 square miles of some of the finest scenery in Scotland, beautiful mountains, glens and many beautiful lochs. It is a location of diverse landscapes, from rolling lowland landscapes in the south, to high mountains in the north, and many lochs, rivers, forests and woodlands encompassed in-between.

The landscapes in this region provide a wealth of exploration - hours of fun for the whole family. Many days can be spent appreciating the area of outstanding beauty or getting involved with the vast amount of activities on offer.

Loch Lomond ultimate guide

Highlights in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond mountains

Dizzying heights

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is a treasure trove of mountains, Munros and magnificent corries waiting to be discovered; they are sights of pure natural beauty and are completely unmissable. The area is very popular with hillwalkers and ‘Munro baggers’ alike partly due to its close proximity to Scotland’s largest cities - Glasgow and Edinburgh - but also due to its spectacular scenery and high density of accessible hilltops.

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park contains some extensive mountain areas in the north for the more experienced climber including Ben Lomond and Ben More, however if you aren’t seeking quite such a daunting challenge, then there are 19 Corbetts (mountains between 2,500 and 3,000 feet) waiting to be climbed!

The photo opportunities from these mountainous vantage points are spectacular; being surrounded by 360-degree panoramic views makes for an unforgettable experience.

Bag these impressive Munros: 

Climb Scotland's mountains

Food and drink in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs

A culinary adventure

It is impossible to mention Scotland without making some kind of reference to the presence of food and drink within its culture. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park definitely does not shy away from showcasing the vast and delicious produce available in the region. 

It is celebrated vividly in the form of festivals and events located directly in the parks, a few not to be missed are Trossachs Beer Festival, Annual Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival and Mhor Annual Festival. From haggis to kippers, if you are looking to taste some of the traditional Scottish delights, you certainly will not be disappointed. There is also an immense range of eating venues for you to try, covering every palate.

Scottish food and drink

Loch Lomond adventure

A place for adventure

With Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park consisting of such a large amount of land space, you might need a helping hand when it comes to planning what to do when you get there. Just like the Cairngorms, there is a wealth of sporting activities for you and the family to try your hand at and many more wonderful days out for families, making for cherished holiday memories.

What better way to spend a day in the Scottish sunshine than out on the water getting to grips with a new water sport or out in the depths of the countryside enjoying a leisurely cycleride? There really is something for everyone. If the idea of heading out into the forests with just a backpack fills you with terror then do not worry, there are plenty of schools and instructors on hand to help you out along the way, and you can then take your new found skills back home with you to show off to your friends and family.

Book one of our Scotland properties to explore Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Our accommodation can include such features as alluring hot tubs and saunas. Book a large cottage for the whole family or spend quality time with your partner at one of our romantic hideaways. Bring the dog too, as many of our properties in the national parks welcome pets. Where will you stay?

Loch Lomond cottages

Stay in Scotland

Escape to one of Britain's best landscapes with a trip into the remote and dramatic Cairngorms or the lush Trossachs National Park. Book a holiday let in one of these remarkable locations or plan a getaway into the stark Highlands, the thriving cities or the serene coast. 

Cottages in Scotland

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.