Famously known as the one of the hiking capitals of Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park is a playground for all outdoor enthusiasts. Thousands of visitors flock to this area every year to take on the challenges of the Munros and walks that it has to offer and the stunning mountainous scenery that are here to behold.
The Lairig Ghru is the one of the most well-known walks in Scotland, pathing the way through the mountains from Aviemore to Braemar. We recently walked from Aviemore to the Corrour Bothy at the halfway point and back to Aviemore and in this guide we are sharing our experience and top tips for the walk.
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Hiking the Lairig Ghru (Aviemore to Corrour Bothy) - What to Expect
Walking in the Cairngorms can be a very rewarding experience when the conditions are right. The important thing to remember is that the conditions can change so quickly in Scotland to the point of it being extremely dangerous.
In this post we will discuss the following points to support you to make the most of your adventure. It is important to highlight that in addition to reading this post, you MUST ensure you are adequately prepared for your trip into the mountains of the Cairngorms, as it is one of the most dangerous places in Britain.
- Safety in the Cairngorms
- What to expect from this walk
- Where is Lairig Ghru and Corrour Bothy?
- Why Should I walk from Aviemore to the Corrour Bothy via Lairig Ghru?
- When Should I go on this walk?
- Preparing for your trip in the mountains.
- Preparing for your trip to Aviemore.
Safety in the Cairngorms
Before we go any further, it is important to highlight the seriousness of staying safe in the mountains. The weather in this part of the country is very changeable and it can snow during any month of the year.
It is important to pack plenty of warm, waterproof and windproof clothes, preferably not cotton clothes as if they get wet they will become heavy. Even during the summer months, it is good to pack a hat and gloves, your body will get very cold in the mountains. Warm thin layers that can be removed and a waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers are essential.
A map and compass, as well as knowing how to use them are essential in the hills. These days many of us will use maps on our phones, however, it is important to know that this should be used as an additional map and not be relied upon.
It is good practice when going out on a hike to let someone know where you are going and what time you are expecting to be back by. This will allow for easier search and rescue in the event that you do not make it back in time.
Check your map for water sources on route and make sure you fill up at them when you can. We use Water To Go water bottles that hold 700ml. These also come with a filter so if you are not sure about drinking water straight from a river, you can screw the filter into the bottle and this will give you safe drinking water.
It is likely that you will lose signal in the mountains and if you come in to trouble you will need to contact the mountain rescue team. Before you go out on your hike, register your phone with 999. This will mean that if you do not have signal, you should still be able to send a text for mountain rescue, only if you have pre-registered.
To do this, just text the word ‘register’ to 999. Follow the instructions you are sent in the reply. This will take about two minutes of your time and could save your life.
What to Expect on the Lairig Ghru?
The Lairig Ghru is the most well-known hill passes in Scotland. The path links Aviemore and Braemar, linked at the halfway point by the Carrour Bothy.
We walked from Aviemore to the bothy and then returned back to Aviemore the next day. This walk is 43km that we split over 2 days. It takes around 7-8 hours to walk through this beautiful scenery over paths and some rough terrain.
The Lairig Ghru reaches an altitude of 835m and at the highest point the path becomes lost underneath fallen boulders which is where the walk becomes incredibly tough.
Along the walk, you will notice storm shelters made from rocks. This shows the extreme conditions that this landscape can experience.
The Corrour Bothy is one of the most famous bothys in Scotland, therefore if you want to stay in the bothy, you will need to arrive early. We were too late and had to pitch our tent up outside.
Where is the Corrour Bothy?
There are several starting points to the Lairig Ghru. We started in Aviemore, however, there is a sign to the path at the Rothiemurchus Campsite.
At the beginning, the walk is flat through forestry paths and it is well signposted to the Lairig Ghru. After around 10km, the forestry paths will disappear and you will be more open and walking in amongst the mountains. The views are absolutely incredible, especially on a clear day.
Look out for the Cairns that people have built to show where the path leads if it has got lost due to boulders.
The Corrour Bothy sits beneath the Devils Point on the banks of the River Dee. This is the perfect way to cool off after a long hike if the weather is nice.
Why Should I walk to the Corrour Bothy from Aviemore via the Laurig Ghru?
The Lairig Ghru is one of the best walks we have ever done. The scenery through this part of the Cairngorms is just breahtaking. If you are not an experienced hill walker, we wouldn’t recommend doing this as your first hike. However, if you are used to going out in the hills and feel confident in staying safe in this part of the country then we would highly recommend giving this walk a go.
When you take all the safety precautions, this is a very enjoyable walk. The incline is barely noticeable, however you can expect your legs and feet to be sore, especially when the path becomes more rocky.
When Should I go on this walk?
There is no time of year that is best to suggest due to the constant change in weather in Scotland. You should make sure that you have checked the weather in detail before setting off into the hills and we would also advise checking a mountain weather forecast.
In saying that, the obvious choice of season to do this walk is of course Summer, due to the long days and decreased chance of storms. Keep an eye on the mountain weather forecast when planning your trip and try to aim for a window of high pressure sunshine for the best views.
Preparing for Hiking in the Mountains
Below is a list of necessities that you must consider before any trip into the hills of Scotland. This list is not complete and should be used in addition to the guide provided by the Cairngorms National Park.
- Plenty of food, the more you can take the better. We would always pack for an extra day.
- Tent – don’t rely on staying in a bothy, if you are planning a multi-day hike always carry a tent.
- Think warm! Warm clothes, jacket, sleeping bag. It is colder at higher altitude, especially overnight.
- Map and compass, as discussed above, don’t go into the hills without these and make sure you know how to read them for your safety.
- Survival blankets – important to carry in the event of poor weather conditions or an injury.
- Torch – there are no streetlights in the mountains!
- First aid kit is another important item to pack, make sure you have stuffed plenty of blister plasters in there too!
- Whistle – this is essential in the event of an emergency. Blow the whistle 6 times for an emergency call.
Before You Leave for Aviemore
Before you head off on your trip to Aviemore, there are certain things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth trip. These include how to get around the route, including being aware of single track roads, etc., what to pack for Scotland, where to stay along the route and what travel insurance to book.
How Do I Get to Aviemore?
Aviemore has become the hub of the Highlands, with many people visiting all year round. The easiest way to get to Aviemore would be to drive as that will make it easier to get around when you get there. However there is always the option of getting public transport. Both trains and buses stop in Aviemore.
If you are looking to rent a cosy, reliable and luxurious campervan for your trip to Aviemore, we highly recommend hiring through Bunk Campers. We toured with these guys around the up-and-coming Heart 200 road trip in Scotland’s central highlands and could not believe the comfort and customer service we experienced with their vans.
What Should I Pack for Aviemore?
When it comes to packing for a trip to Aviemore there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Scotland on average 250 days a year, meaning that during your trip to Aviemore you will probably experience at least a drizzle of rain. Due to this, the number one item on any Scotland packing list is a good waterproof jacket. If you are travelling in winter to Aviemore, it is also highly likely you will experience snow so we would recommend packing plenty warm clothing and waterproof shoes.
As for the rest of the year, the temperature in Scotland and the central heartlands is reasonably mild for most of the year. During the winter months, you will most likely experience snow, however, temperatures usually sit around freezing, so it is not too cold. For your reference, the average temperatures in Scotland are listed below during each season.
Spring (March, April, May) – 5-10 degrees C
Summer (June, July, August) – 15 – 25 degrees C
Autumn (September, October, November) – 5-10 degrees C
Winter (December, January, February) – 0-5 degrees C
As you can see, the weather never really gets above the teens, with anything over 25 degrees C considered a heatwave. The best way to pack for your trip to the highlands is with layers that can be added and removed as you need them. You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the colder months and will most likely need sunscreen to protect you on the long days in the open.
Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around Scotland, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.
Where Should I Stay in Aveimore?
There are many accommodation options in Aviemore, however due to how busy this small town is, we would recommend booking in advance.
Luxury – MacDonald Morlich Hotel is a beautiful hotel in the Cairngorm National Park with 7 bars and restaurants on site as well as leisure facilities. There is even an onsite cinema and a championship golf course nearby.
Mid-range – The Cairngorm Hotel is located in the heart of Aviemore and is perfect if you are wanting to stay local to bars and restaurants in the town. Each morning a full is available to guests and there is a bar and restaurant onsite for your needs.
Budget – The Aviemore Youth Hostel is situated in the town of Aviemore and in the perfect location for a walk into town or a walk to the mountains. There is a range of facilities including private rooms and dorms, a lounge area and a self-catering kitchen.
What is the Best Travel Insurance?
No matter what type of adventure you are heading on, whether it is a mountain adventure or a relaxing beach destination, one thing we all need to be aware of is that accidents can happen. The last thing you want is for an unexpected medical emergency to ruin your trip of a lifetime. Luckily, that is what travel insurance is for.
Whenever we travel abroad, we get covered with World Nomad’s Travel Insurance, a reliable, friendly and extremely affordable method of covering yourself on any adventure. With years of experience working for backpackers around the globe, the service they provide is perfect for whatever type of trip you have planned.
So there you have it, a guide to the Lairig Ghru from Aviemore to the Carrour Bothy. If you have visited Aviemore recently, let us know what you thought of the walks in the area or the Lairig Ghru if you have completed it. If you have any suggestions let us know in the comments below.
As always, sharing is caring so make sure to share this photo guide with your family and friends and inspire them to head off on their own Scottish adventure. If you are planning the trip for yourself, make sure you have a look at the rest of our Scotland content for more inspiration to our beautiful home country.
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