Snow Roads Scenic Route
The Snow Roads Scenic Route is a 90 mile journey across the highest public road in Britain that takes you from Blairgowrie in the south to Grantown-on-Spey in the north via the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.
You'll enjoy breathtaking scenery as the scenic route traverses through the beautiful highland countryside. Be prepared to take your time as you travel the route, the Snow Roads are slow roads full of steep hills, blind summits, and tight bends but just gives you more time to take it all in.
If you're planning to travel from Edinburgh or Glasgow in the south to one of Scotland's more northern areas then taking the scenic way through the Snow Roads is definitely something you should consider.
Blairgowrie to Braemar
Blairgowrie is a great starting point to your journey along the Snow Roads Scenic Route if you plan to take the Snow Roads north. The picturesque market town is one of the largest towns in Perthshire on the banks of the River Ericht and between Perth and Dundee. There are monthly community markets between April and September and it's a great place to access outdoor activities such as canoeing, kayaking, archery, golf, fishing, and even Husky dog sled rides.
It's also the starting point for the 64-mile Cateran Trail which offers a network of walking routes for walkers of all abilities. It takes you through historic drove roads that were used by cattle rustlers, known as caterans, along a signposted trail full of woodlands, glens, and more.
9 miles north of Blairgowrie lies Persie Distillery, makers of Persie Gin. They offer samples all year round and also a tour of the distillery itself. It's a great addition if you're considering looking at some stops on the Malt Whisky Trail later on too!
A short journey from Blairgowrie will take you to Bridge of Cally which is a small village that surrounds the bridge over the River Ardle. It's unique location means that it sits at the junction of three glens; Glenshee, Strathardle, and Glenericht with its general store and post office dating back to 1841, making it one of the oldest in Scotland.
There are three art installations along the Snow Roads Scenic Route which will help you to see the area with new perspectives. The first is Connecting Contours which you'll find at the southern border of the Cairngorms National Park at the Devils Elbow.
Snow sports fans will be sure to stop at the Glenshee Ski Centre which is at the summit of the A93 as it makes its way up and over the Cairnwell Pass. It's one of five ski centres in Scotland and regularly draws in visitors from Dundee and Aberdeen at the weekends. It's home to the infamous Tiger which is one of the most challenging black runs available. It's also only 35 miles from The Lecht, the area's other great ski centre.
Braemar to Ballatar
Arriving at Braemar takes you into Royal Deeside and makes a great base whilst you explore the area further. It's home to Scotland's highest 18 hole golf course and hosts the Braemar Gathering every September, which usually draws in royal guests. You can expect to see classic Highland Games events such as caber tossing, tug-o-war, piping competitions, and highland dancing competitions.
17th century Braemar Castle is just a quarter of a mile outside of the town itself and you can join a local volunteer for a guided tour. It's varied history after being built by the Earl of Mar in 1628 includes being used as a hunting lodge, fortress, garrison, and a family home.
Along this section of the route there are a lot of natural and cultural attractions, including nearby Balmoral and Crathie. It's an area that's rich in history and if you're a dedicated royalist you can even visit nearby Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of Queen Elizabeth II, and view the estates ballroom, stables, and grounds between April and July.
There's also the nearby Royal Lochnager Distillery which produces "one of Scotland's most exclusive whiskies". They offer a number of different tours around the distillery itself as well as other experiences throughout the year so that you can see the balance between traditional and more modern methods used to create this spirit.
This section finishes in Ballater which is only 16 miles along the Snow Roads from Braemar. Many of the shops in the village supply Balmoral Castle so you can try some of the products that are royal favourites. You can also visit the Royal Station which hosts Queen Victoria's waiting room. It has been completely restored after a fire destroyed much of it in 2015 with the replica Royal Carriage available to view too.
Ballater to Tomintoul
Just outside of Ballater lies the Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve which is home to lochs, secluded heaths, and miles of natural beauty. One point of interest within the reserve is Burn O'Vat which is an excellent example of a pothole. A glacial sheet once covered the area and once it meted away, some 14,000 years ago, it pulled debris and rocks with it to create "The Vat" an enclosed area of around 18 metres by 13 metres. It's truly one of many outstanding landscapes in the area.
Further along the Snow Roads you'll pass Gairnshiel Bridge and move towards Corgarff Castle. It was originally used as a noble residence but was also an army base for Jacobite hunters and whiskey smugglers. It's still in excellent condition and it's bright, white exterior makes it instantly recognisable.
Nearby to the castle is another of the art installations that lies along the Snow Roads Scenic Route, the Watchers Art Installation. It compliments an existing standing stone sculpture named "A Moment in Time" by Louise Gardiner and adds new cowels on the hillside which invites viewers to interpret them and the surrounding area themselves.
One of the more scenic areas in this area is the Lecht Pass. It's a 9 mile stretch of the Snow Roads that stands 780 metres above sea level and has narrow sections, sharp bends, and drops into another glen that is home to the Lecht Ski Centre. It offers 20 maintained ski runs and 14 lifts and is one of the top resorts in Scotland. In the summer months it also offers two mountain bike trails and the centre has plenty of knowledgeable staff that are available all year round.
Just before you reach Tomintoul you'll find Ailnack Gorge, Scotland's largest glacial melt water channel. It's home to red squirrels and roe deer in the gorge whilst mountain hare and red deer stalk along the moors above. It's 6 miles long and a perfect place for photographers to set up for the day.
Tomintoul to Grantown on Spey
Tomintoul is the highest village in the Cairngorms and has it's own munro, Ben Avon. The Glenlivet Estate and Tomintoul are also home to three registered Dark Sky Discovery Sites as part of the Cairngorms National Park Dark Sky Park. As well as your own stargazing there are astronomy events held throughout the year so that you can listen to experts tell you about the wonders of the night sky. It's an excellent area to set up for the night along the Snow Roads Scenic Route.
Staying with the Glenlivet Estate and you can visit the Glenlivet Distillery or the Tomintoul Distillery for an insight into whisky making in the area that's right on the edge of the Malt Whisky Trail. From the Glenlivet Distillery car park you can follow the George Smith Smuggler Trail, a 3 mile walk which charts some of the route taken by whisky smugglers in the early 1800's who travelled between some 200 illegal stills and Perth, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh.
Whisky enthusiasts will also want to stop at The Whisky Castle shop in Tomintoul which has over 500 varieties of malt whisky available to buy and a tasting experience to help you find your new favourite.
Just outside Tomintoul is where you'll find the final of the three art installations along the Snow Roads Scenic Route; "Still" by Angus Ritchie. It overlooks Tomintoul and is made of reflective mirrors which magnify the incredibly views of the area and uses leftover spoils from the nearby quarry.
The Snow Roads continue to wind around the most northern part of the Cairngorms National Park through the beautiful highland countryside until you reach Grantown on Spey. As the name suggests it's settled next to the River Spey which offers amazing walks through ancient woodlands as well as fishing and watersports.
The area itself is full of natural and cultural attractions such as the Grantown Museum which details the planned town's history and always has local exhibitions available as well as tourist information. There's also more modern activities such as escape rooms and a variety of cafes and restaurants across the town for you to stop off at.
From Grantown on Spey you can continue onwards to the North Coast, the Highlands, and beyond.