The Snow Roads Scenic Route is a 90-mile journey through the Cairngorms National Park where you can witness Scotland in all its elemental glory. The route begins in the charming market town of Blairgowrie which is the gateway to the popular activity honeypot of Glenshee. It ends in Grantown-on Spey, a traditional Highland town, surrounded by ancient woodland. Travelling along the highest public road in Britain you will be treated to picture-postcard views and the opportunity to spot some of Scotland’s wildlife, such as osprey, eagles and mountain hare.
Naturally, you will need to decide on the perfect itinerary for your Snow Roads Scenic Route. We’ve outlined a great route below that will give you a taste of what this wonderful part of the world has to offer. We’d recommend allowing at least three to five days to give you enough time to get under the skin of the area - more if you can manage it. We’ll also include some accommodation recommendations with the great facilities and mind-blowing views that will be the icing on the cake at the end of your day’s explorations.
Before your trip
Your Snow Roads Scenic Route road trip is not one to rush. Plan your itinerary carefully in advance giving yourself time to rest and to stop if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
True to its name, visitors are likely to see at least dustings of snowflakes on the hilltops all year round, though as you can imagine winter is a different story. Road closures are possible so make sure you plan ahead and check out one of the many live webcams along the route.
Your packing list should include provisions for every season, no matter what time of year you go. Stock up with blankets and emergency supplies, insect repellent, offline or paper maps, a few torches, sunscreen and a good first aid kit. Good footwear is a must as is waterproof clothing. You can also take a look at some of these travel apps for restaurant recommendations and route planning. Speaking of which, let’s get started planning your perfect Snow Roads Scenic Route itinerary.
Day 1 to 2
Blairgowrie to Braemar
You begin your Snow Roads Scenic Route itinerary in Cateran Country. Alongside being an excellent base for mountain biking, paragliding and so forth at nearby Glenshee, Blairgowrie is renowned for its delicious raspberries. It is also close to the village of Meikleour which boasts the world’s largest hedge! Following the River Ericht northwards you can stop at the Spittal of Glenshee or take in the awe-inspiring view at Devils’ Elbow, a hairpin bend in upper Glenshee. If you need refreshments, this is a good point to stop before heading on to Braemar.
Braemar is a great place to spend the night with the option of visiting the beautiful Braemar Castle (due to open following extensive restoration in 2023). Afterwards, you can enjoy a restorative local ale and some tempting classic Scottish dishes in The Fife Arms.
If it’s possible to extend your trip, Braemar is a beautiful place to spend a couple of days. Check out this blog for some top tips on things to do and see.
Staying at: Open nearly all year round (apart from November) Braemar Caravan Park offers 86 hard-standing touring pitches with electric hook-ups and 11 without. The facilities are excellent and the views are simply glorious. Dogs are welcome.
Braemar to Ballater
Once you have stocked up on treats from the Hazelnut Patisserie and ales from Braemar Brewery it's time to embark on the next part of your Snow Roads Scenic Route road trip. Keep your eyes peeled for golden eagles and red squirrels as you journey towards Ballater.
Looking for a place to stop off? Check out Balmoral Castle, which doubtless you are aware is the Scottish home of the Royal Family or take a tour of Royal Lochnagar Whiskey Distillery. If you’re in the mood for a scenic diversion head over to Loch Muick, just eight miles southwest of Ballater. Here you can enjoy a 12.7km circular trail around this gorgeous freshwater lake or just relax and take in the views.
On arrival at Ballater in the heart of Royal Deeside, you can wander the streets of this sweet Victorian village, enjoying a beer at one of the welcoming pubs and investing in local cheese from Cambus O’May.
Staying at: Ballater Caravan Park, half a mile from the centre of the village. Surrounded by hills, with well-maintained facilities this is the ideal place to rest and recuperate.
Ballater to Tomintoul
If you aren’t in a hurry and have a few hours spare, take a short detour to Muir of Dinnet and walk the 6.25km Lord Kinord Circuit, an excellent walk for birdwatchers. Back on the road to Tomintoul, break the journey at the lovely 16th Century Corgarff Castle. You will need to book in advance and all visits include a guided tour. Nearby you can also see The Watchers which is one of three art installations dotted along the Snow Roads Scenic Route.
At 345 metres above sea level, Tomintoul is the highest village in the Highlands but is usually accessible all year round. As we mentioned earlier, check the local weather reports and webcams if you are in any doubt.
While on the remote side, Tomintoul is a pleasant place to stay the night and no visit to Tomintoul is complete without a visit to the whiskey distillery, located just a few miles outside Tomintoul village. Historically, Tomintoul was known for its illicit distilleries and this heritage can be seen all around the area. Alongside the aforementioned multi-award-winners, visitors can enjoy several other Speyside distilleries including Glenlivet. Take a look at the Visit Scotland webpage for more information. If you are in the area in April/May check out the Spirit of Speyside Festival.
Staying at: Open all year round the Tomintoul Bowling Club Campsite is a basic site with eight hard-standing pitches. It’s basically an empty car park with an honesty box and toilet but with views across the Lecht Hills, what more do you need?
Day 4 -5
Tomintoul to Grantown-on-Spey
It is only about a 30 minutes drive on your Snow Roads Scenic Route road trip from Tomintoul to Grantown-on-Spey. So, why not hike one of the many wonderful trails in the area like the two-hour Glenmulliach Viewpoint circuit or the three to four-hour Livet Path? If cycling is your thing, head over to the purpose-built mountain biking centre at the heart of the Glenlivet Estate. Bikes are available to hire and there are rewarding trails for both novice and experienced riders.
When it’s time to get behind the steering wheel again, make your way to Grantown-on-Spey. Your journey needn’t conclude here. There is so much to do at your final destination, you may want to stick around for one or two or maybe three more nights.
Right on the northern edge of the Cairngorms, Grantown-on-Spey has a lovely high street full of tempting independent shops and plenty of well-marked walking and cycling trails that are easily accessible from the town. If gentle Grantown-on Spey is not to your tastes and you want somewhere a bit more lively, head to Aviemore, another attractive and well-situated town to explore this area of the Cairngorms.
Staying at: Shower blocks with underfloor heating? Amazing views of Strathspey? We’re sold! The Grantown-on-Spey Caravan Park offers 130 touring pitches including spacious super pitches. There are a variety of great cafes and restaurants a short walk from the park including the family-run Wee Puffin which serves up delicious burgers and a variety of other home-cooked meals.
As you can see there is a wealth of interesting and inspiring things to do on the Snow Roads Scenic Route. Each one of the destinations we mentioned above would easily warrant a day or two to explore. Good fishing is accessible pretty much all year round plus there’s kayaking, canoeing, horse riding, rock climbing and a mind-boggling array of historical sites to marvel at. Check out more great campsites in the Cairngorms National Park.
Then there are the walking trails. There really is something for everyone, including some accessible routes for wheelchairs. When you are out walking You are likely to encounter cattle or sheep on many of the walks so keep dogs on a lead at all times.
One of the most enjoyable and attractive things about journeys like the Snow Roads Scenic Route is the feeling of being close to nature and away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. So, what better way to experience the wild side of life than in your own vehicle? Head on over to Goboony’s motorhomes for hire and find the four-wheeled travel partner that will make your trip complete.