5 Best Motorhome Campsites in the Cairngorms National Park

November 8, 2021 in Destinations, Tips for Travellers, Scotland, United Kingdom & Campsites

The Cairngorms is the UK’s largest national park, and ‘one of the top 20 places to visit in the world’ as per the National Geographic traveller magazine. Within its 280 square kilometre expanse, there are endless things to do all throughout the seasons. And, most Cairngorms motorhome sites are open across a couple of seasons, some only closing for a month in November. So, there’s always the excuse to load up your camper and go north. Whilst it’s a popular destination for those with adventurous spirits, the expanse of the park means you’re always able to enjoy the breathtaking upland solitude. 

Goboony Cairngorms Scotland campervan h2 motorhome camping

In the Summer months, local villages bubble with music and dance, history and culture, and there are festivals and events like the highland games. It’s also the most reliable time to get in some great hikes, from Munro bagging, to more gentle and nonetheless stunning walks. You can enjoy watersports, go canyoning, cycling or visit other attractions like the countless castles and whiskey distilleries. The mountains then transform into a cascade of colour in the Autumn, before the Winter cold sets in, snow caps the mountains and ice freezes the lochs. Even the wildlife transforms, with mountain haired, stoats and ptarmigans all changing their coats to white. The Cairngorms are Scotland’s hotspot for winter snow sports, so if your campervan is equipped for the cold, you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding without even having to leave the UK. The Spring is the best time for wildlife watching, when the ground thaws and bursts back into life and the mountain hares start boxing, there’s plenty to see. 

Whilst you can go wild camping in the Cairngorms, these access rights don’t extend to motor vehicles and there is no legal right to park beside roads at night. 

That’s why we’ve written everything you need to know the best Cairngorms campervan sites to visit on your trip up to the Scottish Highlands. 

The Campsites

1. Like trees? You’ll be a very happy camper at the Rothiemurchus Centre. This is by far the best campsite in the Cairngorms National Park for immersing yourself in its forests. You can enjoy swathes of indigenous Caledonian woodland, and there are stands of Scots pine, birch and juniper, and lochs framed by the trees. Being surrounded by these towering giants, you’ll get a sense of unspoilt serenity in this unique wilderness setting. You’d never believe it’s just 3 hours away from Edinburgh, on the A9. 

There are 17 sheltered, level pitches for touring motorhomes, all with electric hook up. You can enjoy a wild camping experience with the bonus of modern facilities; a heated amenity building has toilets, showers and a dishwashing area, and a separate launderette. No campfires are allowed because of the forest location, but barbecues can be used off the ground and extinguished straight after use. 

There are cycling and walking trails that start from the site, and there are unlimited activities nearby that can be booked on the website. These include fishing, pony trekking, 4x4 off-roading, river adventures and wildlife stalking. Or, you can just sit and enjoy the woodland wildlife from the comfort of your pitch!

Pitches over the summer season are £26 per night and winter season are £34, both prices including electricity. Dogs are £2 per pitch per night and must be always on a lead. 

Rothiemurchus Centre, Rothiemurches, By Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1QH

campandcaravan@rothie.net

@rothiemurchus 

2. The Dalraddy Holiday Park is part of the Alvie Estate, which is a traditional highland working estate where wildlife like red squirrels and roe deer roam. It’s one of the most exciting Cairngorms campervan sites, because there are so many gripping highland pursuits on offer, like backcountry survival courses, extreme sports, pony trekking and a zip trek park, where you can fly high above the Scots Pines at 40km/h! There’s also a food truck at the entrance of the Holiday Park which serves up hot, local seasonal meals. 

All of their touring pitches are hard standing, and they have a motorhome service point on-site alongside chemical waste disposal facilities. There are two wash blocks on the holiday park, the central one including toilets, showers, disabled toilet and wet room, washing up space and a laundrette that’s equipped with washers and dryers. 

For pitch prices, give them a call on 01479 810 330. 

Alvie Estate Office, Kincraig, Kingussie, Inverness-shire, PH21 1NE.

dalraddy@alvie-estate.co.uk 

@dalraddy.holiday.park.aviemore 

Goboony Cairngorms Scotland campervan h2 motorhome camping

3. The Glenmore Campsite, which sits right on the shores of Loch Morlich like a pinpoint in the middle of the national park, has been called ‘probably the nicest campsite in the whole world’ by visitors with fond memories here. So, it’s no wonder it has made it to our list of top 5 Cairngorms motorhome sites. The sunsets and sunrises here are unrivalled, with mountain views all around despite its secluded forest location. The campsite is spacious, friendly, and has a warm shower block fit for the warming up campers who have been out in the wild landscape. The towering trees occasionally give way to open, well-kept sandy pitches.

You can hang out at the site, spotting otters, deer, ospreys, and eagles. Or, go canoeing or kayaking on the loch and get out into the surrounding mountains which invite walkers of all abilities and interests; there are heritage paths, long-distance walks, community paths and trails through the villages and towns, and higher altitude hill tracks webbing across the Cairngorms national park. Camping at Glenmore has other perks, too. Like the visitor’s centre cafe across the road, which does great breakfasts, and the Pine Marten bar next door does wonderful grub, serves local ales, and usually has a roaring wood burner on the go. 

Hardstanding pitches with electric hookup are £22 per night. 

Glenmore Campsite, Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1QU

01479 861271

@campingintheforest

4. Braemar Caravan Park is our second campsite in the Cairngorms National Park on an estate. The Invercauld Estate in Glenshee encompasses 200 square miles of landscape in the park, and is managed for wildlife, sport, community and recreation; it hosts Scotland’s highest golf course, the Glenshee Ski Centre, and endless miles of incredible walking. They also host the world-famous Braemar Gathering in September, you can watch in awe as the whole village rallies around Highland Sports, like the tossing of the caber, and tug of war. Even the Royal family come to witness the show. 

The caravan park is well equipped for the colder months, with heated facilities, a boot room, drying room and ski lockers, as well as a snowplough ready to help you get safely to your pitch. Other, year-round facilities include a shop on-site that stocks caravan and camping equipment, drinks and snacks, and a range of gas cylinders for purchase. The pitches are surrounded by mountain views in every direction, and the staff are more than happy to give recommendations about walking routes, things to do and see, and places to eat. 

Standard hard standing pitches with electric hookups are £29.50 during peak season. 

Braemar Caravan Park, Glenshee Road, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, AB35 5YQ

info@braemarcaravanpark.co.uk 

@braemarcaravanpark 

Goboony Cairngorms Scotland campervan h2 motorhome camping

5. Finally, and not far away from Braemar, is our last recommendation for Cairngorms motorhome sites: Tarland by Deeside Camping and Caravanning Club Site. This site is just slightly outside of the park itself, in Aberdeenshire to the east. This doesn’t mean its tree-lined surrounds are any less spectacular, in fact, it shares the same views as Balmoral Castle, the royal family’s holiday home. There are many historic and prehistoric sites to be explored in the area, with excursions from the campsite including Balmoral Castle and the Royal Lochnagar Distilllery. The Tomintoul Museum, Glenlivet Disitllery, Blairfindy Castle and Braemar Highland heritage centre are all nearby, too. If walking is more your game, the village of Tarland is a five-minute walk away, and from here, you can pick up the ten kilometre Tarland Way walking and cycle path, which runs from the village to Aboyne. Or there are 30 Munros in the immediate area to get scrambling up and ticking off your list. 

The facilities at Tarland include clean, heated washrooms, a designated dog walk area in the forest and a motorhome service point. Nearby, you’ve got some great options for home-cooked meals with two dog-friendly pubs, The Commercial Hotel, and the Aberdeen Arms. But, a heads up before you go, mobile phone reception here is a bit iffy due to the rural location and WiFi coverage is limited to hotspots within the site. We don’t think this is a problem for a getaway trip to the Cairngorms National Park for camping, when you can leave all the commitments and obsessions of normal life behind. However, if you need to be contactable or work whilst on the road. take a look at our blog about setting up motorhome electrics, which includes a section on remote internet options for your camper.

Hardstanding pitches with electric hookup are £20.50 for non-members. 

Tarland Camping and Caravanning Club Site, Tarland, Aberdeenshire. AB34 4UP. 

Wild Camping in the Cairngorms 

Wild camping in the Cairngorms National Park is something we really recommend; it is a dark sky park after all and there’s no better way to enjoy one of the best spots for stargazing in the whole world than ditching everything except the essentials. However, Scotland’s right to roam includes some rules for the benefit of other campers and the wildlife around you.

  • Follow local signage and advice from the Countryside Rangers. 
  • Pitch up away from roads, cars, buildings, and paths.
  • Keep the numbers of your group small. 
  • Don’t stick to one spot for more than two nights. 
  • Leave zero traces of your visit. Triple check for litter!

Goboony Cairngorms Scotland campervan h2 motorhome camping

Tips for taking your Motorhome to the Cairngorms National Park

  • Follow the Highway Code, and pay attention to guidance on parking which includes not blocking forest, estate or farm entrances. There may be specific local guidance signposted so visitors don’t park overnight in particular areas, too. The code also includes guidance on litter and human waste, and you should only empty chemical toilet waste in designated chemical waste areas.
  • Don’t light campfires in the park. Instead, use a stove for cooking, as this helps prevent wildfires and protect the park’s woodlands, trees and peatlands. 
  • Some attractions will need to be booked in advance, and with the always-unpredictable situation, the good people at VisitCaingorms.com have crafted a website specifically designed to help you plan ahead. You can check the status of listed Cairngorms campervan sites, businesses, carparks, public toilets, and access routes here. 
  • If you’re bringing a furry friend, be sure to keep them on a lead to protect the various endangered species of bird that call the Cairngorms home. 

Goboony campsites cairngorms national park h2 campervan motorhome scotland

Recommended Reading

Finally, we’ve got a little extra recommendation for your Cairngorms National Park camping trip. This one’s a book: The Living Mountain by Nan Shephard. The weather can be pretty changeable up in the Scottish Highlands, and this particular book will transport you up the mountain slopes even if you’re having a down day, cosied up inside your camper with a hot chocolate or whiskey. Nan Shephard’s meditation on the Cairngorms is a true classic of nature writing, and really brings the landscape alive. Everything she describes, from the light, the rocks, the weather and the mountains themselves are charmed with a wildness that draws any reader’s soul along the paths she walks. It’s also a book that has earned an important place in a male-dominated genre and deserves to sit on every traveller’s shelf.