Special qualities in the Cairngorms

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10 reasons why the Cairngorms is a special place...

Huge granite mountains have shaped the natural heritage, people, landscapes and culture of the UK's largest national park...

  • It's the largest national park in the UK, covering an area nearly half as big again as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
  • A special place for wildlife - and one in four of the UK's endangered species live in Cairngorms National Park - The park is made up of a unique mosaic of habitats of very high quality, and exceptional size and scale. It is a stronghold for British wildlife, including many of the UK’s rare and endangered species - like golden eagles.
  • One third of the UK land above 600 metres is in the park - and there's more: 95 percent of the goldeneye ducks that breed in Britain do so in the park; it contains one quarter of Scotland’s native forest and more breeding farmland waders than the whole of Wales, and is home to the largest population of twinflower in Scotland.
  • Its high plateaux are more like parts of Greenland than anywhere else in Scotland - and they’re the place with the rarest habitats, too. The park is an important place for species that need such a cold place to live. It’s the most southerly site in Europe for snow buntings, and for many other species, Cairngorms National Park is a last outpost.
  • Moorland is managed for red grouse - Moors are probably the landscape that makes the biggest impression and often provoke visitors’ commonest question: ‘What are those funny patterns in the heather?’ Understanding muirburn, and how moorland is managed for red grouse, can be a key to understanding many other aspects of the park.
  • Water (frozen and liquid) has moulded the park. Thinking of it as one habitat doesn't do it justice: it is many. World-famous fishing rivers so clean and natural they are used as benchmarks for UK water quality standards, internationally important wetlands, high Arctic lochans and popular places to paddle – the park has them all.
  • Farmland in the park has never been farmed intensively - if there had been better roads to towns and cities, the farmland in the park might look very different today. But the straths were too far away from the markets, and the soil was too poor for them ever to be farmed intensively. That makes them rare survivors, and vital places for birds such as waders.
  • Forests have evolved from woodland that's been here thousands of years. They make up the largest area of native woodland in Britain and are a key part of the park’s character. They’re also home to core populations of wildlife that are scarce in the rest of Britain, like red squirrels, crossbills, and capercaillie.
  • People of the park have a distinct identity - separated by the great bulk of the mountains, different areas have their own distinct identity and cultural traditions, but they share deep connections to the same environments. The park is a place of ‘mountain folk’ and ‘forest folk’.
  • The park's landscapes have inspired and influenced many, including: Sir Edwin Landseer, who defined an image of Scotland with paintings like Monarch of the Glen; physicist Peter Higgs developed his theories about elementary particles while walking in the Cairngorms; Patrick Geddes, a pioneer of community and environmental philosophy, grew up in Ballater. And the park has inspired great writing - think Byron’s Romantic visions, the pioneer natural history of Seton Gordon, the meditations of Nan Shepherd and Jim Crumley, and comic descriptions of bothy life by Dave Brown and Ian Mitchell.

Keeping it special - the role of the Authority