There are many incredible things to do in the Cairngorms national park. Active explorers can choose from munro bagging on arctic tundra and Lochside walks to mountain biking and wildlife watching. Culture lovers will love the castles and Jacobite history. Yet no matter what your interests are, you will enjoy a visit to Loch Garten in the Cairngorms. There are many things to do at Loch Garten for everyone! No matter what time of year you visit Loch Garten, the wildlife and scenery will blow you away! This is the ultimate guide to visiting Loch Garten.
- How do I get to Loch Garten?
- Best time of year to visit Loch Garten
- What to wear when visiting Loch Garten
- 6 Things to do at Loch Garten
- Things to do near Loch Garten
- Where to stay in Loch Garten
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How do I get to Loch Garten?
Loch Garten is in the Cairngorms national park in Scotland. The Cairngorms is a very beautiful place to add to your Scottish road trip and is often listed as one of the most scenic drives in Scotland.
Loch Garten is close to the busy town of Aviemore. You can reach Loch Garten by car or there are several public transport options. From April to October you can hop on a steam train to Boat of Garten from Aviemore. Alternatively, you can get on bus Service 34 from Aviemore to Grantown on Spey. From there it is a 15-minute walk to the RSPB Osprey centre.
Best time of year to visit Loch Garten
Loch Garten is a great place to visit year-round! Each season brings its own beauty to this part of the Cairngorms.
Loch Garten in spring
Each spring ospreys arrive in Loch Garten! There is plenty of birdlife to admire at Loch Garten in spring.
Loch Garten in summer
In summer, the trees are lush green. The long days mean for full days of adventure through the woodlands and along the loch shore.
Loch Garten in autumn
In autumn, the trees come alive with colour. The silver birches turn golden and red squirrels hastily collect nuts.
Loch Garten in winter
Loch Garten in winter is magical. Frost and snow create a winter wonderland at Loch Garten. This time of year is also perfect for winter wildlife encounters in the Cairngorms!
What to wear when visiting Loch Garten
The Cairngorms is located in Scotland which means you should be prepared for rain regardless of what time of year you visit. Therefore, make sure you pack a waterproof jacket and waterproof shoes. Wellingtons are especially useful as you can have a paddle in the loch too!
In winter it can get pretty cold so a hat and gloves come in useful. The warmer months tend to be late spring and summer but still bring layers as the Scottish weather likes to keep you on your toes!
6 Things to do at Loch Garten
There are many amazing things to do at Loch Garten! From birdwatching to loch walks and even having a bird land on your hand!
1. Visit the RSPB Osprey Centre
Visiting the Osprey centre is one thing you must do when visiting Loch Garten. The RSPB Osprey Centre is located on the shores of Loch Garten.
Loch Garten is home to the Osprey centre. The nearby village of Boat of Garten is actually nicknamed the Osprey Village.
In the 19th century, ospreys became extent due to hunting and egg collectors. In 1954, two ospreys returned to Loch Garten and created a nest. Slowly the species recolonised Scotland and the RSPB bought the site to monitor the nest.
Recently the hide has been renovated and will be a fantastic place to learn about the beautiful birds. The birds leave the hide at the end of summer which makes spring and early summer the best time to see ospreys at Loch Garten.
You can see more birds than just ospreys at Loch Garten. You might spot capercaillies which look like small turkeys. There are also chaffinches, woodpeckers, crested tits and Scottish crossbills. Birdwatching is a fantastic thing to do at Loch Garten.
2. Stroll along the Two Lochs Walk
A wonderful thing to do at Loch Garten is the 2 Loch Walk. The 2 Loch Walk at Loch Garten takes you along the northern shore of Loch Garten to Loch Loch Mallachie. It is a wonderful walk which is suitable for families and all fitness types as it is a fairly flat walk.
Starting at the Osprey centre, you walk through the woods until you reach the shore. Cross the road and follow the path along the northern shore line. There are smaller paths as well as larger main ones. Bare in mind both of these can get muddy so wellies are very useful here.
Even if it is raining, this is a lovely walk in the Cairmgorms. The tall trees provide some protection from the rain and it is fun to hear the mud squelching under your feet. Bare in mind that the smaller paths near the loch may be submerged in wet weather. You can either go through the bog or you may have to retrace your steps. This is all just part of the fun of walking in Scotland!
There are little signs and questions along the route about witches and herbs to keep little ones entertained.
Once you reach Loch Mallachie you are spoilt with views of another stunning loch in Scotland. A little island stands silently with a few lonely trees. Said to be particularly spectacular at sunset, it is just as pretty on a rainy day. In fact, a drizzly day may be a more appropriate atmosphere as Loch Mallachie which means the loch of the curse!
After taking plenty of photos of the loch of the curse, return back through the forest towards Loch Garten. Follow the main path or the smaller ones until you reach the road. From there return to the osprey centre or if you have arrived by public transport walk back into Boat of Garten.
If you fancy checking out another easy walk in Scotland you may enjoy this easy hike in Argyll.
Click here for the two loch walk route map.
3. Feed birds in your hand at Loch Garten
The saying goes that “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Well how often have you actually held a bird in your hand? If you would like to experience the sensation of a coal tit sitting in the palm of your hand then Loch Garten is the place to do that!
One of the best things to do at Loch Garten is feeding the birds! The Osprey centre at Loch Garten is a haven for bird watchers.
As you leave the car park, you may see visitors with their hands stretched out by the bird feeders. Occasionally a bird lands on their hands, takes a few seeds then leaves.
We had no seeds but decided to stretch out our hands to see if the birds would land. It turns out they are very friendly as we had quite a few land on us to see if we had any seeds. As soon as they realised, we did not they would leave. Therefore, we gathered a few seeds of the ground. This worked much better as they would put their tiny talons around our fingers and peck a few seeds. What an amazing experience!
4. Spot red squirrels at Loch Garten
Who doesn’t love a pretty little red squirrel?
While there are pockets of red squirrels in the Lake District and Northumberland, Scotland is home to 75% of the UK’s squirrel population. They live in coniferous woods and Abernethy Forest by Loch Garten is perfect for the little creatures.
See if you can spot a red squirrel during your trip to Loch Garten. They might be hopping about in the trees above you or scurrying along on the forest floor. I love their little fluffy ears!
Looking for red squirrels is another great thing to do at Loch Garten.
5. Paddle in Loch Garten
Paddling in Loch Garten is a great thing to do for both adults and children! I feel that wellington boots should be on all Scotland packing lists. You will have much more fun in wellies and your feet will be thankful that they stay dry to. Regardless of what time of year you visit, you can enjoy splashing through the mud and paddling in the loch!
Gently enter the clear waters in your wellie and watch the ripples from your feet expand. It is strangely mesmerising. Also, wellies mean you can climb onto the various rocks and unleash your inner child.
Even if you don’t plan on paddling in the loch, you may end up paddling through bog! The two-loch walk has a good path which can get quite muddy. There are smaller paths along the loch edge which can flood during wet weather. Yes, you can stick to the main paths or go on the smaller ones in wellies you can play a game of “how deep is the bog?” roulette where you put your feet into the depth of the bog and hope your wellie is tall enough. It’s great fun.
Whether you paddle in the loch, in mud or in bog – paddling in wellington boots is a great thing to do at Loch Garten.
6. Take photos at Loch Garten
On your visit to Loch Garten, you must bring a camera. This part of the Cairngorms is breath-taking and keen photographers will love taking photos of the incredible scenery and wildlife.
Each season brings new wonders to Loch Garten. Lush green forests in summer, misty autumn days, frosty winter weather and wildlife sighting year-round mean there are plenty of photo opportunities at Loch Garten.
I took many photos during our trip to Loch Garten. It was raining gently which seemed to magnify the autumn colours. The clouds across the lake snaked along silently and created incredible reflections. I could have spent all day wondering about the forests taking photos at Loch Garten. Taking photos is a great thing to do at Loch Garten!
Things to do near Loch Garten
There are plenty of things to do near Loch Garten. Hikers will enjoy hiking the Cairn Gorm or Scotland’s second tallest mountain Ben MacDui. There are more beautiful lochs such as Loch an Eilein and Loch Morlich. Culture lovers can visit one of the many castles or the ruins of Ruthven Barracks. Also make sure you stop off at Carr Bridge to see the beautiful old bridge.
There are many things to do in the Cairmgorms!
Where to stay in Loch Garten
Fancy staying near Loch Garten? Why not check out these airbnbs by Loch Garten? You may wish to stay in the quaint Osprey village of Boat of Garten or in the nearby bustling town of Aviemore.
Alternatively use the booking.com tool below to find accommodation in Loch Garten.
Would you like to visit Loch Garten?
Have you been inspired to visit Loch Garten? Would you like to feed birds and go to the Loch of the curse? Let us know in the comments below!