Your Favourite Cairngorms Walk? The Chalamain Gap 

Cairngorms National ParkIf you’ve ever wondered if heaven is a place on Earth, you need to look no further than Cairngorms National Park. The snowcapped mountains, rolling grass filled hills, and abundant wildlife entices visitors from all over the world who come to Scotland to take in the natural beauty and refresh their souls.

One of the best parts of Cairngorms is the number of quality trails that are available for people to hike. Each trail has it’s features that make it special, but the best trail to hike when visiting Cairngorms is the Chalamain Gap Trail. If you’re short on time and can only hike one trail in Cairngorms, it has to be Chalamain Gap! 

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • A brief history of the Chalamain Gap Trail.
  • What it’s like to hike the trail and why you should plan on hiking it yourself.
  • What to bring with you to get the most out of your hike.

A Brief History of the Chalamain Gap Trail

Before the Cairngorms became protected as a national park, the area had been long used as a place for grazing sheep and cattle. The grassy glens within the mountains were ideal spots to feed growing herds, especially if you were a drover getting to take in all of the views the Cairngorms have to offer!

Chalamain_gapThe Chalamain Gap Trail was developed by drovers early in Scotland’s history to help move their herds from one glen to the next. Due to the rugged nature of the mountains and limited places to pass between the peaks, the Chalamain Gap Trail became the main way in which drovers moved their herds around the mountains. 

One of the best parts of hiking the Chalamain Gap Trail is being able to empathize with the early developers of the trail. As you hike, imagine moving large herds of animals up and over the mountains, ever on the alert for bandits that may try to steal away the animals you were in charge of. It’s fascinating to think about the hardships that these drovers must have faced to earn a living in such a beautiful place!

Hiking the Chalamain Gap Trail

The Chalamain Gap Trail is rated as difficult due to the elevation gain and distance you’ll encounter. The trail itself is relatively short, running a bit over 3 miles in length. The main attraction of the Chalamain Gap Trail is the access it provides to major peaks and viewpoints in Cairngorms National Park. 

As you hike, you’ll find that the trail is full of exposed rocks, so it’s important to wear sturdy hiking boots with a good tread and ankle support. There’s nothing quite worse than going hiking and slipping or twisting an ankle. Take your time getting used to the surface of the tread at first. Try to look ahead at the trail to anticipate obstacles in the way rather than looking down as you walk. This will help you hike at a faster pace as well as ensure that you take in the views of the surrounding mountains rather than the dirt!

Cairngorms WalkStarting from the Reindeer House, you’ll hike north towards Lairig Ghru. There are a few shady spots along the trail at the beginning, but as you make your way further up the trail and gain more elevation, those shady spots become sparse. Be sure to take plenty of breaks and drink plenty of water as you hike to stay comfortable and safe on your journey!

As you near the top of the trail, you’ll begin to see the small pass in the mountains that give the Chalamain Gap Trail its name. There is a small gap in the granite that allowed for safe passage of drovers and their livestock long ago. It’s hard to imagine moving animals through that area, keeping them all together and safe along the way! 

Keep an eye on the weather report before going up. As with much of the rest of Scotland, rainfall and cloudy weather is fairly common. Go prepared with waterproof outer layers and warm clothing to stay dry and warm throughout your trip. And in those rare instances with the clouds and fog retreats, have a camera ready to capture the beauty of the glens and mountains that surround Chalamain Gap!

Packing List 

To ensure that you’re properly prepared to complete this hike safely and comfortably, be sure to bring along the following items when you begin your trip:

  • Backpack
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Rain jacket and rain pants
  • Wool or synthetic fabric base layers
  • Wool or synthetic socks
  • Gloves 
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • First aid kit
  • Knife
  • Fire starting kit
  • Plenty of water
  • High calorie snacks
  • Phone for taking pictures as well as using as a GPS (download a map of the area before you go, as cell service in the park is very limited)

Each item is meant to keep you safe and comfortable throughout your trip. The best items to bring are the items that you know how to use and will actually put in your pack! Familiarize yourself with them before setting out on your trip and you’ll set yourself up for a successful hike!

Final Thoughts

Chalamain Gap Trail is one of the best hikes to complete when visiting Cairngorms National Park. You get to connect with the herding history of Scotland and immerse yourself in the natural beauty that makes Scotland such a special place.

Walk The Chalamain Gap Before you go hike, be sure to plan your trip out right by gathering all of the gear that you need to stay safe and comfortable throughout your hike. And, if possible, always hike with a partner so that you have someone who can help you if you run into trouble. At the very least, be sure to tell someone about your plan before you go. You should have a detailed itinerary for them that includes where you plan to hike, when you plan to leave, and when you plan to return. That way if anything happens, someone will know that there is something not right if you don’t return at the time you planned on returning and can alert the authorities to get you help as soon as possible.

With that in mind, go out and take on the Chalamain Gap Trail! We can’t wait to hear about your trip!