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Cairngorm Mountain is home to Scotland’s only funicular railway, which offers spectacular views from its highest point at 3,500ft (1.07 km).
The Cairngorm mountain range is a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts and year-round hill walkers, but many visitors go there just to experience the funicular.
Discover this exciting attraction in this complete guide which features an overview and lots of handy visiting tips.
Note, the funicular is due to re-open in Autumn 2022.
Discover more places to visit with the Ultimate Tourist Map of Scotland
About the Cairngorm Mountain Funicular Railway
Cairngorm mountain is the UK’s sixth-highest and it’s well-known for being Scotland’s premier snowsports destination.
But this mountain isn’t just about skiing and snowboarding because visitors can explore it at all times of the year thanks to the Cairngorm Mountain Funicular Railway that runs up to its summit.
This is the highest railway in Britain and a journey in one of the carriages will take you up an incredible 462 metres over the length of its 1,970 metre track.
The funicular is the only one in Scotland and a trip to the top of Cairngorm is likely to be the high point (no pun intended… or was it?) of any visit to the Scottish Highlands.
Although it was intended to replace the ‘White Lady’ chairlift in 2001 as a mode of transport for winter skiers, the funicular has become a popular tourist attraction in its own right due to the breathtaking views that can be seen during the 10-minute journey from the base station to the top of the mountain.
Discover more mountains in Scotland with: The Best Munros in Scotland – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
Visiting the Cairngorm Mountain Funicular Railway
The railway starts in the Coire Cas area where there’s a restaurant, shop, ticket office, sports hire shop, mountain ranger office and the Disability Sport UK office – all of which means the area is busy at all times of the year.
If you’re visiting the Cairngorm centre you need to be aware that peak times have huge amounts of tourists visiting the site with an average 150,000–160,000 non-winter-sports visitors and a further 50,000–120,000 during the winter. Those numbers mean it can get pretty crowded at times, so don’t go expecting to have the mountain to yourself.
So what can you expect to see at this popular tourist destination?
The funicular is best used simply as a means for getting to the top station in double-quick time but it also makes for an enjoyable ride if you don’t fancy getting your boots on to explore one of Scotland’s best wilderness areas.
But perhaps more importantly it also opens the mountain up to people with mobility problems and I think that slightly compensates for the environmental concerns the railway has raised since opening in 2001.
As you arrive at the peak of the northern slope of Cairngorm you’ll likely want to stop and take in the glorious scenery that stretches for miles around in all directions, with Loch Morlich clearly visible below and the beautiful mountain ranges of the Cairngorm national park stretching out into the distance.
Cairngorm has some remarkable walking routes that are the main draw for most visitors outside of the winter months, although the conditions can be difficult so you’d be well advised to take part in one of the professionally guided excursions that are hosted by the mountaineers at the Top Station.
You aren’t actually permitted to leave the Top Station without a professional guide anyway – and it won’t take you long to realise why – with challenging paths leading out into the wilderness that a novice walker could easily get lost on.
The guides really are excellent though and they make a point of being very supportive and teaching you how to get the best out of your walking gear, how to pace yourself, and how to monitor the ever-changing conditions.
If you choose not to take the funicular to the Top Station then you can walk from the base to the summit in around three hours if you’re a bit of a slow hiker, but someone who’s reasonably fit should be able to complete the journey in half that time.
It’s quite a simple route as the path is well trodden and there will almost certainly be other people within eyesight but even so I suggest packing extra clothes for the top station as well as making sure you’re wearing decent walking boots – especially in winter as the trail gets very boggy in places.
As well as being your destination for walks up the mountain the Top Station also has an excellent café and the Ptarmigan restaurant serves up good-quality food after an energetic hiking session.
The restaurant is particularly noteworthy as it has a viewing terrace that provides amazing panoramic views as you munch a plate of chips over 1,200 metres above sea level, and in winter the terrace becomes an attraction in its own right with visitors finding it exciting to stand in 60mph+ winds!
There’s also a gift shop and a mountain gear outfitter at the top station if you fancy taking home a memento or stocking up on clothing and if you have a postcard you can mail it from Britain’s highest post box.
Discover more places to visit in the Scottish Highlands with: The Best Places to Visit in the Highlands – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
- The view on your way to the top of the mountain is incredible. Take your camera.
- It makes a memorable addition to your visit to the Cairngorm range and the Top Station is a good final destination for a coffee and what could be the best views in Scotland.
- As of 2020 the funicular is closed but keep an eye on the official website for details of re-opening times.
- Single tickets are expensive for what you get so buy the annual pass instead which is much better value – if you plan on returning often.
- Head down to Loch Morlich after you’ve been on the funicular. How often can you say you’ve sat on a beach and a mountain top in the same afternoon?
- The Cairngorm range is perfect for hiking but make sure you’ve got a decent map with you. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Directions to Cairngorm Mountain
The Cairngorm Mountain Funicular Railway is 13 kilometres (8 miles) from Aviemore and can be reached by travelling along the B970 and C38 roads to Glenmore.
Cairn Gorm Ski Area,
Click map for directions
Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Cairn Gorm & Aviemore – OL57 Explorer.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
Things to do near Cairngorm Mountain
- Glenmore Forest Park Visitor Centre. Glenmore, Aviemore PH22 1QU. 7-minute drive. One of Scotland’s largest forest areas. The visitor centre is the starting point for most excursions into the forests around Cairngorm whether it’s on foot or mountain bike. There is a café and a visitor information point on-site.
- Loch Morlich. 7-minute drive. A large freshwater loch situated at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains. Loch Morlich has a large golden sand beach on its eastern edge that has a café and a watersports equipment hire shop. It is surrounded by a forest that has multiple footpaths running through it.
- Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. Reindeer House, Glenmore, Aviemore PH22 1QU. 6-minute drive. This attraction takes visitors on daily guided tours to see Britain’s only free-ranging herd of wild reindeer. There are also a small number of reindeer that can be visited in the centre’s paddocks.
- An Lochan Uaine. Aviemore PH22 1QZ. 12-minute drive plus a 20-minute walk. A popular lochan that sits alongside one of the most-used walking trails in Glenmore Forest. The tree-lined body of water has open areas suitable for picnics. It is known as the ‘Green Loch’ due to the unusual green colour of the water caused by the trees reflecting off it.
- Strathspey Steam Railway. Dalfaber Rd, Aviemore PH22 1PY. 18-minute drive. Restored steam train with traditional carriages that follows a timetabled route from Aviemore to Boat of Garten. The 10-mile track offers stunning views of the Highlands as it passes through woodlands and heather moorland.
Accommodation near Cairngorm Mountain
From Aviemore centre:
- Macdonald Highlands Hotel. 0.1 miles.
- Macdonald Morlich Hotel. 0.2 miles.
- Cairngorm Hotel. 0.2 miles.
- The Balavoulin. 0.2 miles.
- Macdonald Aviemore Hotel. 0.2 miles.
FAQ’s about the Cairngorm Mountain Funicular
Where is the Cairngorm mountain railway?
The Cairngorm mountain railway is situated on the northern side of Cairn Gorm mountain, which lies 8 miles south-east of Aviemore.
Address: Cairn Gorm Ski Area, Aviemore, PH22 1RB.
Directions map: Google Maps
Can you drive up the Cairngorm mountain?
Visitors can drive partway up the Cairngorm range to the Coire Cas and Coire na Ciste car parks. The lower Coire Cas car park has space for more than 400 vehicles. There is a camper van parking area in the Coire na Ciste car park.
Is the Cairngorm funicular open?
To learn if the Cairngorm funicular is open, visit the official website for the latest updates.
Is Cairngorm a Munro?
Cairn Gorm is a Munro with an elevation of 4,084 feet (1,245 metres).
Cairn Gorm is part of the Cairngorm mountain range in the Scottish Highlands.
More places to visit in The Highlands
- North Morar Visitor GuideNorth Morar is a remote region of Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands that lies between Loch Morar to the south and Loch Nevis to the north. The peninsula is a popular destination for hill walkers, but it also sees crowds of tourists arriving from the Jacobite steam train which has its final destination at Mallaig – an attractive fishing village on the northern tip of the North Morar peninsula.
- Loch Morar Visitor GuideLoch Morar is a freshwater loch in the Lochaber region of the Scottish Highlands. The loch is the fifth-largest in Scotland and is the deepest body of freshwater in the United Kingdom, with the deepest sections plummeting to an incredible 310 metres. As well as being a popular location for water sports, Loch Morar offers visitors a number of superb lochside walking trails and several secluded beaches.
- Silver Sands of Morar Visitor GuideThe Silver Sands of Morar are a series of celebrated beaches located on the Morar Peninsula, south of Mallaig. These stunning white-sand beaches are a favourite spot for tourists due to the crystal-clear turquoise waters along this stretch of coastline, as well as the stunning views of the Small Isles.
- Bealach na Ba Visitor GuideThe Bealach na Ba is a twisting mountain pass on the Applecross Peninsula in Wester Ross, Highland. This single-track road rises over 2,000 feet (0.61 km) at its highest point and is famous for being one of the most scenic drives in the world, as well as one of the most dangerous due to its tight hairpin bends.