Plans launched to transform Cairngorms into ‘world class’ mountain environment


A masterplan to transform the Cairngorms into a ‘world class’ mountain environment has been launched.

The 25-year blueprint will look to ensure nature thrives in the national park, whilst also allowing for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy access to outdoor sport, recreation and education opportunities in every season of the year.

Created by the Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE), following consultation with more than 2,100 people, the masterplan will act as a framework to help inform future development plans and support delivery of a suite of strategies that focus on the following series of inter-related topics.

These include the creation of an all-year round sustainable operating model; cohesive ecology and habitat restoration; the promotion of active travel; creation of a Scottish centre for the mountain environment; an excellent visitor experience; and decarbonising the mountain,

HIE said that early priorities for it over the next two years include stabilising the present operating company, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd, and reviewing options for future ownership and operating models.

Other areas of focus within the same timescale include ecology; sustainable transport; creating a plan for mountain biking; relocating the snow factory and electrifying snow cannons, and facilities development, including options for a new chairlift in Coire Cas.

Dave MacLeod, HIE’s head of property and infrastructure, commented, “This masterplan is a really important tool to guide the development of lots of individual plans that will come forward in future. Its impact will be felt for at least a generation and we really want to thank everyone, who took the time to engage with us and share their knowledge, experience and ideas. It was clear from the start that some issues will always be quite polarising. For instance, some people hold strong views both for and against changes to visitor management at the plateau and on the potential for mountain biking within the estate.

“Any future plans that might be brought forward on these subjects would need to be thought through very carefully and, of course, be subject to the regulatory planning process. Other aspects are more likely to win almost universal support, such as environmental protection and enhancement, decarbonisation, the quality of the visitor experience, improved accessibility, and a sustainable operating model that benefits the local economy throughout the year and not only in winter.”

Mountain education was another topic which found widespread approval during the consultation period, and the masterplan proposes replacing the present day lodge with a facility incorporating a centre of excellence for research and teaching that could also host businesses and community events.

The masterplan emphasises the importance of creating a sense of arrival at Cairngorm Mountain, with clear wayfinding to guide visitors to the range of experiences on offer.

It also notes that HIE’s decision to reinstate the funicular railway, which is due to come back into service in winter 2021-22 following completion of strengthening works that are currently underway, was taken while masterplan consultation was under way.

This decision acknowledged the findings of a study carried out be specialist consultants SE Group in 2018-19 which concluded that the funicular was a unique Scottish attraction that should be maintained and enhanced, and was based on a business case that also considered options to remove and replace the present structure.

Grant Moir, chief executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said, “We welcome the publication of the Cairngorm estate masterplan by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which sets out a clear vision for the future of the mountain as an environmental, cultural and economic asset for Scotland. We look forward to working with HIE and other partners to ensure the successful delivery of the masterplan over the next few years.”