Highlands & Islands

Cairngorms National Park celebrates 10th anniversary

Image caption The Cairngorms National Park includes five of Scotland's six highest peaks

The 10th anniversary of the launch of Britain's largest national park has been marked with the opening of new visitor centre.

Cairngorms National Park is more than twice the size of the Lake District and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

It includes parts of the Highlands, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire.

The new visitor centre has been opened in Blair Atholl and includes the Atholl Museum of Country Life.

Local MSP and cabinet secretary John Swinney welcomed the opening of the new information and education hub.

He said: "This investment here in Blair Atholl is significant and has only been made possible by the commitment and funding of multiple agencies working in partnership for the development of the excellent finished product which we see before us today.

"I welcome that this facility will increase visitor numbers and the range of people who will now come and experience our fabulous natural environment, and in the process benefit local businesses and communities."

Image caption The park has a reindeer herd and the UK's only polar bears on public display

The park includes five of Scotland's six highest mountains and has 55 summits of more than 900m (2,952.9ft).

It is visited by 1.5 million visitors every year, according to the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).

In 2011, the park and the Highland region was included on a US magazine's list of places in the world for travellers to visit during 2011.

They joined Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia and Alaska's Kodiak Island in the National Geographic Traveler's 20 Best Trips.

Senior editor Norie Quintos said the "primeval landscape of the north and west" drew visitors to the Cairngorms and wider Highland area.

Wildlife and captive animals are also a major draw for tourists. Rare species include Scottish wildcats.

There is also a herd of domesticated reindeer and the Highland Wildlife Park is home to the only polar bears on public display.

Court challenge

The park authority, however, has faced challenges in recent years.

Last year, it submitted an objection to plans for a 31-turbine wind farm proposed for a site near its Highland boundary.

Park chiefs said some the turbines in the Allt Duine scheme would come as close as 900m (2,952ft).

Also last year, environmentalists appealed against a legal judgement that rejected their court challenge to the Cairngorms National Park local plan.

The Cairngorms Campaign opposes plans for 1,500 homes at An Camas Mor, near Aviemore, and 117 at Carrbridge, 300 at Kingussie and 40 at Nethy Bridge.

It complained to the Court of Session about the local plan, which includes the developments.

The challenge was rejected by judge Lord Glennie and campaigners lodged an appeal against his judgement.

The CNPA instructed its lawyers to seek an urgent disposal of the appeal to avoid further delays to the implementation of the local plan.

A consortium led by Rothiemurchus Estate plans 1,500 homes and other community facilities at An Camas Mor.

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