Cultural Environment

History and industry
Much of the area’s cultural history is linked to its built heritage e.g planned settlements, iconic Victorian estate architecture, military barracks, castle, roads, railways and bridges.

Cultural and traditions
Many events and sports also have their roots in history, including Highland Games, agricultural shows, shinty and golf.

Food and drink
Visitors to the Cairngorms National Park benefit from a long culture of using the best, freshest local produce to provide both healthy and indulgent eating choices. The ancient art of purifying water by making it into alcohol still continues. Although this is no longer necessary to provide safe drinking water, distilleries in the Park produce some of the world’s favourite single malt whiskies and there is also a brewery making a range of traditional ales or beers. Mineral water – Deeside Water – is also bottled at Pannanich Wells, the acclaimed spa from the 1700s.

Place names and language
Place names also show language (linguistic) culture and many are very descriptive, giving an insight into the history, folklore, environment and wildlife of the Cairngorms. Most of these names come from the Celtic (say it “keltik”) language of the Picts, or the newer Scots Gaelic (say it “gah-lik” in Scotland, “gay-lik” in Ireland) which became the dominant language of the area over 1,000 years ago. Some names also come from Scots and others even appear to be English – caused by Ordnance Survey mapmakers from the south who often wrote down what they thought they heard rather than accurate place names in a language they could not understand.

Although few people in the Park speak Gaelic today, there is a growing revival of the language, particularly in Badenoch & Strathspey. In the east, in Deeside and particularly Donside, a living dialect of Scots, called the Doric, is spoken naturally by local people who also speak English to “outsiders”.

The folk tradition
The way of life of the people of the Cairngorms National Park and the area’s turbulent history have resulted in a rich tradition of folklore – storytelling, songs, dances and music which bring alive the battles of the Jacobites and the hard lifestyle of the past. Visitors can learn about this and experience it in museums and can live the culture at ceilidhs and festivals.

Arts and Crafts
The Park is home to many artists and craftspeople continuing the tradition of interpreting the stunning scenery, wildlife and culture through painting, drawing, stained glass, pottery, embroidery, sculpture and many more art forms.

Interpreting the cultural environment
Interpretation is the art of helping people explore, understand and appreciate the places they visit, including its natural and cultural heritage. Interpretation can take many forms: panels with printed text and pictures, guide books, recorded for playback on a phone-type handset, interactive computer displays or an on-site guide providing information, a tour or demonstration.

Useful links:
Place names
Arts and crafts