National Park research set to help visitors save threatened species

MEDIA RELEASE – 24 February 2022

Joint press release from the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, RSPB, Rothiemurchus, Forestry & Land Scotland and the Cairngorms Business Partnership

National Park research set to help visitors save threatened species

Over one thousand visitors in the Cairngorms National Park have contributed to ground-breaking research to unearth new insights into the motivations and values of millions of people that visit the area each year. 

The innovative research, led by the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is now publicly available and aims to help those who provide for visitors to maximise the visitor experience in the National Park, in a way that helps our native species and natural habitats to thrive.

The research, which gathered the views of visitors to three highly designated forests in the Cairngorms that receive over 1 million visits a year, has revealed a significantly higher level of nature connectedness compared to other parts of the UK – with over 90% of respondents, including local residents, stating that they feel part of nature. This is compared to findings from a Natural England survey last year, which found that only 58% of respondents feel part of nature. Experiences in the area’s unique landscapes alongside nature are the key drivers for people visiting. The report highlighted that more work is needed to help people better understand how they can visit the area responsibly. Pine marten, wildcat, red squirrel, golden eagle and capercaillie are the wildlife most people would be pleased to see, and nearly all respondents felt capercaillie should be protected for future generations.

Capercaillie male. Photo: Mark Hamblin

From any standpoint the Cairngorms National Park is outstanding in regional, national, and international natural heritage terms, and is home to over a quarter of the UK’s rare and threatened species, including over 80% of the UK capercaillie population. Enabling visitors to enjoy the area responsibly is therefore critical to the area’s efforts to address the biodiversity crisis. 

Johnnie Grant of Rothiemurchus, one of the leading partners in the research said “We know that we are responsible for looking after, and sharing a very special place which deserves and requires special treatment and the highest level of care and attention from us all. This research stands to help us all in our efforts to fulfil that responsibility.”

Commissioned by the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, in partnership with Rothiemurchus, RSPB and Forestry and Land Scotland, the research was undertaken by Heritage Pathfinder from June to September 2021. Over 1,200 visitors, including local residents, to Rothiemurchus, Abernethy National Nature Reserve and Glenmore Forest Park took part. The neighbouring landholdings in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park receive over 1 million visits a year and are highly designated for nature.

Rothiemurchus Forest in the Cairngorms National Park

Now available for all to use at, the research results offer deeper insights into visitor types to enable those who manage for visitors across the National Park and beyond to plan more proactively to meet and exceed the needs of visitors. 

Mark Tate, Chief Executive at Cairngorms Business Partnership said “our members recognise the vital role they play in ensuring that when we promote the National Park, as a special place to visit, we do so in a way that inspires people to enjoy it responsibly. It is clear from the research findings that people, from near and far, who come to enjoy our forests want to be responsible and feel connected to nature. The output of the research will help us do even more to inspire people to enjoy the Cairngorms in a way that benefits nature and our communities.”

“Last year at Abernethy, we formed a Visitor & Access group together with local residents. At the group’s next meeting we’ll begin to use the research findings to help us better manage for visitors at Abernethy.” said Abernethy Senior Site Manager, Uwe Stoneman.

Loch Morlich, Glenmore Forest Park

“With this research and working with others, we can make it easier for all visitors to enjoy the area responsibly” said Laura McNally, Area Visitor Services Manager for Forestry and Land Scotland. “We can also work towards our vision to develop and maintain thriving capercaillie areas and high quality, sustainable visitor experiences. Achieving this vision will take time and the research is only the first step in the process, but we are extremely pleased to have reached this pivotal point together.”



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Cairngorms Capercaillie Project 

The Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, is the coming together of a wider range of people in the Cairngorms National Park to help secure the long-term survival of capercaillie in the UK. It’s possible that there are now less than 1,000 capercaillie left in the UK and almost all of them live in the Cairngorms National Park. Action in the National Park is therefore critical to prevent extinction in the UK.

National Lottery Heritage Fund 

Using money raised by the National Lottery, the National Lottery Heritage Fund inspires, leads and resources the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Cairngorms National Park Authority  

The Cairngorms National Park (CNPA) was established in 2003. It is the UK’s largest national park at 4,528 sq km. The CNPA was set up to ensure that the unique aspects of the Cairngorms – both the natural environment and the local communities – are cared for, sustained and enhanced for current and future generations to enjoy. The CNPA provides leadership to all those involved in the Cairngorms and works in partnership with a range of communities, businesses, non-government organisations and public sector partners to deliver practical solutions on the ground.

Forestry and Land Scotland 

The Scottish Government agency responsible for managing Scotland’s national forests and land, including Glenmore Forest Park. Forestry and Land Scotland manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland’s national forests and land.


The RSPB is the country’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with their partners, the RSPB protects threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. The RSPB owns and manages the Abernethy National Nature Reserve.


One of the most loved, visited and protected areas in Scotland, Rothiemurchus is home to exceptional beauty, rare wildlife and hints of Highland life both ancient and modern. This family-owned and sustainably managed working network of naturally regenerated forest, homes, businesses, farmland, lochs, rivers and mountains has been cared for by the Grant family since the 16th Century – alongside the generations of those who have lived, worked in and visited this special place.

Cairngorms Business Partnership (CBP)

The CBP is the independent, private sector led, Chamber of Commerce for the Cairngorms National Park with over 400 members representing the full range of geographies and industries in the National Park. The CBP operates the Destination Management Organisation promoting the National Park and connecting potential visitors with local businesses for the benefit of the National Park economy and communities.

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