Upland Scotland contains some of Britain’s most prized areas of natural heritage value. However, although such areas may appear both ‘wild’ and ‘remote’, these are typically working landscapes which symbolise the interdependence of nature and society. The complexity of this relationship means that management responses will need to address a multitude of potentially conflicting priorities whilst at the same time ensuring that sufficient social and institutional capital exists to allow for the promotion of landscape integrity. The introduction of national parks to Scotland in the form of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 allows for a high-level of protection for designated areas in upland Scotland. Yet, whilst the recent Act outlines the statutory purpose and direction national parks should take, it allows a significant degree of flexibility in theway in which the Actmay be implemented. This level of discretion allows for significant local distinctiveness within the model but also raises questions about the potential effectiveness of chosen responses. In order to assess the potential implications of a model rooted in self-determination,we provide a case study review of the institutional basis of the Cairngorms National Park along with an assessment of the strategic character of the first National Park Plan. It is argued that whilst the Cairngorms National Park Authority has developed a significant level of stakeholder engagement, the authority may struggle to bridge the policy-implementation gap. Although a number of shortcomings are identified, particular concerns relate to the potential mismatch between strategic ambition and local level capacity.