Gateway to the Cairngorms National Park, the resort of Aviemore is a year-round recreation centre with a big choice of activities on offer.
Aviemore – gateway to Speyside
Though Aviemore pre-dates the coming of the railway, the first line from Inverness via Forres and over Dava Moor connected the small settlement with the south (Perth) in 1863. Next, the Highland Railway built its direct line from Inverness, over Slochd Summit, in 1898, making Aviemore a railway junction. Some hotels and tourist accommodation followed on.
However, Aviemore as a resort was a concept of the early 1960s, with the development of the ski industry in Scotland. In effect, as the Aviemore Centre, it became Scotland’s first custom-built winter resort, though also drawing tourist traffic all year round. Its architecture has not stood the test of time and the town has now evolved with more recent developments replacing much of the early 1960s style.
Emphasis today is on an all year round experience. With its excellent range of places to stay and eat, plus its shopping choice as an important centre, Aviemore makes a great base for exploring the national park.
Accommodation in Aviemore:
Aviemore offers a wide choice of hotel accommodation, from luxurious resort hotels to small scale, cosy retreats. The bed and breakfast and guest house choice is also very varied both in Aviemore and along the valley of the River Spey. Self-catering is exceptionally wide-ranging here – from modern bungalows to chalets and log cabins, many is secluded pinewood locations. There are at least six caravan and camping parks very close to Aviemore, with hostel and bunkhouse accommodation also offering a good choice.
There are plenty of attractions close to Aviemore. They include the CairnGorm Mountain Railway, Landmark Forest Adventure Park in Carrbridge, the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore, the Strathspey Steam Railway (Aviemore to Broomhill), the Highland Wildlife Park at Kingussie, the RSPB Visitor Centre at Inch Marshes and the Dalwhinnie Distillery.
For sheer variety, the Aviemore area probably offers more choice than probably anywhere else in Scotland. In many cases, multiple operators offer activities such as canoeing and other watersports, wildlife cruises, angling, archery, clay pigeon shooting, gorge walking, mountain biking, guided mountain walking, bushcraft skills, quad biking, Land Rover safaris, riding and trekking, golf and tennis, plus a range of courses available at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre.
The iconic bird of Strathspey, the osprey, returned to its haunts on Loch Garten more than 50 years ago. The re-colonising of other parts of Scotland by ospreys is one of Scotland’s great conservation stories. The RSPB’s Osprey Centre allows superb close-ups of the Loch Garten nest activity using CCTV activity.
On the northern slopes of Cairngorm, the funicular here is Scotland’s highest railway, running for 2 km on a 2 metre track, with a passing loop. The funicular principle means a permanent rope connection between the ascending and descending vehicles, which therefore always travel at the same time and pass midway on the loop. The service operates all year round. There is no access to the open hill from the top station, for environmental reasons.
After the last Ice Age, pine forests covered 70% of Scotland’s land surface. Now only scattered remnants survive of the ‘Great Wood of Caledon’. Rothiemurchus and the RSPB’s Abernethy Forest Nature Reserve are two areas near Aviemore where the special ambience of the Scots pinewood can be experienced. Below the open canopy, an ‘understorey’ of heather, bilberry and juniper help create a special habitat where scarce forest birds such as the capercailzie, crested tit and crossbill can still be found.
A wide ranging year-round events programme – with a sporting emphasis - is played out not only in Aviemore, but in communities throughout Strathspey, from ski competitions on Cairngorm in winter to high-level ceilidhs in the ski centre restaurant in summer. Other highlights include the Badenoch and Strathspey Music Festival in March, a number of Highland Games in nearby communities in August and at the end of the month the famous and old established ‘Thunder in the Glens’ Harley Davidson motorbike rally.