THE CAIRNGORMS

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The CairngormsLording over the Strathspey, which is the upper region of the River Spey, is the Cairngorms, a mountain range that is considered one of Britain’s finest and most unusual.  Despite its longstanding position among the natural parks in the country, the region was only designated a national park in 2004.  It is a beauty to behold for nature lovers all year round; its glacial mountains are magic during winter, while during spring and summer, a hike through the Caledonian Forest makes one appreciate the many number of rare species of flora and fauna found in the park. 

The Cairngorms National Park is especially famous for its skiing, with three of the Scotland’s five resorts located here.  Enthusiasts and newbies alike favor the park because of its easy accessibility.  The area nearby also provides very good base and accommodation for exploring the mountain range, which is highly unusual for Scotland, which is not exactly known for its accommodations. 


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1. Aviemore  2. Rothiemurchus Estate  3. Glenmore Forest Park  4. Highland Wildlife Park  5. Kingussie (Ruthven Barracks)  6. Newtonmore (Highland Folk Museum)

 


Aviemore Piste MapAviemore used to be a quiet town with nothing to its name, until it became accessible through railway, and thus became a great base for anyone visiting the mountain range of the Cairngorms.  Nowadays, it is a big tourist town, filled to the brim with large developments and establishments that do not give us a clue as to what the local community is really like, or what their heritage is.  That being said, there is really nothing worth of a glance or two here, but it is a convenient base for visitors to the Cairngorms, especially those who will not be bringing their own rides.  It offers a wide variety of facilities, as the developers have managed to make your stay at the Cairngorms as comfortable as possible.

Layout
The commercial centre of Aviemore is simply a one-street affair, with Grampian Road serving as the hub of all activities.  On this street, you will find the tourist office, as well as a multitude of guesthouses and hotels, which the town never seems to run out of, as well as the train station.  A few miles southeast of Aviemore you will find the Cairngorm Ski Area, and venturing there will let you pass several attractions as well.

Sights & Activities
Loch an Eilein, Rothiemurchus  Tom Richardson, Creative CommonsThere are plenty of physical activities around Aviemore, both for the novice and the veterans.  During the summer, there are plenty of walking trails that can either take an hour or nine.  For shorter strolls, you can join a walk around the Loch an Eilean, which affords you a view of the ruined castle in the Rothiemurchus Estate, an estate wrapped within the ancient Caledonian forest.  This walk begins two miles south of Aviemore.  The estate centre is especially useful for planning such walks.

For those wanting to summit the Cairn Gorm Mountain, there is a four-and-a-half hour trail that is perfect for walkers wanting to up their game, but not quite ready for the higher peaks. 

For a variety of scenery, you can join the Speyside Way trail, which begins at the Moray Firth coast at Buckie, and now extending to Aviemore.  It follows the line of a former railway and the course of the River Spey, and passes many areas of the famed Whisky Trail. Another great trail is the Craigellachie Nature Reserve trail, which is perfect for animal-lovers as it affords one many opportunities for animal-sightings.  For serious hikers, you have two great options: summit the second highest peak in Britain, the Ben Macdui, which is a continuation of the Cairngorm walk south of the previous peak, or test your stamina with the nine-hour trail that spans more than twenty miles, the Lairig Ghru trail, which will take you from Aviemore to Braemar. 

Summers are also a great time for fishing around Aviemore, with plenty of trouts and salmon to be caught on the River Spey and some lochs.  The tourist office on Grampian Road has information on how to secure permits for this activity.  East of Aviemore, you can rent gears for windsurfing and sailing from the Loch Morlich Water Sports (Glenmore Forest Park, +44 1479 861221) if you would like to try such activities.  They also offer lessons for those wanting to try the sports for the first time.

During the winter, Aviemore livens up as a base for skiers.  This is where commercial skiing in Scotland really took hold first.  From November to April, you can chance upon a reasonable amount of snow, but the best times are usually around February and March.  One of the best areas for skiing is the Cairngorm Ski Area (+44 1479 861261), and you will find many buses going to the area from Aviemore.  At the foot of the ski area, you will find the base for the funicular railway, which is a great way to reach the slopes for serious skiers.  It is best to book online for passes to the railway and other activities to avoid having to queue. 

Dog-lovers are in for a treat at the Cairngorm Sled-dog Centre (Rothiemurchus Estate, +44 7767 270526).  Here you can visit the kennel, go on sled-dog trips and safaris, as well as take a 2-day lesson on the basics of this sport. 

 

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To compare Aviemore hotel prices that are available right now simply enter your dates into the search box at the left.  You will see the best prices from the world's major hotel booking services.

 

Or you can check out our reviewed hotels below and contact them directly.

Aviemore Bunkhouse (Dalfaber Road, +44 1479 811181, £15/person).  This is especially recommended for a big group of people (at least eight to a room) or the lone traveler who seeks budget accommodation and is willing to share the room with a bunch of like-minded strangers.  It can get a little boisterous at night, because it is quite near to a pub.

Kinapol Guest House (Dalfaber Road, +44 1479 810513, £20/person).  Dalfaber Road is a great location for anyone who wants to get away from the bustling town centre after a day of hiking, and Kinapol Guest House is another great B&B to unwind in.  Its garden extends to the River Spey, which makes even lounging around the guest house a treat.

Ardlogie Guest House (Dalfaber Road, +44 1479 810747/ +44 1479 664695, £30).  Its location is only a few minutes away from Grampian Road, which is the commercial centre of Aviemore, but it feels very remote and rural—a perfect way to unwind after an active day exploring the Cairngorms.  There are only five rooms, two of which have great views of the mountains nearby. 

Cairngorm Guest House (139 Grampian Road, +44 1479 810630, £30-40).  The twelve en-suite guest rooms are not all equal in size, but are tastefully decorated.  There is a cozy residents’ lounge where guests can relax and socialize with their fellow guests. 

Ravenscraig Guest House (Grampian Road, +44 1479 810278, £30-40).  Located in the main street of Aviemore, this guest house has twelve rooms with comfortable beds, though if you’re not staying in the family room, you might find some rooms quite small.  Best book ahead as it gets crowded during the high season, as it is one of the best guest houses this side of town.

Corrour House Hotel (Rothiemurchus, +44 1479 810220, £40-58).  This house hotel has many loyal customers, so book ahead.  The rooms have a great view of the Cairngorms.  The host is a great source of information, and not just about the things you can learn from the tourist centre—he is a great champion of everything off the beaten track, so if you ask him for advice, you will surely be in for a treat.

The Old Minister’s House (Rothiemurchus, +44 1479 812181, £45).  The name of this B&B does not even hint at the luxuriousness of its four guest rooms, all en-suite and furnished with great bath products.  All the rooms are spacious and comfortable, with lush linens and big beds.  It is a particularly good base for exploring the estate.

Glenmore Lodge (Loch Morlich, +44 1479 861256, £50-65).  Aside from being a great ski training centre, the Glenmore Lodge houses a reasonable B&B with fantastic views.  It is a great base for those looking to explore the Loch Morlich.

Cairngorm Hotel (Grampian Road, +44 1479 810233, £65).  This is one of the biggest independent hotels in Aviemore, and is deeply involved in the tourism community of the town, so do not expect insider information on off-the-beaten path areas.  Nevertheless, it offers great accommodations, and it is evident by how busy it is during the peak seasons.

Rowan Tree Country Hotel (Loch Alvie, +44 1479 810207, £77).  This is a hotel that has the amenities and conveniences of a chain hotel but the warmth of a B&B.  It helps that it is a family who runs this hotel.  The rooms are all uniquely furnished, but they all have two things in common—they are decorated stylishly, and provided with quality linens, comfortable beds, and central heating.

 

 

Cairngorm OspreyRothiemurchus Estate (Rothiemurchus by Aviemore, +44 1479 812345).  This vast family-owned estate has over ten thousand hectares of ancient woodlands courtesy of the Caledonian forest, and features many natural beauties characteristic of the best of northeastern Scotland—lochs, rivers, and mountains, as well as many rare species who thrive in this unique habitat.  One of its most hauntingly beautiful sights that combines both history and nature, is the Loch an Eilein, where the ruins of a castle lie on an island.    If you have a limited time to explore the Cairngorms, then this estate will give you a preview of what will surely make you want to come and explore more.

 


Loch MorlichGlenmore Forest Park (+44 1479 861220) is built around the Loch Morlich, with its sandy beaches, and its more than three thousand hectares of land area is half woodlands, half open hills.  There are plenty of walks around the park, as well as a new camping site.  The Forestry Commission of Scotland has been hard at work to preserve the ancient Caledonian woodlands, but with the thousands of people flocking to this area, it is hard to know whether any amount of preservation can save the area.

The aforementioned Loch Morlich Water Sports Centre is located near the Loch Morlich, and is a great spot for kids and older beginners to get into water sports.

 


European BisonKincraig is a tiny village southwest of Aviemore, and is positioned advantageously near some great reserves.  One of these is the Highland Wildlife Park (+44 1540 1270, £13.50), which is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.  The Main Reserve is explored by car (either you bring your own, or you can be driven by the staff).  Here you will find species native to Scotland, such as the yak, European bison, red deer, and the prized Przewalski horse, roaming in their natural habitat.  The rest of the park can be explored on foot. 
South of Kincraig, you will find Glen Feshie, which brings you closer to the Cairngorms.  The areas can be rough and slippery sometimes, but it is popular with mountain bikers wanting a challenging trail to explore.

 

 

 


Ruthven BarracksSouthwest of Aviemore, Kingussie is one of the twin-villages of Kingussie and Newtonmore—rivals in the local sport shinty, but close neighbors with nothing but three miles separating them.  Kingussie thrives as a Highland resort, which was brought on by the railway station which connects it directly to the bigger towns.  From Kingussie, you can also hike up to the Monadhliath Mountains, which is northwest of the town.  It is a great alternative to the mostly crowded Cairngorms. 

The Ruthven Barracks, the ruins of which stand on a tiny hill east of the town, is close to the original location of the Kingussie before it was evacuated.  The ruins offer a great panoramic view of the town, and look positively haunting at night when lit up.

Newtonmore Folk MuseumNewtonmore has a lot more going for it than just being the less dominant rival of Kingussie at shinty.  It claims to be the exact geographical centre of Scotland.  Apart from this, you can also see the highly-acclaimed Highland Folk Museum (Kingussie Road, +44 1540 673551, free) in its territory—granted, the Highland Folk Museum is located on a path that leads directly to Kingussie, with which the village splits the museum.  The museum is on an outdoor complex, recreating Highland life in various eras, with reconstructed buildings characteristic of whatever era they represent.

 

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Hotels

Kinghussie:
The Hermitage Guest House
(Spey Street, +44 1540 662137, from £32).  This five-room guest house is set in a Victorian slate-and-stone house, surrounded by a well-kept garden, and providing great views of the Ruthven Barracks and the Cairngorm Mountains in the distance.


Ruthven Steadings (Ruthven, +44 1540 662328, from £36) is located on the outskirts of Kingussie, at least a mile away.  It has two spacious rooms that combine the house’s old interiors with more modern furnishings.

The Cross (Ardbroilach Road, +44 1540 661166, from £105) is a restaurant with rooms housed in an old tweed mill, which instantly gives it character.  Scottish heritage is celebrated in each of the eight individually styled rooms, not with its décor but by the small details in it—magazines, books, toiletries, even the bottled water, and the music are all proudly Scottish.  Its riverside location proves quite tranquil.  This being a “restaurant with rooms”, expect great food, which is inclusive in the fee.

Newtonmore:
Newtonmore Hostel
(Main Street, +44 1540 673360,from £16/person).  This very basic hostel is quite tiny but has a very homey feel despite the fact that you will be sharing it with other guests.  It is also very child-friendly, unlike most hostels.

Ard-na-Coille Guest House (Kingussie Road, +44 1540 673214, £80) is a luxurious guest house with four spacious en-suite rooms and plush furnishings and great window views.  The look may feel dated, but it’s definitely comfortable.