Rising high in the heather-clad hills above remote Loch Laggan, forty miles south of Inverness, the River Spey, Scotland’s second longest river, drains northeast towards the Moray Firth through one of the Highlands’ most spellbinding valleys. Famous for its ancient forests, salmon fishing and ospreys, the area around the upper section of the river, known as Strathspey, is dominated by the sculpted Cairngorms, Britain’s most extensive mountain massif, unique in supporting subarctic tundra on its high plateau. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the area to take advantage of the superb hiking, water sports and winter snows, aided by the fact that the area is easily accessible by road and rail from both central Scotland and Inverness. A string of villages along the river provide useful bases for setting out into the wilder country, principal among them Aviemore.
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Aviemore and around
Aviemore and around
AVIEMORE was first developed as a ski and tourism resort in the mid-1960s and, over the years, fell victim to profiteering developers with scant regard for the needs of the local community. Although a face-lift has removed some of the architectural eyesores of that era, the settlement remains dominated by a string of soulless shopping centres and sprawling housing estates surrounding a Victorian railway station. That said, Aviemore is well equipped with visitor facilities, and is the most convenient base for the Cairngorms.
Cairn Gorm Mountain
From Aviemore, a road leads past Rothiemurchus and Loch Morlich and winds its way up into the Cairngorms, reaching the Coire Cas car park at a height of 2150ft. Here is the base station for the ski area with a ranger office where you can find out about the area’s various trails. It’s also the departure point for the Cairn Gorm Mountain Railway, a two-car funicular railway that whisks skiers in winter, and tourists at any time of year, along a mile and a half of track to the top station at an altitude of 3600ft, not far from the summit of Cairn Gorm Mountain.