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.
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. This is the base station for the ski area with a ranger office where you can find out about the area’s various many fantastic hiking trails – and there's a cafe too. The CairnGorm Mountain Railway is currently closed due to structural issues, but skiing is still available in the winter (when there is sufficient snowfall) using surface tows.
While Aviemore is best known as a winter resort, it has a number of excellent summer activities, from gentle walking to canyoning.
Scottish skiing on a commercial level first really took off in Aviemore. By continental European and North American standards it’s on a tiny scale, but occasionally snow, sun and lack of crowds coincide and you can have a great day. February and March are usually the best times, but there’s a chance of decent snow at any time between mid-November and April. Lots of places – not just in Aviemore itself – sell or rent equipment.
The Cairngorm Ski Area, nine miles southeast of Aviemore, above Loch Morlich in Glenmore Forest Park, is well served in winter by buses from Aviemore. Facilities include a ski school and a separate terrain park for skiers and boarders. If there’s lots of snow, the area around Loch Morlich and into the Rothiemurchus Estate provides enjoyable cross-country skiing through lovely woods, beside rushing burns and even over frozen lochs.
Walking is a highlight of the Aviemore area, though you should heed the usual safety guidelines. These are particularly important if you want to climb to the high tops, which include a number of Scotland’s loftiest peaks. There are some lovely and well-signposted low-level walks in the area, too. It takes an hour or so to complete the gentle circular walk around pretty Loch an Eilean (with its ruined castle) in the Rothiemurchus Estate, beginning at the end of the back road that turns east off the B970 a mile south of Inverdruie. The helpful estate visitor centres at the lochside and at Inverdruie provide more information on the many woodland trails that crisscross this area.
Another good shortish (half-day) walk leads along a well-surfaced forestry track from Glenmore Lodge up towards the Ryvoan Pass, taking in An Lochan Uaine, known as the “Green Loch” because of its amazing colours that range from turquoise to slate grey depending on the weather. The Glenmore Forest Park Visitor Centre by the road at the turn-off to the lodge has information on other trails in this section of the forest.
A pleasant day-trip involves walking along the Speyside Way from Aviemore to Boat of Garten, on to the RSPB osprey sanctuary at Loch Garten, and then returning on the Strathspey Steam Railway.
The area around Aviemore is great for mountain biking. Both Rothiemurchus and Glenmore estates provide waymarked routes; the Rothiemurchus Visitor Centre at Inverdruie has maps.
Whitewater rafting trips on the Findhorn River.
Guided kayaking and canyoning.
Sailing, windsurfing and canoeing in beautiful surroundings; rental and tuition available.
Sailing, windsurfing and canoeing in a lovely setting with a sandy beach. Rental and tuition available.