I’ve been going to Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands on holiday on a semi-regular basis since I was a little girl, and needless to say it’s one of my favourite parts of Scotland. We were most recently there in late autumn last year, where we spent a week fitting in all of our favourite things to do in Aviemore, and it never disappoints.
I had actually started to put this post together after we got back but completely ran out of steam and the post has sat in my drafts folder since November. Time to turn this ship around! There are a ton of things to do in Aviemore, most of which are family friendly, so today I thought I’d (finally!) share some of my favourites.
Things To Do In Aviemore
The Mountain Cafe
Let’s kick this guide off starting with food, because what’s a holiday without knowing where the best places to eat are?!
Our all time favourite place to eat in Aviemore is the Mountain Cafe. They are only open until 5pm or 5:30pm depending on the day (best to check their website before you visit), so it’s only good for breakfast or lunch, but my, the lunches are delicious. As vegetarians we were really well catered for, with bountiful options (I went for a halloumi flatbread this time, which was delicious, but their veggie burgers are highly recommended!). Meat eaters are also well catered for, as are vegans and those that are gluten intolerant.
It’s not just the lunches, and the cosy atmosphere that attract us to the Mountain Cafe. The Mountain Cafe has one of the best selection of homemade cake I’ve ever seen – think 20 plus delicious cakes to choose from! We are always too full from lunch to manage cake afterwards, but we always get some to takeaway to enjoy later! Portion sizes are very generous too, and we always find a slice lasts two days (and from someone who loves cake then this is saying something!). I’ve even been known to swing past the Mountain Cafe to grab some takeaway cake before boarding the train home to Edinburgh, ’tis that good.
Another favourite for tea and cake is the Potting Shed at Inshriach Nursery. They, again, have an amazing selection of delicious homemade cake (my absolute favourite is the peanut cake!). And while the cake would be a big enough draw in itself, the Potting Shed has an amazing viewing area that overlooks an array of squirrel and bird feeders. It’s definitely one of life’s great pleasures, sitting eating your cake and observing the birds and red squirrels feeding. We saw two red squirrels on our most recent trip there, which most impressed my daughter.
To burn off the cake, you can then have an amble around the nursery. It sells a vast array of hardy alpine plants, and it’s always a joy to walk around this beautiful nursery.
Another Aviemore favourite is the Rothiemurchus Centre. We always make a point of walking there and enjoying a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a slice of homemade cake in the cosy cafe, however the lunches do look very very good! Whilst you’re there you can also visit the farm shop, and book any activities held on the Rothiemurchus Estate that take your fancy. Quad biking anyone?
My daughter said she enjoyed the Rothiemurchus Centre most, out of all the things we did in Aviemore on this trip, which is quite the compliment! I think it was the hot chocolate, cake selection and very friendly staff that swung it for her!
The Old Bridge Inn
We didn’t do any drinking on our last trip to Aviemore on account of me being pregnant, but somewhere we have thoroughly enjoyed in the past is the Old Bridge Inn. It’s a really cosy bar, with a friendly laid back atmosphere. We’ve spent many an evening in the past, meeting up with friends and having a few drinks in front of their log fire, and occasionally caught the odd live band. They do serve food as well, but we’ve yet to give this a go!
We visited the Landmark Centre in Carrbridge (a few miles from Aviemore) this time around – a forest fun park. I’d been a couple of times as a kid and had such fond memories of the place, but hadn’t been back in well over 25 years. Visiting again as an adult did not disappoint.
It’s fantastic for families: there’s so much for kids to do, and for adults to enjoy too. We all enjoyed the red squirrel trail (above) and my daughter loved all of the play parks, mazes and more. We went off season where it was only £6.25 entry per adult (under four’s get in free), which was incredibly good value. The rollercoaster, aerial assault course, and water ride were all closed, but my daughter wasn’t tall enough to go on those rides, and I wasn’t able to go on them either so the fact that they were closed made no difference to our trip (and saved us £11 each off high season prices).
You’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to walking and cycling in and around Aviemore. There are so many stunning walks and trails that it’s impossible for me to list them all here.
The very photogenic Loch An Eilein is very highly recommended for walking or cycling around. This stunning Loch is about 4.5 miles in circumference, so makes for a good short walk/cycle. I’ve walked it a few times, and mountain biked it and both were really enjoyable. I am not a mountain biker by any stretch of the imagination (I’m an A to B cyclist, or a leisurely cyclist) but the trail is very gentle and ideal for beginners (or leisure cyclists like me!). There are heaps of bike rental companies in and around Aviemore offering competitive prices on bike hire, either by the day or for longer periods of time so you don’t have to bring your own bike to enjoy the trails in and around Aviemore.
We’ve done a few walks in Glenmore, which offered stunning views, as well as around Loch Morlich and Loch Insh. We’ve also done a few walks/cycles on the Old Logging Way. Try the Walk Highlands website for other suggestions/routes.
Water sports are not my bag, but if they are yours then you’re spoiled for choice in Aviemore. Try Loch Insh, where you can sail, kayak, canoe, and windsurf, and Loch Morlich, where you can do all of the above as well as mountain bike if you’ve had your fill of water!
Red Squirrel Spotting
You can’t go to Aviemore and not go red squirrel spotting. Thankfully it’s not that hard to spot our native furry friends, but always a treat! Spend any amount of time in any woodland in or around Aviemore and I promise you you’ll see a squirrel! I’ve always found early morning or late afternoon best red squirrel spotting time.
Outside of Aviemore
If you find you’ve had your fill of Aviemore, the bright lights of Inverness aren’t far away. When in the city I always make a point of heading straight to Leakey’s Bookshop – Scotland’s largest (and I’d say best) secondhand bookshop. If you love old books, old maps and antique prints, then this is the place for you. Situated in a converted church, this charming bookshop is stocked floor to ceiling with secondhand books. A woodburner in the middle of the shop adds to the ambiance, and the upstairs cafe serving tea, cakes and lunches means you could easily spend the best part of a day in Leakey’s.
Of course, it goes without saying that Loch Ness isn’t far away either, and the charming Fort Augustus, but you don’t have to stray too far away from Aviemore to have a varied and fun packed holiday. We’ll certainly be back soon,
Have you been to Aviemore? What are your favourite things to do in Aviemore?