Children love the chance to let loose in the great outdoors, making the beautiful wee town of Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands is a natural playground for families. It’s small but it is geared up for every interest, with walking, skiing and biking on offer, alongside plenty of fun attractions, shops and restaurants. It’s handy for exploring the Cairngorms National Park, the tourist hotspot of Inverness and the beautiful beaches in of the Black Isle peninsula. It is also an ideal stop off if you are venturing further north.
All roads lead to Aviemore and getting there could not be easier. Travelling by car, you can head up the scenic route of the A9. Inverness is only 30 minutes away and there are regular daily flights from all points of the UK. Trains run from London and the Caledonian Sleeper is also an option with a stop in Aviemore. And for the brave and fit, the National Cycle Route 7 from Glasgow to Inverness passes through town.
Where to stay
Macdonald Aviemore Resort has a cluster of hotels right off the main street which cater for all tastes and pockets. At the centre is the Macdonald Highlands Hotel, a great option for families thanks to its activity centre complete with a swimming pool, soft play, cinema and even supervised sessions where parents can relax elsewhere. There are a host of restaurants and relaxing bars too, and fhe rooms are well appointed and tastefully decorated. Prices are from £179 per night for a family of 2 adults and 2 children up to the age of 12 years, sharing a family room and subject to availability.
>> Find out more at Macdonald Hotels
Alternatively, there are plenty of old fashioned bed and breakfast or self-catering options. You can find a full list on the Visit Aviemore website
What to do
Landmark Forest Adventure Park in the nearby village of Carrbridge (home to the World Porridge Championships and a very beautiful historic bridge) has something for all the family and is great in winter as well as summer. Set in acres of woodland, home to the famous red squirrels, you would not know from looking from the road what was behind the trees.
Designed by a very eccentric and fun loving team, the park has attractions aimed at all ages from sit-on bikes and a Ant City climbing section for the toddlers, moving up to a rope trail for the middle sized up and a tricky rope trail and sky dive for the older children and brave adults, plus a great climbing wall too. There is a scary roller coaster and fun wet slide as well as a magical maze, crazy shooting gallery and illusionist exhibition. When you need a rest, the new addition of the butterfly house is a great stop off and there are some lovely trails and a fire tower to tackle. Food and drink, toilet facilities and a shop are on site too as well as free parking.
>> Find out more at Landmark Park
Skiers and snowboarders have some great trails and make their way up them via Scotland’s only funicular railway. It takes you deep in to the Cairngorms Mountains with some magical and panoramic views at over 3,500 ft. Ski Norwest, run by canny Northumberlander Tim Davey, is based at Macdonald Aviemore Resort and from here you can sign up and get your equipment, before you are whisked off to the mountains for some fun or lessons.
> Ski Norwest offers a package including two nights dinner bed and breakfast at Macdonald Aviemore Resort, two days equipment hire, two days ski lift pass and one full day of ski instruction from £324 per adult, £298 per child aged 13-16 and £204 per child aged 12 and under. Find out more at skinorwest.co.uk
Coach potatoes and animals lovers can coo over Britain’s only free ranging reindeer herd at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre where you can see where they eat, drink and sleep. There are trips out to see the reindeers on the hills too or you can simply adopt one!
>> Find out more at Cairngorm Reindeer Centre
Where to eat and drink
There are tons of options in the town and surrounding areas, from cafes and takeaways to more upmarket restaurants. Ptarmigan is Britain’s highest restaurant, offering panoramic views of Loch Morlich and a menu of locally sourced produce. It sits at Top Station on the Cairngorm Mountain. It’s an ideal lunch spot during a day on the slopes but also worth taking the funicular up specifically to enjoy a unique family dining experience. Back in town, The Winking Owl pub has a extensive whiskey list and a selection of Cairngorm ales for parents and a kids’ menu for the little ones.
There is family-friendly fine dining Scottish Steakhouse at Spey Valley Golf and Country Club, with a children’s menu which is full of grown-up dishes made smaller rather than the same boring fishfingers and beans. Aspects at Macdonald Highlands Hotel has a similar attitude to young diners, serving up Scottish meats, crab and salmon.