5 Days in Aviemore Travel Itinerary

Written by Chris Thornton | 26th of January 2024
Aviemore Travel Itinerary

I've been holidaying in Aviemore since I was about five years old. My dad was in the Royal Air Force, and they had a caravan used by service personnel on what is known today as the Aviemore Holiday Park on the west bank of the River Spey.

We had many great holidays in this caravan and enjoyed everything Aviemore had to offer at the time, from Santa Claus Land, the swimming pool and the ice rink to feeding fish at the nearby fish farm. I have great memories of this town amongst the majesty of the Cairngorm Mountains; there was magic in the air.

Today, we still visit Aviemore two or three times per year with my wife and three daughters; we have explored many places in this area and feel qualified to write this travel itinerary on the Aviemore area.

Where is Aviemore?

Aviemore is a town located in the Scottish Highlands within the Cairngorms National Park. It's situated in the Badenoch and Strathspey region of Scotland. Aviemore is renowned for its stunning landscapes, outdoor recreational activities, and as a gateway to the Cairngorm Mountains.

It's easily accessible by road and rail, making it a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists. Whether for skiing and snowboarding in the winter or hiking and mountain biking in the warmer months, Aviemore is a year-round destination.

What's the best way to get to Aviemore?

If travelling from the central belt of Scotland, the best way is by bus, car or train.

By car:

From Edinburgh, it's easy to get to Aviemore by travelling north to Perth; the A9 motorway directly passes Aviemore. It should take about 2 hours and 50 minutes to reach Aviemore.

By train:

Aviemore Train Station is in the centre of the town. You can catch a train from Edinburgh for around £16.30 per person, which will take about three hours. Check times and prices on the ScotRail website; booking long in advance is usually much cheaper.

By bus:

The cheapest way to get to Aviemore is by Megabus from Edinburgh. The trip will cost between £8 and £12 per person and take 3-3.5 hours.

If you're coming from the north, following the south A9 from Inverness or A95 from Moray is your best bet.

Day 1 - Arriving in Aviemore

So you're in Aviemore; welcome to one of my favourite places in Scotland. Look at those mountains!

Ben Nevis.
The Cairngorm Mountains dominate the horizon at Aviemore.

Cobbs Cafe

If you arrive in the morning, why not start your day with breakfast at Cobbs Cafe? Located on the main shopping street on Grampian Road, Cobbs is my favourite place for breakfast in Aviemore. Go for the full-cooked breakfast!

Directions to Cobbs Cafe.

Cobbs Cafe breakfast.
The full-cooked breakfast at Cobbs Cafe!

Explore the shops in Aviemore

The high street in Aviemore has much to offer; there are many nice cafes, gift shops and mountain wear shops. Mountain Warehouse often has great deals on hats, scarves and cosy coats; it's also perfect for buying camping gear if you decide to camp in Aviemore.

A brilliant shop for kids is "Young's Auld Sweetie Shop", packed full of sweet treats from Scotland and worldwide. They also stock rarer sweeties you may have had in the 80s and 90s. My daughter loves buying Takis crisps here, but I can't stand them!

Across from the main high street (Grampian Road), you can find another shopping area containing an ALDI and Home Bargains. These shops are likely the cheapest places to buy food in Aviemore, so stock up here if you are self-catering.

Grampian Road, Aviemore
Grampian Road in Aviemore.

Spey Valley Shopping Centre

Located just off Grampian Road, behind the Cairngorm Hotel, you can find the Macdonald Aviemore Resort. This building is an all-in-one shopping centre, hotel and cafe. The products here are expensive; for example, the Barbour jackets are hundreds of pounds! Spey Valley Shopping Centre is a great place to kill some time before you can check into your accommodation.

Spey Valley Shopping
Spey Valley Shopping at Christmas time.

Scandinavian Village

Scandinavian Village is my favourite place to stay in Aviemore. It's perfect for a 7-night stay and is located centrally, near supermarkets and all the town's best restaurants.

Two accommodation types are available: Villas for 6-8 people and Apartments for 4. Both types have self-catering facilities with a fridge, hob/oven and every kitchen utensil you need.

It's a popular place, so book in advance via their website.

Scandinavian Village Apartments.
The apartments at Scandinavian Village.

Day 2 - Outdoor Activities

Aviemore is one of the busiest outdoor hubs in Scotland, so let's do some outdoor activities today! Head south from Aviemore and turn left down the B970; our first destination is the Rothiemurchus Forest.

Treezone

Treezone is an excellent activity for all the family, as long as you are not terrified of heights! Located just before the Rothiemurchus Centre, Treezone offers an aerial adventure course high up in the tall pines.

Two courses are available at Treezone, an easy lower one and a more difficult higher one. It's very safe as you always wear a safety harness, which is attached to a safety wire. Once you have traversed both courses, the final part ends with a zip line to the finish. Spectators can watch from below the course if you don't feel quite brave enough!

Plan for about 1.5 hours at Treezone. Costs when we visited were £33 for adults and £25 for children.

Directions to Treezone.

Treezone Aviemore.
My daughter Olivia leapt over the gap!

Quad Bike Treks

Continuing our adrenaline-filled day, a quad bike trek through the Rothiemurchus Estate is so much fun! Located a short distance from Treezone, just outside the Rothiemurchus Centre, you can find "Rothiemurchus Quad Bike Treks".

The trek begins with kitting you out with safety gear and then a short primer on operating the quad bike while doing a few small laps. After that, the instructor takes you through a quad bike trail, taking in sections of the Rothiemurchus Forest and estate. You will meet friendly Highland cows and traverse hills and muddy paths before finally driving directly up a flowing stream to the end of the course.

The trek takes about 1 hour and costs about £57 each... quite expensive, but it's so much fun!

Directions to the Rothirmurchus Centre.

Quad bike trek at Rothiemurchus.
Quad biking at Rothiemurchus Estate.

Loch an Eilein

Let's finish the day with a relaxing walk around one of the most beautiful lochs in the area - Loch An Eilein. From the Rothiemurchus Centre, travel south-east on the B970. Look out for this left turn to the loch. Stay on this road, following the signs until you arrive at the dedicated car park.

It does cost to park here, fees are taken at the small kiosk, it cost us £4.50 on our last visit.

A short walk takes you to this spectacular beauty spot lined with mixed forest of the ancient Caledonian forest. It's possible to walk the entire perimeter of the loch or just a small section if you wish. A significant point of interest on this loch is the island castle, once a stronghold of the infamous Wolf of Badenoch, responsible for burning most of Forres and Elgin; the grand Elgin Cathedral was targeted in particular.

Loch an Eilein is also a brilliant place to take kayaks; you can really get a close look at the castle as it is not accessible from the shore.

Directions to Loch an Eilein.

Loch an Eilein Castle
My brother and me kayaking at Loch an Eilein Castle.

Eat at the Cairngorm Hotel

After all these outdoor activities, you must have worked up quite a hunger! Consider heading back to Aviemore for an evening meal at the Cairngorm Hotel. They don't take bookings, so head on in, and you will be seated if there is space.

My favourite meals here are the Cairngorm burger and the chicken stuffed with haggis with peppercorn sauce! For starters, try the haggis bonbons!

Haggis neeps and tatties.
Haggis Neeps and Tatties at the Cairngorm Hotel.

Day 3 - East of Aviemore

Loch Morlich

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Aviemore is Loch Morlich, found some distance to the east by following the B970 out of Aviemore.

This loch is within an utterly breathtaking setting at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains. Unusual for a Scottish loch, its east bank is a long golden beach, ideal for water sports or just relaxing on its soft sands.

It's possible to hire water sports equipment from the nearby hut, which also has a cafe. If you don't fancy getting wet, there are lovely lochside walking trails to explore, a play park or a wee dram at The Pine Marten Bar.

Directions to Loch Morlich.

Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich with the snowy Cairngorm Mountains.

Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

Believe it or not, the Cairngorms have their own Reindeer herd roaming the hills. Reindeer were once a common sight in Scotland around 800 years ago but were hunted to extinction. The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd is currently the only free-roaming herd in Scotland.

Leaving Loch Morloch, turn right onto the motorway heading east, and pass the Glenmore Visitor Centre until you see cars parked on either side of the road. You can park here, then walk up to what looks like a house.

You have two options: visit the reindeer who are resident at the centre, or you can opt for a hill trip to see the free-roaming herd.

Paddock visits cost £4.00 for adults and £3.00 for children. The hill trips are more expensive at £22 per adult and £15 per child.

Directions to Cairngorm Reindeer Centre.

Cairngorm Reindeer Herd.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd.

The Green Loch

Our final destination for the day is the Green Loch (also called An Lochan Uaine), unsurprisingly named for its unusual deep green hue caused by the reflection of pine trees and algae in the water.

I would recommend staying in your parking spot at Cairngorm Reindeer Centre and walking via the northeast path to the loch; the parking opportunities are fairly limited. If you're not a strong walker, you might be able to park at Glenmore Lodge, further up the track.

Follow this track past the Reindeer Centre to reach the access gate for the walk to the Green Loch.

On foot, you are looking at a 40-minute walk over 1.8 miles, one way, to reach the loch. If you can park at Glenmore Lodge, this will take the walk down to 27 minutes over 1.2 miles.

Directions to the Green Loch.

The Green Loch.
The green waters of An Lochan Uaine.

Cairngorm Mountain Upper Car Park

This might sound like an odd choice of destination, but if you drive up to the snowsports centre car park, you get one of the best views around. Looking back towards Aviemore, you can see Loch Morlich and a vast carpet of forest as far as the eye can see. It's a great way to end your day east of Aviemore.

Directions to Cairngorm Mountain Car Park.

Cairngorms Ski Centre car park
This is the view of the ski centre, but looking back over to Aviemore is beautiful.

Day 4 - South of Aviemore

Today, we will explore south of Aviemore. Again, leave via Grampian Road heading south, but this time go straight ahead on the roundabout, following the B9152.

Highland Wildlife Park

It should take you about 20 minutes by car to reach Highland Wildlife Park, one of the best zoos in Scotland. Not only can you see species native to Scotland, but there are also some very rare animals here, including polar bears!

The park is split into two sections: a safari-like drive-through area and a walk-through area with animal enclosures. The area on foot has loads of facilities, including toilets, cafes and gift shops.

You could easily spend a day at Highland Wildlife Park, and you should, as it's fairly expensive to visit at £19 for adults and £14.25 for children. This zoo is highly recommended for your itinerary when visiting Aviemore.

Directions to Highland Wildlife Park.

Highland Wildlife Park.
Highland Wildlife Park.

Highland Folk Museum

It's unlikely you will find time to do both Highland Wildlife Park and Highland Folk Museum in one day, but I will add this as an alternative location if you want to squeeze it in or visit another day.

Turn right from Highland Folk Museum back onto the B9152, travel southwest, going through Kingussie and then on to Newtonmore. Look for this left turn to Highland Folk Museum. There are car parks to the left and right which cost £2 per car. The museum itself is free to visit, but donations are accepted.

Highland Folk Museum is a large open-air museum with many buildings from Scotland's history, from the 1700s onwards. The park is about 1.5 miles long and contains stone huts with thatched roofs, a school building, post offices, an old sweetie shop and many other attractions. There is also a play park, cafe and gift shop.

The biggest draw is the "Baile Gean - 1700s township", a collection of buildings as they existed in the 1700s. This town was featured in season 1 of the popular TV show Outlander.

Directions to Highland Folk Museum.

Ben Nevis.
Baile Gean - 1700s township at Highland Folk Museum.

Ruthven Barracks

A visit to Ruthven Barracks is ideal before or after Highland Wildlife Park or Highland Folk Museum; it is close to both and doesn't take long to visit.

If you're at Highland Folk Museum, travel back towards Aviemore to Kingussie, then take this right turn to Ruthven Barracks. Stay on this road; you will cross a single-track bridge over the River Spey. Keep your eyes open over the barracks on your left. There is a medium-sized car park just next to the access point for the ruin.

Built upon the site of an ancient castle, Ruthven Barracks was built in 1719 to garrison soldiers and police the area against Jacobite uprisings. It's possible to access the interior of the ruin and the stables at the rear of the structure. There are often friendly Highland cows that roam outside the ruin too.

It doesn't cost anything to visit Ruthven Barracks, and you can be in and out within half an hour, but it's an interesting place to visit and gives 360° panoramic countryside views.

Directions to Ruthven Barracks.

Ruthven Barracks, Kingussie.
Ruthven Barracks.

Alvie Forest Food

Hungry after your day of activities? My favourite place to eat near Aviemore is Alvie Forest Food, and you can go there on your way back to Aviemore. You can find it at the entrance to the Dalraddy Holiday Park on the B9152.

This isn't a restaurant but a food hut serving the holiday park. All the food here is sourced from the local estate; my favourite dish is the brisket-loaded fries!

Directions to Alvie Forest Food.

Alvie Forest Food, Dalraddy Holiday Park.
Alvie Forest Food.

Day 5 - North of Aviemore

Let's look to the north of Aviemore for today's activities.

Aviemore Kart Raceway

Aviemore Kart Raceway is the place for you if you like racing go-karts. Leaving Aviemore, travelling north on the B9152, not far past Oakwood Caravan Park, you will see a right turn with a large sign for the raceway.

The purpose-built track is long and complex, ideal for racing shenanigans with your family. Young children need not feel left out as two-seater tandem carts are available so they can join in the fun too.

Time slots are purchased in 10-minute blocks; ages 8-13 cost £12 and 13+ £14 for each 10-minute block.

Directions to Aviemore Kart Raceway.

Aviemore Kart Raceway.
Racing go-karts is a lot of fun!

Loch Vaa

After you have claimed pole position racing go-karts, why not relax a little by taking a leisurely walk around Loch Vaa, one of Aviemore's less advertised lochs?

Turn right back onto the B9152 and connect with the A95 travelling directly ahead (don't turn left to Perth). Continue along the A95 until the road goes below a railway bridge; the next right is where we stop - Laggantygown Cemetery car park.

Something to keep in mind is if there is a funeral happening and the car park is very busy, it might be better to skip Loch Vaa on this occasion.

Parking at the left side of the car park, climb the small hill to the northeast; from the top, you will see Loch Vaa. Follow the hill northwards until you can connect to the path that will take you around this serene and relaxing location. Note the mound of rocks in the middle of the water; this is the remains of an ancient Crannog.

Directions to Loch Vaa.

Loch Vaa in the snow.
Loch Vaa is not far north of Aviemore.

Loch Garten

I hope you're not bored of lochs yet, as there is another worth visiting north of Aviemore - Loch Garten - and it might just be the most beautiful one yet!

Return to the A95 from the Laggantygown Cemetery car park by turning right. Follow the A95 for 6 miles and look for this right turn to Boat of Garten.

From Boat of Garten, take this left, then left again following the sign for Loch Garten. Finally, take this right turn to reach the loch. You can park for the loch in two places: a small forested car park or further on at the north end of the Loch.

The photo below was taken on a cool winter morning. Loch Garten is breathtaking; who needs Loch Ness?

Directions to Loch Garten.

Loch Garten.
One of the most picturesque lochs near Aviemore is Loch Garten.

Castle Roy

A short distance north of Loch Garten is Castle Roy, which has recently opened to visitors for the first time ever! Either follow the road you're on to Nethy Bridge or retrace your steps back to the B970 and turn right to Nethy Bridge. Pass through the town on the B970; you will see the castle on your left as you leave. Murdo, the Highland cow, will greet you at the car park.

It might not be your most amazing castle design, but the walls are impressively thick, and the views of the Cairngorm Mountains from the castle battlements are spectacular. A handy information board points out all of the mountain features. It's possible to ascend one corner of the castle via a stair, and plenty of picnic tables are onsite.

Directions to Castle Roy.

Castle Roy.
Castle Roy near Nethy Bridge.

Additional activities in and around Aviemore

I couldn't fit everything into five days! So here are some additional suggestions for your trip to Aviemore:

Landmark Forest Adventure Park - This is a great theme park, especially if you have kids; the only downside is it's very expensive, particularly in the summer. For my family of five, it would cost £169 to visit. If money is no object, then there is so much to do here: huge climbing frames, rock climbing, water slides, roller coasters, a butterfly hut, animatronic dinosaurs, a tree-top trail and my favourite area, the bamboozeleum, which is full of optical illusions. Bring a picnic to save on expensive park food.

Directions to Landmark.

Pony Trekking - The Rothiemurchus Centre, as mentioned above for quad biking, also offers pony trekking. It costs £20-40 per person and can be booked on the Rothiemurchus website.

Craigellachie Circular Walk - This walk starts on the south side of Aviemore and takes you up into the hills on the west side of Aviemore. Initially a forest walk, you will reach the top of the hill and see a panoramic view of Aviemore, the Rothiemurchus Forest and Glenmore Forest Park.

Directions to Craigellachie Walk.

Gorge Walking - My brother and nephew went gorge walking with G2 Outdoor, based just south of Aviemore. They loved the mixture of rock scrambling, plunge pools and water slides. Even though the water is freezing in Scotland, you are kitted out with special wet suits, harnesses and helmets: a more adventurous option but lots of fun.

Gorge Walking.
Gorge Walking with G2 Outdoors.

Funicular Railway - The Cairngorm Mountain Railway is part of the snowsports centre on the Cairngorm Mountain; it's basically a railway carriage that takes you to the upper area of the ski centre. Even if you don't intend to do any snow sports, a trip up the funicular railway can be fun; there's a cafe at the top and spectacular views. Check their website before you visit, as it can be out of order regularly.

It's fairly expensive at £22 per adult and £12.50 for children.

Cairngorm Funicular Railway.
It can be fun going to the top of the mountain on this funicular railway.

The Fun House - Part of the Coylumbridge Hotel facilities, the Fun House is a large indoor soft playframe, ideal for kids 12 or under. The centre also offers arcades, crazy golf and an American diner cafe. You don't need to be staying at the hotel to use it.

£6.50 for children five and over.

Directions to the Fun House.

The Fun House, Coylumbridge.
The Fun House soft play frame near Coylumbridge Hotel.

Strathspey Cinema - In central Aviemore, within the Macdonald Aviemore Resort, there is a cinema often showing the latest films. I like this cinema because it's huge with plenty of seating. In the holiday season, there is often a pantomime too, ideal for small children.

Spey Valley Cinema.
The Spey Valley Cinema, set up for a panto!
 
Ross Thornton
My nephew Ross enjoying his popcorn at Spey Valley Cinema.

Ice Skating - As I mentioned in my intro, Aviemore used to have a fantastic ice rink near the Macdonald Resort. Sadly, it closed in the 1990s, leaving Aviemore without an ice rink for over 20 years. Thankfully, Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust launched a campaign in 2021 to build a new ice rink and successfully opened a marquee-covered facility in October of that year.

The group are raising funds to build a sport-sized iced rink building in Aviemore. It's a little cheaper to book in advance; walk-in prices are £15 per adult, £13 per child and £50 for a family ticket.

The ice rink can be found just off the Macdonald Resort car park, near their coach parking area.

Wild camping & Wild Swimming - There's nothing to stop you from wild camping in the Aviemore area. park rangers prefer you to use the designated camping areas though, and fires are banned in most places to protect the forests. Wild swimming can be a fun activity, but the water in Scotland is very cold at all times of year, and people have died from cold water shock from jumping into lochs.

Snowsports in Aviemore

I haven't been skiing or snowboarding at the Cairngorm Mountain Snowsports Centre. Snowsports in Aviemore depend greatly on how much snow has fallen on the hills; sometimes, the season doesn't get going until December and only lasts until April. The end of January is considered the time for the highest chance of snowfall; in particularly warm years, the snowsport window can be very small.

The Cairngorm Mountain Snowsports Centre has a lot to offer the budding skier or snowboarder:

  • 30km of pisted runs

  • 12 surface lifts

  • Freestyle terrain

  • On-site equipment rental

Directions to Cairngorm Mountain Snowsports Centre.

FAQs on travelling near Aviemore

Here are some frequently asked questions about travelling in Aviemore.

Is Aviemore Scotland worth visiting?

Yes, Aviemore is one of my top three places to visit in Scotland. Here are a few reasons why it's worth visiting:

  • Natural Beauty: Aviemore is set within the Cairngorms National Park, one of the UK's most spectacular and pristine natural areas. The landscapes here range from dense forests and serene lochs to rugged mountain peaks.

  • Outdoor Activities: Depending on the season, Aviemore offers a plethora of outdoor activities:

  • Winter: It's a hub for winter sports, especially skiing and snowboarding.

  • Summer: Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and water sports on the lochs are popular.

  • Wildlife: The region is home to a diverse range of wildlife. The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, for instance, lets visitors meet and learn about Britain's only free-ranging herd of reindeer. Birdwatchers can also spot rare species like the osprey.

  • Cultural and Historical Sites: The nearby Highland Folk Museum offers insights into Highland life from the 1700s to the 1960s. The Strathspey Steam Railway provides a nostalgic journey on a vintage train.

  • Family-Friendly: There are numerous family activities, from treetop adventures at TreeZone Aviemore to fun days at the beach of Loch Morlich.

How do you travel around Aviemore?

Car is the easiest way to travel around Aviemore, but regular buses can be taken from the town centre near the railway station.

If you're an avid cycler, many places can be accessed via some mid-ranged cycle routes; for example, you could cycle from Aviemore to Loch Morlich.

Where is the best place to stay in Aviemore?

Scandinavian Village on the west side of town is hard to beat for week-long stays. It's the cheapest place to stay for seven nights and is located close to the town centre and two major supermarkets - ALDI and Tesco. The largest accommodation at Scandinavian Village can easily accommodate eight people if two sleep in the lounge, and the kitchen is well stocked with utensils for self-catering. There's even a washer and drier so you can pack light and wash your clothes.

For single nights, the new Premier Inn on the south side of town is hard to beat for value. If you book months in advance, you can stay for around £50 per night.

For weekend stays with a touch more character, consider the Cairngorm Hotel on Grampian Road, directly opposite Aviemore Train Station. The rooms are better decorated, and the food here is lovely.

The Cairngorm Hotel
The Cairngorm Hotel has more more character than a chain hotel.

Where are the best places to eat in Aviemore?

You are spoilt for choice in Aviemore; there are so many lovely places to eat. Here's my top list of places to eat in and around Aviemore:

  1. Alvie Forest Food

  2. Cairngorm Hotel

  3. Cobbs Cafe

  4. The Winking Owl

  5. The Balavoulin

  6. Smiffy's Fish & Chips

  7. Cheese and Tomatin

  8. The Old Bridge Inn (Dog friendly)

Most evening restaurants require booking a table in the summer; walk-ins generally don't work. Aviemore is quieter in the winter, so you're more likely to get a table without booking.

Do you need a car in Aviemore?

It depends on what you would like to do. If you want to stay in central Aviemore, a car is unnecessary. You can still access many great restaurants, the cinema, the ice rink, the play parks and the swimming pool without leaving the town's boundaries. It isn't too far to walk to Rothiemurchus, with all that it offers.

If you want to explore the many lochs, forest trails, snow sports or zip lines, a car is a must.

Should I stay in Aviemore or Inverness?

For activities in the Aviemore area, then staying in Aviemore is recommended. You will get the most out of your day without travelling from Inverness; this is vital if you visit in winter to make the most of the available daylight hours.

Are midges a problem in Aviemore?

Generally, we haven't been bothered with midges too much on past visits to Aviemore. Check my Midge Survival Guide if you're worried about this annoying biting insect! Ticks can be a problem walking in the forest, especially if you have dogs.

Key information on the Aviemore Travel Itinerary

  • Aviemore is a small Scottish town in the Highlands of Scotland.

  • Aviemore is more tailored towards outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, watersports, and snowsports during winter months.

  • Scandinavian Village is recommended for week-long stays, and Premier Inn and Cairgorm Hotel for shorter stays.

  • Aviemore is much quieter in winter but will be very cold with potential snowfall.

  • Inverness is the nearest city to Aviemore; it takes about 36 minutes to drive there via the A9.

Conclusion

Aviemore has a special magic for me, and I hope this guide will let you experience a little bit of it too! Your wee Scottish adventure can be continued by travelling onwards to Inverness, northeast to Moray or west to Fort William.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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