Heart of the Highlands, Aviemore
Ross McEwen, December 22, 2010
Aviemore is a town nestled in the centre of the Cairngorms National Park. It’s a veritable playground for weekend warriors and longer stays alike.
By car, Aviemore can be accessed from the A9 from the south, with Edinburgh two and half hours away and Glasgow closer to three. From the North, Inverness is only a scenic forty minute drive away. There is a train station in the centre of town, with services running hourly. There is also a frequent bus service.
Where to stay
For those travelling on a budget, the Aviemore Bunkhouse offers a central location and great value for money. For those travelling by car and looking for somewhere different, Cairngorm Reindeer Cottage is a quiet retreat 3 miles north of Aviemore. If travelling in a group, the discount offered by the cottage represents great value.
Facilites in Aviemore
For those with their own bikes, or those looking to rent Mikes Bike’s has a good selection of kit and mountain bikes for hire. For something different, their mountain bike tandem is a great way to spend the day and smiles are guaranteed as you wind, with questionable control, through the trails around Aviemore. Mountain Spirit are ski and mountaineering specialist with a wide range of specialist apparel and equipment. They offer ski, mountain bike, telemark and mountain safety equipment hire. Ellis Brigham, Nevisport and a large Tesco, ideal for picking up supplies, are all in the centre of town.
Things to do:
It is not without good reason that The Highlands are beginning to become considered as one of the world’s premier mountain biking locations. Trails now encompass the whole of The National Park. However, there are a few points of particular interest. A relatively unknown and untracked area is the former racecourse at Badaguish. Access to the estate can be gained on the left hand side on the way to the ski centre, approximately four miles outside of Aviemore. A labyrinth of trails snake their way through the trees. The riding is for intermediate to advanced cyclist only, with some particularly technical sections.
Laggan Wolftrax is about fifteen miles south of Aviemore and is well signposted from the town of Newtonmore. With on-site bike hire and cafe, there are trails for all ages and abilities.
The Cairngorm National Park has a network of well-surfaced and quiet roads. Depending on the time of year, cycling to the Cairngorm Ski Centre provides a formidable challenge. If you make it to the base station on your bike; you get a free journey to the summit on the funicular railway. Cycling to Tomintoul is one of the most scenic trips in the Highlands. You can’t really go wrong with cycling in Aviemore; the gently undulating flood basin that Aviemore sits in can make for an easy cruise, but venture further afield and there are plenty of challenges.
The aforementioned mountain bike trails at Badaguish are equally challenging on foot. There are a number of great trails around Loch Morlich and the Lairighru path. With river crossings and the possibility of becoming quite lost in the dense forrest, being prepared is advised.
Loch Morlich has a wide range of water activities on offer. Sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking can all be enjoyed in the more temperate summer months. Loch Insch, five miles south of Aviemore, is a purpose-built watersports facility.
Cairngorm Mountain has enjoyed some great seasons over the past few years. The season can start as early as November, and end as late as May. Equipment is available to rent at a number of shops in Aviemore. There are a number of pomma and T-Bar lifts, as well as a furnicular railway with a restaurant at the top. The skiing conditions can often be varied, and lift prices have risen in recent years. If you travel to Cairngorm without the expectation of Alpine-esque infrastructure and snow, then you’ll be left wanting, but it’s still a great way to spend the day.
Getting there responsibly
Book cheap train tickets to and from Aviemore Station from thetrainline.com.