Visitors to Aviemore can enjoy great craic (The local term for fun from the Gaellic language) after a day on the slopes. The Winking Owl (tel: +44 1479 812 368; www.thewinkingowl.co) on Grampian Road is the oldest pub in the town (although recently refurbished) and specialises in local real ales and whiskies.
Aviemore also has its own award-winning microbrewery, the Cairngorm Brewery (tel: +44 1479 812222; www.cairngormbrewery.com), which does not have its own bar but you’ll see its famous brews such as ‘Sheepshaggers Gold’ for sale in many local hostelries. The wider Spey Valley is also famous for its whisky.
There is a good choice of more than 20 cafés and restaurants in Aviemore catering for most tastes and budgets. The selection ranges from award-winning fish and chip shops to gourmet restaurants. Be sure to enjoy local cuisine – including salmon, haggis and venison – while in and around the resort.
It’s not all Scottish fayre though, La Taverna Pizzeria, Bar and Takeaway (tel: +44 1479 810 683) on the edge of town as you arrive back from the slopes has been run by the Vastano Family for more than 35 years and serves up authentic stone-baked thin based Neapolitan pizza. The Park Guest House (+44 1479 810 941; www.internationalstarters.co.uk), formerly known as International Starters, offers a diverse menu including cuisine from Asia, Spain and Scotland.
On the slopes The Ptarmigan Restaurant (tel: +44 1479 861 336) at the top of the funicular is the United Kingdom’s highest restaurant at almost 1,100m (3,600ft) and serves everything from soup to spicy Highland sausage casserole, using local ingredients where possible.
Beyond the slopes:
Remarkably, Aviemore can perhaps offer more activities and attractions than any other ski resort in the world. Along with the royal palaces, ancient battle grounds, mythical monsters and world-famous distilleries, other possible outings include the Royal Dornoch and Castle Stuart (home of the Scottish Open) golf courses, stunning beaches such as those at Nairn (much loved by Charlie Chaplin), and one of the world’s most scenic rail trips to John O’Groats – the most northerly settlement on the British mainland.
Aviemore town itself has a long list of facilities and activities on its doorstep. Outdoor pursuits include a fishing lake, many beautiful walks, hiking and mountain biking trails, a steam train line, and the more unusual attractions of all-weather dog sledding and a reindeer farm. Indoors, visitors can make use of the town’s swimming pool complex and cinema.
Aviemore is very much a family-friendly resort with high-quality accommodation and excellent leisure facilities, from a swimming pool to steam train rides. The Hilton Coylumbridge Resort (tel: +44 1479 810 661;www.hilton.co.uk) has particularly good facilities, including a great soft play area for younger children.
On the ski slopes, the resort tries hard to be family orientated, with well-trained and friendly staff, but practical problems can include long queues, overcrowded restaurants, old lifts, extreme weather and hazard-strewn ski runs that can make the experience challenging for some families. This is even more noticeable for visitors who have previously been ‘pampered’ on immaculately smooth, relatively empty runs with comfortable modern lifts in mainland Europe or North America.
Aviemore has a good selection of about 25 shops covering all holiday essentials, as well as a smattering of souvenir and gift retailers selling local products. There are also half a dozen well-equipped sports shops throughout the resort, where skiers and boarders can buy ski gear and accessories.
On the slopes The Shop @ The Top (tel: +44 1479 861 261; www.cairngormmountain.org), located in the funicular’s upper railway station, is the highest shop in the UK and stocks ski essentials and souvenirs.
The Rothiemurchus Estate (tel: +44 1479 812 345;www.rothiemurchus.net) offers dozens of activities around Aviemore, including clay pigeon shooting for anyone over 12 (children accompanied by adults), and will happily take beginners. Different packages are available; the best being the ‘gold experience’ for two hours, which includes gun, cartridges, clay targets, protective eyewear and hearing protection with professional safety instruction.
There is a good selection of accommodation in Aviemore and in the Cairngorms in general. Most of the accommodation is in the form of bed and breakfasts, guest houses and family-run hotels but there are also several large resort-style hotels. There are also self-catering options such as private houses to rent, log cabins and chalets, as well as hostels for those on a budget. None of the accommodation is directly on the slopes, and all require a short trip to the lifts.
Cairngorm HotelTelephone: +44 1479 810 233 | Website: http://www.cairngorm.com | Moderate
One of the leading independent hotels in Aviemore, this 3-star option is located in the heart of the town and is consistently ranked as the best in the resort.
The Aviemore BunkhouseTelephone: +44 1479 811 181 | Website: http://www.aviemore-bunkhouse.com | Cheap
The Aviemore Bunkhouse is an eco-friendly, well-insulated hostel next door to popular Old Bridge Inn pub and restaurant. The hostel has 40 rooms ranging from private doubles to shared six bed dorms.
Aviemore Youth HostelTelephone: +44 1479 810 345 | Website: http://www.syha.org.uk | Cheap
Located at the edge of Aviemore centre and on the main route up to the ski slopes, this is a modern, low-rise hostel set in woodland. There's both private and dorm style accommodation available as well as a kitchen and dining room for self-caterers.
Luxury Woodland Lodges at Macdonald Aviemore ResortTelephone: +44 344 879 9152 | Website: http://www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk | Luxury
18 luxuriously appointed log cabins, each sleeping six people divided into three en-suite bedrooms, are on offer at this woodland lodge. Facilities include ski storage, Wi-Fi, a wood burning stove and pizza delivery from the on-site Italian restaurant. There's also a 25m (82ft) indoor pool with flume on site.
The Park Guest HouseTelephone: +44 1479 810 941 | Website: http://www.theparkguesthouseaviemore.co.uk | Moderate
A restaurant with on-site guestrooms, The Park Guest is central, comfortable and affordable. The restaurant is an off shoot of an Edinburgh based business famed for its unique spin on dining – serving only smaller starter size portions that are shared out in a similar style to Spanish tapas. It's central, comfortable and affordable.
Hilton Coylumbridge ResortTelephone: +44 1479 810 661 | Website: http://www.hilton.co.uk | Luxury
A large 4-star resort complex covering 26 hectares (64 acres), the Hilton Coylumbridge Resort is located alongside the main road from Aviemore to Cairngorm. There is a wide range of facilities on-site, and this hotel is particularly well equipped for families with its children's play park and family deals at its restaurants.