Aviemore (Gaelic: An Aghaidh Mhòr) is a town in the Spey Valley of Highland Scotland. It's the main base for skiing and other outdoor activities in Cairngorms National Park. It's the largest of a straggle of villages including Rothiemurcus and Coylumbridge, also described here, and in 2020 had a population of 3230.
The River Spey arises in the mountains near Fort Augustus and flows east, then its valley broadens and trends northeast. This more fertile area has been settled since prehistory, as shown by its Bronze Age stone circles. It became the main north-south route through Scotland, as you can follow the Tay / Tummel / Garry valley before crossing the moor to descend into the Spey valley, and in modern times the highway A9 and railway adopted this route. Speyside is higher and colder than the south - Aviemore itself is at 214 m (702 ft) elevation. Spring comes late, snow lingers on the summits, and the crags and birch woods feel Nordic in contrast to the douce banks of Tay. Beyond Aviemore the valley narrows again, to thread through forests towards the Moray coast.
Highland scenery became popular in the 19th century, and Queen Victoria was one of many visitors. However the big lift in tourist numbers came in the 1960s when ski lifts were built on the slopes of Ben Macdui 12 miles east, and a resort village within Aviemore. The ski area was small and unreliable and the resort was a brutalist monstrosity, but together they gave thousands of visitors their start in winter sports. Eventually more congenial buildings replaced the resort, and from 2001 a funicular railway supported the ski area. This suffered a serious breakdown in 2018, and repair was impractical during the covid years, but it re-opened (thanks to a hefty taxpayer bail-out) in 2023.
The ski area remains small, and cannot be extended without unacceptable damage to the Cairngorm mountain habitat. Its snow cover is becoming less reliable as climate change impacts, and it has long been recognised that Aviemore cannot make a living from winter sports alone. There is therefore a broader year-round offering of hill-walking, off-road biking, kayaking and rafting, orienteering, pony-trekking, wildlife-spotting and the like.
Aviemore iCentre is the tourist office, 100 yards north of the railway station, open April-Oct Tu-Sa 9:30AM-5PM. Staff are friendly and informative.
Get in edit
By plane edit
Inverness (INV IATA) is the closest airport, with connections across Europe and the UK. Edinburgh (EDI IATA) is a longer drive but has far more flights, and that airport is west of the city so you drive straight out onto M90 then A9 north.
By train edit
Aviemore is on the main railway from Edinburgh and Glasgow, with trains every hour or two. These take 3 hours via Stirling, Perth, Dunkeld & Birnam, Pitlochry and Kingussie, and continue north to Carrbridge and Inverness.
Reaching Aviemore from England usually involves changing in Edinburgh, but one direct daytime train runs from London Kings Cross via York, Newcastle and Edinburgh, taking 7 hr 30 min.
Nightly F-Su the Caledonian Sleeper leaves London Euston around 9PM to reach Aviemore by 7:45AM, continuing to Inverness; return timings are similar.
See below for the heritage Strathspey Railway, which starts here. Other heritage trains sometimes run from the south through Aviemore to join the branch line to Boat of Garten.
1 Aviemore railway station is central in the village. It has a staffed ticket office and machines, a waiting room, cafe and toilets. There is step-free access to Platform 1 (for Inverness), and by level crossing to Platform 2 (southbound) and 3 (Strathspey Railway — buy tickets for this on the platform, not the mainline ticket office).
By bus edit
Buses run every hour or so from Edinburgh and Glasgow taking 3 hours via Perth, and continue north to Inverness. The main operators are Citylink, Parks of Hamilton (booked via Citylink) and Megabus. In 2023 a single adult fare is £15-20. The bus stop is outside the Cairngorm Hotel by the railway station.
Travel from England involves changing in Edinburgh, and National Express don't venture this far north.
Change in Inverness for Citylink buses to Portree and Uig on Skye, and to Ullapool, for ferries to the Outer Hebrides.
By road edit
Aviemore is just off the A9, which runs north to Inverness and Thurso, and south to Perth, Stirling and Edinburgh. It's mostly undivided, with long sweeping blind bends, and impatient traffic building up behind slow drivers; overtaking accidents are common, with cries for full highway dualling renewed after each fatality.
Cyclists may use A9 throughout but will prefer to follow de-trunked loops of the former highway wherever possible. Aviemore is on one such loop, badged B9152. National Cycle Route 7 passes through Aviemore, running from Sunderland in England north to Inverness. That's nice to know but doesn't help over Drumochter Pass, where you have to share A9 (sometimes in poor visibility) with fast motor traffic.
Get around edit
Walk: Aviemore village straggles but is walkable. Rothiemurcus and Coylumbridge are within walking range (B970 has a sidewalk) but you need wheels to go further up to Loch Morlich and the Cairngorm. See "Do" for nearby walking trails.
Buses hereabouts are run by Stagecoach Highland. Some you might use are:
- Bus 30 from Aviemore via Coylumbridge and Glenmore to Cairngorm ski area: daily, hourly 7AM-5:30PM.
- Bus 39 from Carrbridge via Aviemore and Kingussie to Newtonmore: every two hours M-Sa. A couple continue to Dalwhinnie.
- Bus 37 from Aviemore via Boat of Garten and Nethy Bridge to Grantown-on-Spey: every two hours M-Sa with four on Sunday.
- Bus X37 from Inverness via Tomatin, Carrbridge, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown, Nethy Bridge and Boat of Garten; five buses M-F and three on Saturday.
Taxi firms in town are Aviemore Taxis (+44 1479 811111), Gerry's (+44 1479 812000), Weirs (+44 1479 810141) and Doc's (+44 7971 736599).
Highland Yaks (+44 7704 987325) specialise in activity transfers, for instance to put kayaks on the river at one point and uplift them at another.
- 1 Aviemore Stone Circle sits incongruously amidst a housing estate: it's from the Bronze Age so it's about 5000 years old. The cairn within the stone circle has been grassed over for protection. This was a Clava-type annular burial chamber: cairns of this type were used once then sealed, without later burials or re-entry for ceremonies.
- 2 Grenish Stone Circle is two miles north in the forest next to the main railway line and is best reached from the path by the Strathspey Railway. It's similar to the Aviemore circle but the ruins of its annular cairn have been left uncovered.
- 3 Loch an Eilein is fringed by a path, a gentle 5-mile (8-km) circuit. In the woods are remains of old lime kilns and logging operations. However the main attraction is views of the ruined 14th-century castle on an islet; it could be reached by causeway until the loch water level was raised in the 18th century. In 1690 it saw the last action in Scotland of the original Jacobites, the forces of the ousted King James II / VII. Fleeing from a double drubbing at Cromdale, they tried to seize the castle but were repulsed by the stout widow who held it. The Hanoverians were hard on their heels so they scarpered, and it would fall to James' son the "Old Pretender" and grandson the "Young Pretender" (Bonnie Prince Charlie) to continue the cause. That was finally vanquished in 1746 at Culloden, to live on only in romanticising songs. The loch is reachable by a trail from Rothiemurchus. Bring a map or download an OpenStreetMap-based app like OsmAnd or Mapy.cz to help you navigate. Turn left just before Lochan Mor (the turn is slightly hard to spot, but if you miss it the other trail will also go to Loch An Eilein). You may see deer on the way, especially if you set off early before the other walkers have scared them away. It takes about an hour to walk to Loch An Eilein from Aviemore, and the loch is also reachable by car if you prefer. The circuit around the loch is popular with dog walkers and mountain bikers.
- Loch Gamhna is 200 yards (190 meters) south of Loch an Eilein and is somehow even more peaceful. You'll probably have it to yourself. Reach it by one of the side trails from Loch an Eilein that say "Path not maintained". In spring and summer, keep an eye out for ducks with ducklings.
- Ord Ban is a 400-m hill on the northwest flank of Loch An Eilein, another quieter (but muddy) trail. Compared to the path around the loch, this trail is much quieter, somewhat more challenging, and less maintained. The vegetation changes dramatically near the top of the hill, and the peak has views of the nearby landscape. If desired, this walk can be done in a loop that goes back to the loch. Wear long trousers because bare legs will attract ticks and midges.
- 4 Loch Morlich is a freshwater lake just before the road begins its long climb to Cairngorm. It has a sandy beach and is used for watersports, see below, and there's an easy 4 mile walking trail around it.
- 5 Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Glenmore PH22 1QU, ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM. Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) roam free on the mountain tops, and may approach hikers for hand-outs, their great schnozzles searching like sticky hoover attachments. They especially expect to be fed on the hills around this Centre, which has guided walks two or three times a day. You need your own car to drive from the Centre to wherever the herd happens to be grazing. These walks are over rough boggy terrain: wellies or similar footwear is essential, and children should only join May-Dec when conditions are milder. A few reindeer stand in a paddock if you can't manage the walk or the weather's foul. Hill walk adult £22, conc £18.50, child £15.
- 6 Duke of Gordon's Monument is a tower in the woods commemorating George Gordon (1770-1836), Colonel-in-Chief of the Gordon Highlanders. His children were all illegitimate so the Dukedom died out with him. The tower was erected in 1840, as was his better-known commemorative tower at Elgin.
- 7 Delfour Stone Circle four miles southwest of town is of similar date and "Clava" design to the Aviemore ring but is a bit of a mess. Farmers have used it as a dumping ground for unwanted stones from the fields, so it's difficult to tell what's original circle or ring-cairn, and what's debris. It's on private land but you see enough from the lane.
- 8 Frank Bruce Sculpture Park is in the woods at Feshiebridge eight miles southwest of Aviemore. A free trail takes you past gnarly sculptures, now in decay — it was always the intention to let them rot.
- Strathspey Railway is a 10-mile heritage standard-gauge railway, often steam-hauled, with its south terminus at Aviemore Station Platform 3. The main collection of locomotives and rolling stock is at Boat of Garten, where you can also start your trip, but excursions from Aviemore make a long stop there. The train then chuffs on to Broomhill, where the line ends in the fields, so it reverses. Extension to Grantown is thwarted by the A85, which the council promised to re-align then baulked at the cost. Trains run Apr-Oct W-Su, with three round trips taking 1 hr 45 min. Return fares in 2023 are adult £19.50, conc £17.50, child £9.75, dog £3, meals extra.
- Speyside Way is a hiking and cycling trail alongside the heritage railway from Aviemore to Boat of Garten and Broomhill. Thereafter it follows the old trackbed northeast via Nethy Bridge and Grantown-on-Spey to the coast at Buckie.
- Lairig Ghru is a 19-mile (31-km) route through the Cairngorms from Coylumbridge to Linn of Dee above Braemar. You need transport set up at both ends; the first bus of the day to Coylumbridge is leaving it late to get through the pass before nightfall. It's heavy, boggy going, with snow and ice underfoot in winter. There are no bail-out options if you get cold and weary midway.
- Spey Valley Cinema is within Macdonald Resort Hotel.
- Golf: Spey Valley GC is on Dalfaber Drive next to Macdonald Spey Valley Resort Hotel, who run it. It's 7153 yards, par 72.
- 1 Craigellachie is a simple hike direct from Aviemore. The trail starts by Old Bridge Inn and ascends west though birch forest past a couple of lochans up the steep slope.
- Mountain biking: lots of trails through the nearby forests.
- Beach: last thing you'd expect, but the east shore of Loch Morlich has a sandy beach (elevation 300 m), which gets busy on warm summer days. Below the sand is broken glass and occasional military remains from wartime, when this was a training area for Norwegian commandos.
- 2 Glenmore Lodge, PH22 1QZ, ☏ . Outdoor training centre above Loch Morlich offering residential courses for adults and youngsters.
- 3 Cairngorm Mountain base is the end of the road and bus route from Aviemore, and base station for the mountain railway, which is closed for engineering works as of January 2024. The car park costs £4 per day. The railway is a funicular, with the "up" car counterbalancing the "down" car. An adult return costs £22. Outside ski season, all you can do is ride up to Ptarmigan restaurant at the top station, admire the view and overpriced merchandise, then ride back down. You may not go out onto the hill — to prevent damaging footfall on the Alpine habitat — or bring dogs. Hill walkers aiming for the heights must therefore trudge up the slope from the car park, but are permitted to ride down again.
- Skiing: the funicular is included in ski lift passes, and most skiers start by riding it up to Ptarmigan then branching for the three areas of Coire na Ciste, White Lady or Coire Cas. Day Lodge Poma is a short-cut from the base into Coire na Ciste. When conditions are good it's magic but the season is short and unreliable, with long queues for lifts at weekends or during school holidays.
- Cairngorm summit is at 1245 m (4084 ft), a "Munro" and the sixth highest mountain in Britain. Ascend the rocky hillside to see tinkling brooks, nesting birds, and staggering views of the surrounding mountains (as long as clouds aren't blocking the view). It's only half a mile south of the funicular top station, but walkers must ascend from the base station. The simplest and shortest route is Windy Ridge, straight up alongside the funicular, but it misses the best of the scenery — you might want to come down that way. North Corries is a longer route taking in the tops of corries or cwms at the head of glaciated valleys. Skiers have the easiest ascent as you can park your kit around Ptarmigan at 1080 m then stride out. Of course that takes you off-piste in clumsy ski boots, beyond help from the ski patrol if you had a mishap. On the peak you'll find a large cairn and an automated weather station. If you get to the peak and the view is hidden by clouds, never fear: they may dissipate in a few minutes, and if not, nearby side trails lead to lower vantage points with worthwhile views of their own.
- 4 Ben Macdui is the highest of the Cairngorms, at 1309 m (4295 ft). Since 1847 it's been the second highest mountain in Britain, when the Ordnance Survey showed that Ben Nevis pipped it at 1345 m (4411 ft). The trail is 11 miles (17.5 km) and takes 6-8 hours. Start from the base car park swinging west of Windy Ridge; the route is obvious and involves nothing technical, but keep a wary eye on the weather. You return via Cairngorm summit and Windy Ridge. Queen Victoria ascended in 1859 from the east, by pony from Balmoral to Loch Etchachan then hiking the rest. Hiking Ben Macdui may be tricky if you don't have a car, as it will be hard to make it back to the ski centre in time for the last bus back to Aviemore.
- 5 G2 Adventure Hub, Alvie Estate PH21 1NE (5 miles SW of town), ☏ . Daily 9AM-5PM. They run various summer and winter outdoor activities, the main attraction on site is their series of zip wires.
- See Cairngorms National Park for other activities further out.
- Highland Games: Aviemore doesn't host its own, see Kingussie for the Newtonmore Games in August.
- Thunder in the Glens is a Harley-Davidson motorbike rally held on the last weekend in August, based in Aviemore but with much gunning of bikes all around Speyside. The next is probably 28-30 Aug 2024, tbc.
- Tesco opposite the railway station is open M-Sa 7AM-10PM, Su 8AM-8PM.
- Aldi is a quarter mile north next to Winking Owl, open 8AM-10PM, Su 9AM-8PM.
- Pharmacy: Boots is in Myrtlefield Shopping Centre north of the station, open M-Sa 9AM-6PM.
- Sports gear and outdoor clothing shops along Grampian Rd are Blacks, Fat Face and Nevisport.
- Waterstones bookshop is in the mall opposite the station, open M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM, Su 11AM-5PM.
- Aviemore has lots of cheap & cheerful places to refuel cold hungry skiers and hill-walkers.
- La Taverna is a trattoria at 1 Grampian Rd, south end of the village at the Coylumbridge Rd junction. It's open Th-M 13:00-21:00.
- 1 Old Bridge Inn, 23 Dalfaber Road PH22 1PU, ☏ . Su-Th noon-11PM, F Sa noon-midnight. Traditional pub in a former gamekeeper's cottage with open fire in the evenings, live music, bar meals and restaurant. Has outdoor seating area facing the river during the summer. See Sleep for their bunkhouse.
- 2 Happy Haggis (Harkai's), 45 Grampian Road PH22 1PT, ☏ . Daily noon-9PM. Takeaway serving fish and chips, haggis, burgers (and vegetarian versions of these); good range and quality of food.
- Tamanna is an Indian restaurant at 43 Grampian Rd next to Happy Haggis, open daily 4:30-11PM.
- Cairngorm Hotel opposite the station (see Sleep) serves non-residents daily from noon.
- Charcoal within the station block is sort-of Indian comfort food, open daily 1-9PM.
- Mambos is a fast-food sit-in cafe just outside the station, open daily 10AM-1AM.
- Smiffy's serves fish and chips just north of the station, open daily noon-9PM.
- Cheese and Tomatin is a pizzeria at 111 Grampian Rd just south of Skiing Doo. It's open Th-Tu noon-9PM.
- 3 Skiing Doo, 9 Grampian Road PH22 1RH, ☏ . Daily noon-8:30PM. Theme bar with grills, burgers and kid's menu. The name's a pun on the Highland dagger sgian-dubh, and the place is decorated with old signs, posters, skis and this 'n that.
- 4 The Winking Owl, 123 Grampian Road PH22 1RH, ☏ . W Th Su noon-10PM, F Sa noon-1AM. Good bar food in this chalet-style pub in village centre.
- Aviemore Kebab and Burger at 118 Grampian Rd is open daily 1-10PM.
- Aviemore Inn is on the caravan park south end of the village.
- The Vault, Grampian Road PH22 1RH (just north of station). F-Sa 10:30PM-3AM. Drouthy night club.
- Cairngorm Brewery is on Dalfaber Drive near the Spey Valley Resort and golf course. No tours but they offer tasting sessions.
- Kinrara Distillery makes gin in a former milking shed at Lynwilg Farm a mile south of Aviemore. Tasting session £10.
- Whisky distilleries are further out: Speyside at Kingussie, Tomatin north of Carrbridge, and lots down the Spey valley around Grantown-on-Spey.
- Aviemore is the main accommodation centre for the west side of Cairngorms National Park. Lots of small B&Bs in and around the village.
- Aviemore Holiday Park south end of the village has static caravans and chalets but no tourer or camping pitches.
- 1 Aviemore Youth Hostel, 25 Grampian Road PH22 1PR, ☏ . Friendly well-run hostel open all year, with dorms and a few private rooms. Dorm bunk £28, rooms from £50.
- 2 Oakwood Caravan & Camping Park, Granish PH22 1QD, ☏ . Clean efficient campsite open all year, dog-friendly. Pitch £22, hook-up £27.
- Old Bridge Bunkhouse is run by Old Bridge Inn next door, see Eat. Dorm bunks are £25 ppn.
- 3 Ravenscraig Guest House, 141 Grampian Road PH22 1RP (On main street), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Great reviews for this small comfy B&B, all rooms are ensuite. B&B double £120.
- Cairngorm Hotel, 77 Grampian Road PH22 1PE (Opposite station), ☏ . Comfy trad hotel with good restaurant. B&B double £140.
- 4 Premier Inn, Grampian Road PH22 1PX, ☏ . Reliable budget chain. B&B double £120.
- High Range, Grampian Road PH22 1PT (opposite Premier Inn), ☏ . Spacious motel, self-catering lodges and caravan park. Double (room only) £90.
- 5 Macdonald Aviemore Resort, Highland Resort PH22 1PN, ☏ . Big boxy mid-range hotel in centre of village. Their activity centre is adjacent. B&B double £170.
- Macdonald Highland Hotel is effectively a slightly cheaper extension of Aviemore Resort Hotel.
- 6 Macdonald Spey Valley Resort, Dalfaber Drive PH22 1ST, ☏ . Reasonably comfy resort hotel, but in need of refurbishment. B&B double £200.
- 7 Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel, Glenmore PH22 1QY (8 miles east of town on road up Cairngorm), ☏ . Clean friendly hostel open Feb-Oct. Dorm bunk £24.
As of July 2023, Aviemore has 4G from O2 and Vodafone, and 5G from EE and Three.
Go next edit
- Carrbridge is an alternative base for exploring this side of the Cairngorms.
- Grantown-on-Spey further down the valley is classic whisky-distilling country.
- Inverness is a pleasant Victorian town with lots of accommodation.
- North Coast 500 is a touring itinerary of north Scotland that begins and ends in Inverness.
- Loch Ness north end is near Inverness but is better explored from Drumnadrochit or Fort Augustus further south.
- Kingussie is the last large settlement in Spey Valley before A9 climbs south over bleak Drumochter Pass then descends into Perthshire.
- Ben Nevis is Britain's highest mountain at 1345 m (4413 ft). That's only 100 m higher than Cairngorm, but a tougher ascent as you start near sea level at Fort William.
|Routes through Aviemore
|Perth ← Kingussie ←
|→ Carrbridge → Inverness
|→ Grantown-on-Spey → Elgin