Carrbridge is a village in the Spey Valley in the central Highlands of Scotland, 24 miles southeast of Inverness and six miles north of Aviemore. Its Gaelic name is Drochaid Chàrr but derives from Norse: "boggy area". The main reason to visit is to access Cairngorms National Park. It's a quiet place in the wooded valley with a population of roughly 700.
Boat of Garten (Coit a' Ghartain) five miles southeast is a village of similar size, historically a ferry crossing of the River Spey until replaced by a bridge in 1899. It nowadays hosts the Strathspey Railway stock, and has a nature reserve where ospreys nest.
Get in edit
Carrbridge is on the railway from Edinburgh and Glasgow, with trains every 2-3 hours. They take 3 hr 15 min via Stirling, Perth, Dunkeld & Birnam, Pitlochry, Kingussie and Aviemore, and continue north to Inverness. Not all trains to Inverness stop in Carrbridge. Change at Inverness for Aberdeen, Thurso (for Orkney), and Kyle of Lochalsh (for Skye).
Nightly F-Su the Caledonian Sleeper leaves London Euston around 9PM to reach Carrbridge by 8AM, continuing to Inverness; return timings are similar.
See below for the heritage Strathspey Railway: this starts from Aviemore, but its main collection of locomotives and rolling stock is at Boat of Garten.
1 Carrbridge railway station is half a mile west of village centre. It has a staffed ticket office but no machines, and a waiting room but no cafe or toilets. There is level access to Platform 2 but a footbridge with stairs and no lift to Platform 1.
Carrbridge is on a lengthy bypassed loop of the A9 from Perth to Inverness, with no direct access. From the south you join this loop (badged A95) at Granish north of Aviemore, then B9135. Coming from the north exit onto A938. Inter-city buses flash past on A9 and don't stop at the village. Local buses you might use, run by Stagecoach Highland, are:
- Bus X37 from Inverness via Tomatin to Carrbridge, continuing to Dulnain Bridge, Grantown-on-Spey, Nethy Bridge and Boat of Garten; five buses M-F and three on Saturday.
- Bus 39 from Dalwhinnie and Newtonmore to Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge, every two hours M-Sa.
- Bus 37 from Aviemore via Boat of Garten and Nethy Bridge to Grantown-on-Spey, every two hours M-Sa with four on Sunday.
Cyclists may use A9 throughout but will prefer to use the loops of its former course wherever possible.
Get around edit
You need wheels to get around this scattered district.
- 1 Old Packhorse Bridge over River Dulnain is the oldest surviving bridge in the Highlands. It was built in 1717 to enable funeral processions to reach Duthil Church, hence it was also known as "coffin bridge". Only the basic arch remains, as the parapet and surface were lost in 1829 to the "Muckle Spate" flood, so don't try to scramble across with or without packhorse or coffin.
- Carrbridge Parish Church south along Main Street was built in 1909, and holds memorials and other items relocated from the former church at Duthill. It remains active as a Church of Scotland.
- 2 Duthill Church has been rebuilt twice since those processions solemnly trudged over the bridge towards it. It closed in 1967 but the graveyard contains many memorials to Clan Grant, with two large mausoleums.
- 3 Boat of Garten Station is the main collection of locomotives and rolling stock of the Strathspey Railway, a heritage standard-gauge line. Most visitors join excursions from Aviemore, which make an extended stop at Boat of Garten, but you can buy tickets and start from here. Trains continue northeast to Broomhill, a small station where you can also start, then hiss to a halt a quarter-mile further when the line ends inconsequentially in the fields.
- 4 Loch Garten Nature Reserve, Loch Garten Rd, ☏ . Daily 10AM-4:30PM. RSPB manage this nature reserve around the freshwater loch. It's a nesting site for a pair of ospreys, camera-monitored as egg thieves are a continual threat Adult £5, child £2.50.
- 5 Soldier's Head is a rock formation visible from A9 and the railway at Slochd northwest of Carrbridge. Most passers-by fail to see any resemblance to a head or any other item of military anatomy, until one day they suddenly "geddit" and thereafter irritate their travelling companions by repeatedly pointing it out.
- 1 Landmark Forest Adventure Park, Main Street PH23 3AJ, ☏ , toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Apr-Oct: daily 10AM-5PM. Well-designed active fun park suitable for children of all ages and their parents. Attractions include a rollercoaster, raft ride, high-wire course, and a treetop trail. Adult £35, child £33, cheaper online.
- Golf: Carrbridge GC is by the village crossroads. It's nine holes so twice around off white tees is 5382 yards, par 71, visitor day ticket £35.
- Carve Carrbridge is the Scottish Open Chainsaw-Carving Competition, held on the village sports field in early September.
- Golden Spurtle is the world porridge-making championship, held in Carrbridge village hall in late October as the nights draw in and folk want warming food. The winner gets the spurtle — the traditional stirring-stick — though this is probably the world's only contest in which you would be helped by winning a wooden spoon. Early October.
- Spar on Main Street is open M-Sa 7AM-6PM, Su 8:30AM-5PM.
- Cairn Hotel is a pub serving non-residents, see blow.
- The Old Bakery Coffee Shop is on Main Street north side of Cairn Hotel. It's open Th F M 8:30AM-4PM, Sa Su 9:30AM-4PM.
- Carrbridge Kitchen opposite Old Bakery is open W-Sa 8:30AM-8:30PM, Su-Tu 8:30AM-5PM.
- Andersons Restaurant, Deshar Rd, Boat of Garten PH24 3BN (200 yards west of Strathspey Railway station), ☏ . W-Sa 5-9PM, Su noon-8PM. Splendid Scottish fare in a relaxed setting.
- Cairn Hotel is the village pub.
- Distilleries: several big names for Scotch whisky are based further down the valley beyond Grantown.
- 1 Carrbridge Hotel, Main Street PH23 3AB, ☏ . Comfy mid-price place at the village crossroads, they often accommodate large coach parties. B&B double £200.
- 2 Cairn Hotel, Main Street PH23 3AS, ☏ . It's more like a pub with rooms, which are in the houses next door. B&B double £130.
- 3 Fairwinds, off Main Street PH23 3AA, ☏ . This is now self-catering chalets and no longer a hotel.
- 4 Dalrachney Lodge Hotel, Grantown Rd PH23 3AT, ☏ . Great reviews for this welcoming traditional hotel. B&B double £180.
Carrbridge and its approach roads have 4G from all UK carriers. As of July 2023, 5G has not reached this area.
Go next edit
- Aviemore to the south is the main Speyside resort town and base for reaching the Cairngorms.
- Grantown-on-Spey downriver northeast is another resort village. The river then escapes the hills into Moray towards the coast.
- Inverness north is a pleasant Victorian town. Its castle is the start and finish of the North Coast 500 motoring itinerary.
|Routes through Carrbridge
|→ Aviemore → Perth