A one-street town in the middle of nowhere. Cozy cafes and b&bs. Hiking and adventure activities galore. Known as “The Gateway to the Cairngorms,” there are so many things to do in Aviemore that it’s hard to get them all in.
Feeling the distinct need for an escape to nature, Daniel and I grabbed the train up to Aviemore, Scotland for a few days of rest, relaxation, and cute animals last December–and it was everything we needed it to be.
If you only have a few days in Aviemore, then here are the top things to do.
Traveling to Scotland? Here are a few more posts about my adopted country 🙂
- 30+ Pictures of the Scottish Highlands That Will Inspire You To Go
- The Best Isle of Skye Tour from Edinburgh with Rabbies
- Staying the Night in a Scottish Castle
- Visiting Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
- 25 Things Nobody Tells You About Studying Abroad in Scotland
How to Get to Aviemore
As the main transport hub of the Cairngorms, getting to Aviemore honestly couldn’t be easier.
You have a few different options for reaching Aviemore by air. Although there isn’t an airport in Aviemore itself, it is only a few hours by public transport from all of Scotland’s major airports, including Edinburgh (EDI), Glasgow (GLA), and Inverness (INV).
Aviemore is easily accessible by train from pretty much anywhere in Scotland. Inverness to Aviemore is only a 40-minute train journey, while the journey from both Edinburgh and Glasgow is about 3 hours, direct.
Aviemore is also a stop on the Caledonian Sleeper Train from London.
You can search for and book tickets ahead of time using Trainline, my train booking service of choice.
Aviemore Station is located smack dab in the middle of town, and you can easily walk to most accommodation options within 10 minutes. If you need a taxi, there are usually a few parked outside the train station.
Within Aviemore and the rest of the Cairngorms, you can get around locally with Stagecoach Bus.
Aviemore is easily reached by car as it is just off the A9 main trunk road.
The drive from Inverness is approximately 30 minutes, while the drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Check Traffic Scotland for up-to-date road news.
Where to Stay in Aviemore
Aviemore is home to a plethora of cozy B&Bs and guesthouses, as well as a few hotels. Here are my recommendations for every budget.
Aviemore Hotels & Guesthouses
Aviemore Bunkhouse – $ – We stayed in Aviemore Bunkhouse for the 3 nights that we spent in town. It’s pretty bare-bones, but offers both private and dorm rooms for cheap prices, and has a well-equipped kitchen as well. It’s just a short 10-minute walk from the Aviemore train station.
Eriskay B&B and Aviemore Glamping – $$ – Whether you’re looking for a cozy b&b or a cute glamping pod experience, Eriskay offers them both for a reasonable price. The reviews say the breakfast is extremely tasty!
The Balavoulin – $$ – For a more boutique-style stay, try The Balavoulin, which offers well-designed guest rooms above a trendy bar. Some of the rooms even offer mountain views!
High Range Self-Catering Chalets – $$$ – If you’re looking for a bit more autonomy, then a self-catering chalet might be just for you. High Range offers one- and two-bedroom chalets and is pet-friendly.
Macdonald Highlands Hotel – $$$ – For a luxury experience in the Scottish Highlands, Macdonald Highlands Hotel is the clear choice. Located in the centre of Aviemore and the winner of the 2019 Scottish Hospitality Awards, you can’t go wrong.
Aviemore also has a TON of amazing looking Airbnbs! If you’ve never booked with Airbnb before, then you can click here for $40 off your first booking.
The Birch Snug – $ – A cute little house with everything you need. There’s no wifi, but that’s perfect for a weekend disconnecting from the world!
Stags Rest – $ – A “cozy wee nook in the heart of the Cairngorms” complete with welcoming host and adorable dog!
Blaeberry Cottage – $$ – A bright, modern self-catering cottage just off the main road in Aviemore. There are amazing views from the front door!
Ardlogie Bothie – $$ – another adorable wee nook perfect for a couple, the Ardlogie Bothie is a “traditional luxury built timber cabin” that looks like the perfect place to hole up for a little while.
Spectacular Modern House – $$$ – If you’re headed to Aviemore with a large group, then a stay in this modern eco house is the perfect choice!
Things to do in Aviemore
There are honestly SO many things to do in Aviemore, especially if you’re an adventurer at heart! Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do nearly as much as we wanted, and the winter weather prevented a few activities from happening too, but here are the things we did manage to do and which I highly recommend!
Go on a Hike
Aviemore and the surrounding area is absolutely FULL of hikes for every different level of hiker.
We really loved taking a super
chilly chill hike through Craigellachie National Nature Reserve.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you could even try a part of the Speyside Way!
Check out WalkHighlands for guides to the best hikes in the Aviemore area!
Visit the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre
If there’s one thing you absolutely MUST do while you’re in the Cairgorms, it’s visit the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre.
Home to Britain’s only herd of free-ranging reindeer, you can join the centre on one of their daily hill walks up to visit the reindeer.
You’ll get to meet the reindeer, learn all about them (the guides have an amazing memory for all of their names – my favorite was named Camembert), and even have the chance to hand-feed them! Their soft noses are soooo warm and fuzzy!
The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is in the nearby town of Glenmore, which you can reach from Aviemore by a short, 10-minute bus ride.
Be sure to get to the Reindeer Centre at least half an hour before the hill trip is scheduled to depart. Even on a weekday in the middle of winter, it was packed!
Go on a Highland Cow Safari
Anyone sensing a theme here? Cute animals are all over the place in Aviemore, and it honestly couldn’t be easier to take a gander at them.
If seeing a Highland Cow is on your Scotland bucket list, then you won’t be disappointed by the Highland Cow Safari offered at Rothiemurchus. In fact, you’ll see about a million highland cows.
Hop in a jeep with one of Rotheimurchus’ countryside rangers and take a trip around the estate to visit all of their highland cows–including baby ones! You’ll also learn a lot about the estate from the ranger, so it’s really interesting in addition to being cute.
If Highland Cows aren’t quite your style, Rothiermurchus has a bunch of other activities and tours on offer, from river adventures to pony trekking. You can check them all out here.
Ride the Strathspey Railway
Didn’t get tickets on the Jacobite Express? Just love trains? You’re in luck, because the Cairgorms has a steam train experience all its own.
Hop aboard the Strathspey Railway in Aviemore and go on a round-trip ride through heather-clad moors and lush woodland alongside the Speyside Way.
A regular full-line return ticket costs £23.75 for adults and £11.25 for kids, or you can get really fancy and reserve a first-class compartment all to yourself!
Alternatively, add on a light luncheon or afternoon tea.
There are plenty of fun events that go on throughout the year as well. When we went in December, for example, the train was decked out as the Santa Express, complete with Santa and his elves, gifts for the kids, and mulled wine for the adults!
Eat Cake at The Mountain Cafe
There was one spot that was recommended again and again when it came to places to eat in Aviemore–often without even being asked: The Mountain Cafe.
Founded by a New Zealand transport to the area, The Mountain Cafe has been serving up award-winning food in a cozy environment since 2004. They also offer options for pretty much all dietary restrictions!
When we went, it was relatively quiet, but we still had to hold onto a buzzer for about 15 minutes before we could get a table (they don’t take reservations). It was absolutely worth the wait, though, because both the main dish food and the desserts were finger-licking good.
I got the soup of the day (tomato and red pepper) and Daniel went for the sinful “Laura’s Sexy Mac and Cheese”. For dessert, we shared a GIANT piece of coffee cake that I’m still dreaming about today.
If you go to one spot to eat while you’re in Aviemore, make it The Mountain Cafe!
More Aviemore Food Reccommendations
The Old Bridge Inn – Right next to the Aviemore Bunkhouse where we stayed, if you’re looking for a brasserie-style dinner this is the perfect place to head. They also have board games and occasional live music.
The Coffee Corner – Home to the ULTIMATE selection in breakfast rolls. Go for a traditional bacon roll or, if you’re feeling hungry, pile on as many different toppings as you’d like!
Smiffy’s – A traditional fish-and-chips shop with a more updated hipster design but the same delicious, greasy fish and chips as always.
And there you have it – some of the best things to do in Aviemore!