What it's like
A winter sports resort that doubles as an all round outdoor mecca in summer, Aviemore is a lively and accessible village with a great mountain pedigree. It makes the perfect base from which to explore this stupendous area. On the doorstep, the peaceful forests of Rothiemurchus and Abernethy cloak the wide Spey valley, running up to the lower ramparts of the Cairngorms themselves. With healthy stands of native pine, an extensive web of trails and a scattering of little lochs that form a haven for watersports enthusiasts and bird life, the woods are very family friendly. Less so are the big peaks crowding the southern skyline.
The largest stretch of high ground in Britain, and our only genuine sub arctic wilderness, the Cairngorms have a unique atmosphere. Step away from the small bubble of civilisation at the ski centre and you enter a different, primeval world. The bulging summits and windswept gravel plateaux have been deeply gouged by ice age glaciers, leaving dozens of impressive rocky cirques and long through-routes like the famous Lairig Ghru, a two-day hike from Aviemore to Braemar.
Exposed to the worst of the weather and difficult to navigate in poor conditions, the high tops should be treated with respect at any time of year. In winter the Cairngorms really show their teeth however, weeks of whiteout and blizzard building huge accumulations of snow in the remote corries. Only the confident and well equipped should consider a hillwalk at this time of year. But even into summer big snow patches can linger in the gullies and hollows, lending a high mountain feel to the many superb hillwalking routes.
- Loch Morlich and Ryovan Bothy A circuit of this popular loch includes sandy beaches, unspoilt woods and views of the nearby Cairngorms. The short climb through a scenic pass to the hut gives a little taste of the open country above the treeline.
- Spey valley to Deeside Less busy than the Lairig Ghru, but no less spectacular, the two-day bothy hop along Strath Nethy and the Lairig an Laoigh is an adventure through the wild heart of the range.
- Sgor Gaoith and Sgoran Dubh Mor A long approach through the pines, two big impressive peaks and a remote crag-lined loch – Cairngorms hillwalking at its best.
Must see and do
- Glenmore Lodge Learn to climb, kayak or ski tour like a pro at Scotland’s world beating National Outdoor Training Centre www.glenmorelodge.org.uk
- Mountain Café Aviemore When you’ve finished browsing the well stocked outdoor shop downstairs, pop up to the café for mountains of locally sourced (or is that sauced?) grub. www.mountaincafe-aviemore.co.uk
- Sled Dog Centre Zip around the forest at high speed, in a wheeled buggy pulled by a team of specially trained canines; how mush fun does that sound? www.sled-dogs.co.uk
Destination County : Aviemore & the Cairngorms