The Cairngorms National Park is a great location for Days Out.
The is plenty to do in the Aviemore area from Museums to Castles to Steam Trains to Whisky Tours. And if the Arts, Crafts and Culture don't do it for you then you can always head into Aviemore for a bit of shopping!
The Highland Folk Museum in Kingussie, together with an 80 acre “living history” site at Newtonmore, is an absolute must for a keyhole into the area’s past including a 1700s village and numerous buildings furnished to demonstrate the ways of country life over the centuries. Do allow yourself at least half a day to explore. FREE entry. 40 mins drive. (01540 673551)
The Strathspey Steam Railway is a great 20 mile round trip from Aviemore, through Boat of Garten and on to Broomhill Station, just a couple miles outside of Nethybridge. Afternoon tea, Sunday lunch, or supper with tinkling crockery at a wonderful gentle pace as you pass through the moors and woodlands of upper Strathspey. The Santa Express through December is a hit with the whole family, with mince pies and mulled wine. 10 mins to Broomhill. (01479 810725)
Two of our favourite castles to visit are both situated not far from the Moray Firth coast. The first, Cawdor Castle, lies across the Dava Moor going north from Grantown, which in itself is a spectacular, wild drive. Cross the moor and on the way don’t miss the romantic 14th century castle ruin on the island in Lochindorb – it’s worth the small detour. Then take a left at the fork towards Nairn following the signs from there. Cawdor is a fairy-tale castle but also the splendid and properly lived-in home of the Cawdor family, filled to the rafters with ‘Shakespearian history’ and classically tended gardens. 45mins drive. (0844 7703343)
Or, what about visiting the secret and almost hidden remains of Findlater Castle, perched on the cliffs a few miles west of Banff? There have been records of a castle here since 1246 but the current remains, modelled on Roslyn, dates back to the end of the 14th century. Staircases into the turf open out into great chambers with arched windows and drop fifty feet to the North Sea below. Take very great care – and this is probably not for a car-load of excited children. 1 hr drive.
But for grown-ups, if you do head east along the Moray coast looking for ancient castles, why not drop in to Auldearn Antiques, a treasure trove of architectural salvage, fur coats, linens and stunning furniture? 40 mins drive. (01667 453087)
As mentioned before, the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore is fast becoming the centre for contemporary live music for the local area. A consistently high standard and diverse mix of new music set within a great atmosphere. 25 mins drive (01479 811137).
Hootenanny’s or upstairs in the tiny Market Bar, Inverness town centre, are also great for live music on most evenings. 45 mins drive (01463 233651) or (01463 220203).
At Loch an Eilein, Rothiemurchus, there is a beautiful little art gallery looking out over the loch. Open through the summer until the end of October, this gallery focuses on local talent linking in with the Creative Cairngorms group of home-based artisans and craft workers. 30 mins drive, and the loch itself is stunning with its island castle.
On the way, stop in at Penny Weir’s Pottery. This wonderful lady of 70+ may just be back from some epic cycle trip in a far off place, and also runs very entertaining pottery classes. 30 mins drive (01479 810837).
In Tomintoul (allegedly the highest village in Scotland) you will find the great local art gallery Tomintoul Gallery (01807 580458). And if you’re looking to take a bottle home and need a spot of advice, the very jolly host of The Whisky Castle next door often has a dozen bottles open on the counter for tasting and reputedly the biggest selection of malt whiskies in any one outlet in Scotland on his shelf. 30 mins drive (01807 580213).
Eden Court Theatre in Inverness hosts a strong and diverse programme of theatre, music, and dance and they also have a lovely art house cinema. 50 mins drive (01463 234234).
Pitlochry Theatre puts together some great productions. Quite possible for a day trip – perhaps catch a matinee and have a walk at the Hermitage, just a little further south, on the way home. 1 hr 20 mins drive (01796 484626).
Whisky Galore to say the least! Speyside malts are some of the finest you’ll find and there’s a string of distilleries up and down the Spey within a short drive from Nethy Bridge including the newly opened Cairn distillery. Check in on the full list here. Each offer guided tours and the chance to sample their tipple. Make sure you establish who’s driving before you set foot inside! Here’s a taster list and there are many more: Glenlivet, Aberlour, Dalwhinnie or Balvenie.
Bikes with trailers can be hired locally (see ‘Adventure’) and the safe networks of tracks running from our doorstep provides a maze of adventures. Further afield, you are literally spoilt for choice for activities that all the family can enjoy.
In Your Element
An amazing, family-friendly, outdoor experiences on the Rothiemurchus Estate, from TreeZone Aerial Adventure Course, to guided canoe trips, gorge walking, archery and bike hire. 25 mins drive (01479 811426).
Another adrenaline-fuelled specialist, has installed a kilometre of ziplines running through the forest in Alvie. It’s always going to be fun, particularly if you get a crisp autumn day to zip through. 25 mins drive (01540 651784).
Landmark Forest Adventure Park
Landmark Forest Adventure Park in Carrbridge cleverly matches educational activities with adrenaline-fuelled fun. Established in the 80’s, it has grown to accommodate a great selection of attractions, all based around the woodlands, and something for all ages. 15 mins drive (0800 7313446).
There are flumes and a wave machine at the swimming pool in Aviemore (20 mins drive) (0344 879 9152). Otherwise, a quiet session at Smarty Art in Grantown where they can decorate their own pottery, is a wonderful souvenir and maybe a gift for granny. 15 mins drive (01479 873552).
Our nearest shop for eating and supplies is the well-stocked Balliefurth Farm Shop. Beef, lamb, venison sausages, produce, local beer, gourmet ingredients, and more are available here. Open 8:30am – 5:30pm Mon to Sat. 25 mins walk.
● Grantown-On-Spey boasts a Co-op. Open every day from 7am to 10pm. 15 mins drive.
● Aviemore has a selection of grocery stores and other shopping, and is only a 25 mins drive away. Inverness is 45 minutes drive or take the bus from Nethybridge.