The Cairngorms National Park with Aviemore at its centre makes an ideal holiday destination with plenty of opportunities for exploration and adventure. It has some of the best wildlife habitats in the UK and it is no wonder then, it is home to ¼ of the UK’s threatened species. In this region you can find ancient pine forest, arctic mountain, loch, river and moorland environments each with its own special collection of flora and fauna including golden eagles, capercaille and red deer.
Aviemore with its choice of shops and places to eat and drink is the largest village in Strathspey and makes an excellent base for those with an interest in walking, mountain biking or winter sports. It is also the western terminus of the Strathspey Steam Railway. A railway of another kind the Cairngorm Mountain railway takes you into the mountains from the car park at 2000ft to 4000ft and an arctic mountain environment and home to Scotland’s longest established ski resort and largest snow sport school. The railway gets skiers to the pistes quickly and operates in windy conditions when in other areas the chairlifts would be closed.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre boasts the only reindeer herd to be living in its natural habitat; you are welcome to join the herder out on the hillside with these delightfully friendly animals. The Rothiemurchus Centre also welcomes visitors to explore its ancient forest footpaths and offers activities such as Land Rover safaris, highland pony and quad bike trekking, clay shooting, archery, fishing, canoeing and wildlife watching.
Carrbridge is the first of the Scottish ski villages. It is well known for its ancient landmark – the pack horse bridge, one of the oldest stone bridges in the highlands. Also here, the Landmark Forest Theme Park is a major attraction for families with tree top trails, watchtower and steam powered saw mill. The village has a 9 hole golf course.
Grantown – on –Spey is a fine example of an 18th century planned town and was the original capital of Strathspey. Most activities revolve around the River Spey and Caledonian forest and the area provides excellent wildlife watching, fishing and walking. For history lovers Grantown Museum gives a history of the town and its people. You might like to visit Spey Valley Smokehouse or Speyside Heather Centre.
Nethy Bridge is a secluded village on the lower reaches of the River Nethy just 1 mile before it joins the River Spey this is another wildlife haven and home to RSPB Reserve at Abernethy Forest. Further east of here is Tomintoul one of the highest villages in the Highlands with skiing at nearby Lecht Ski and Multi-Activity Centre. It has good teaching facilities, ideal for beginners and families.
Glenlivet famous for its whisky and the fact it was the first licensed distillery in the Highlands is also great for wildlife spotting. There are a range of walks and cycle route on the Glenlivet Estate to explore and enjoy. Balmoral Castle and Estate has been a royal residence since 1852. There are tours and exhibitions at the castle and visitors centre at Loch Muick. Keeping to a royal theme there is also a Victorian Heritage Trail which leads you around the area to some of the sights enjoyed by Queen Victoria on her visits to the area.
South of Aviemore along the A9 is Newtonmore. A haven for walkers with the Wildcat Trail orbital footpath. You will also find the Clan MacPherson and Highland Folk Museum. Nearby Laggan is another good walking centre as it is surrounded by Monadhliath and Grampian mountains. Mountain biking is also well catered for by Wolftrax bike trails. This area will be better known to some of you as Glenbogle. Much of the filming for the BBC drama series ‘Monarch of the Glen’ was done in this area.
A little further south why not visit the highest distillery in Scotland – Dalwhinnie, located at 1073 feet above sea level.
The Cairngorms National Park covers roughly 10% of Scotland and has some of the most spectacular landscapes in Britain. Make the most of the holiday cottages in this area and experience this for yourself.