Aviemore is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Scotland, it’s even a strong contender for the best places to visit in the UK. If you’re looking for things to do in Aviemore or things to do in Cairngorms National Park, you’re in the right place!
Aviemore is the main town in Cairngorms National Park, the largest of the UK National Parks and home to 4 out of Britain’s 5 highest mountains. Nestled in the Scottish Highlands, Aviemore is famous for its stunning lochs, walking in the Cairngorm Mountains, as well as skiing and winter sports. Aviemore is one of those destinations that you can explore year-round because of the diversity of the acitvities on offer here; there’s plenty to do in Aviemore in summer, in Aviemore in winter and in Aviemore when it’s raining.
From hiking or skiing in the Cairngorm Mountains to exploring Loch Morlich, to wild camping and lochside picnics, or walking through the Rothiemurchus Forest or taking the Strathspey Steam Railway, there are so many things to do in Aviemore, you’ll have a hard time deciding what to put on your Scotland bucket list!
From going on challenging day hikes to trying water sports, from wild camping in Scotland under the dark skies to exploring some of the lochs near Aviemore, my time in Scotland has been nothing short of adventurous! In this Aviemore travel guide I am going to share with you the best things to do in Aviemore, the best places to visit in Aviemore, the best places to stay in Aviemore, what to see in Aviemore and my favourite adventures so far. Get your pen and paper ready to create the ultimate Scotland bucket list!
Looking to plan the ultimate Scotland road trip? Why not do what I did, and combine your trip to Aviemore with a trip to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Cairngorms National Park, the Isle of Skye and the NC500?
Other blog posts you might be interested in…
- Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park: my guide and the best things to do
- Cairngorms National Park: my guide and the best things to do
- Which UK National Park should you visit next?
- The best places to visit in Scotland
- The best walks and hikes in Scotland
- How to plan your Scotland road trip
- The best things to do on the Isle of Skye
- The best places to visit in the UK
- How to plan your UK road trip
The best things to do in Aviemore...
1. Go walking in the Rothiemurchus Forest.
Scotland is home to some stunning areas of nature, and woodland is certainly something that is aplenty in the Cairngorms National Park. The Rothiemurchus Forest is what is left of the Caledonian Forest in the Cairngorms. There are plenty of walking trails here for those of you who are looking to hug a tree and spend a bit of time in the fresh forest air.
As well as being one of the best places for walking in the Cairngorms, Rothimurchus is home to a wealth of outdoor activities! Whether you want to try pony trekking, quad biking, wildlife watching or river sports such as tubing, rafting or kayaking, some of the best things to do in Aviemore can be found in the Rothiemurchus Forest.
2. Go skiing on the Cairngorms Mountains.
Cairngorms National Park is a winter wonderland for those of you who enjoy skiing or other winter sports. The park gives you the opportunity to try loads of snow activities which include skiing, snowboarding, sledging, and even dogsledding.
While you might not think of the UK as a key skiing destination, one of the most popular things to do in Aviemore in winter is to hit the slopes. More people come skiing in Cairngorms National Park than anywhere else in the UK.
The Cairngorms Mountains are one of the best places to go skiing in Scotland and this is one of the must do things in Aviemore! The centre offers ski gear hire and ski lessons if you need it. If you’re an experienced skiier there are also opportunities to go off-piste or go cross-country skiing in the National Park.
3. Take the Strathspey Steam Railway.
The Strathspey steam railway has been running in the Scottish Highlands for over 40 years. One of the best things to do in Aviemore is to travel back in time to an era when steam whistles blew, carriage doors slammed shut and there was a familiar click-clack, rhythm of the rails, as the train travels along the track.
Trains depart from Aviemore, in the heart of the Cairngorm mountains. The train takes you past heather-clad moors and woodland travelling parallel with the Speyside way, arriving at Boat of Garten and Broomhill.
4. Explore the abandoned castle in Loch an Eilein.
Hidden in the forest of Rothiemurchus, this beautiful castle is one of the most loved in the UK and one of the best places to visit in Scotland.
Loch an Eilein, the loch of the island, is home to an island castle ruin and surrounded by a beautiful forest and hills, is one of the best places to visit in Aviemore. Expect dramatic views as you want from the car park and then enjoy some of the low level paths, which form part of the Rothiemurchus network of trails and will take you all around the loch. In fact, Loch an Eilein is one of the best places to go walking in Scotland if you’re looking for something more gentle than a mountain hike!
After you’ve explored the area around the loch at your own pace, don’t forget to take a dip in the water and swim out to the castle island if you want.
5. Go wild camping in Aviemore.
If you love the solitude of a ‘wild camping’ experience and a night under the stars, there are plenty of great places to go wild camping in Aviemore. As part of Scotland’s access legislation, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, you are allowed to camp on most unenclosed land. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place.
One of the best things to do in Aviemore is to find a quiet space away from roads and attractions, pitch up a tent, and enjoy being at one with nature. Note that the rules are different if you want to camp with a campervan – you should have permission to park or a permit. Having said that, wild camping with a campervan in Scotland is often tolerated if you stay away from main roads and attractions, and respect the area you are in. See more about responsible van life here.
Get the ultimate camping packing checklist here.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to go camping in Aviemore, there are loads of cool Airbnbs overlooking the lochs! Check out the best airbnbs in the UK here.
6. Indulge in local produce at The Barn.
The Barn is a dog-friendly, family-friendly cafe and takeaway opposite Rothiemurchus Farm Shop, within easy distance of Aviemore. Their passions include sustainability, ethical farming and low food miles. One of the best things to do in Aviemore is to take a morning or afternoon before or after exploring the Rothiemurchus Estate to enjoy a tasty breakfast or lunch at The Barn. They are open 7 days a week from 10am-4pm.
7. Enjoy lochside fish and chips from The Happy Haggis.
If you’re looking for the best fish and chips in Aviemore, don’t miss out on The Happy Haggis! We got ours to takeaway to enjoy by the loch. The food is not only excellent but also affordable, the fish is sourced sustainably, and they also have a range of veggie options, including veggie haggis!
8. Go cycling in Aviemore.
If you enjoy cycling, one of the best things to do in Aviemore is to rent a bike and enjoy the cycle paths. Whether you want to cycle along the quiet village roads and stop for a cup of tea, or to enjoy a full day cycling through the countryside, Aviemore offers something for every avid cyclist. Popular places for cycling in Aviemore include round Loch Morlich, through the Rothiemurchus Estate, Glenmore Forest Park or out to Carrbridge or Fort Augustus.
If you want to rent bikes in Aviemore, check out Aviemore Bikes or In Your Element Bike Hire. My top tip would be to book your bike online to reserve it when it’s busy!
9. Visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd is Britain’s only free-ranging herd of approximately 150 reindeer found in the Cairngorm Mountains and on the Glenlivet Estate in Scotland. The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd have been roaming freely since 1952, and one of the best things to do in Aviemore is to go and say hello! The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is open daily and they run a daily guided Hill trip to go and see the reindeer. The whole trip usually lasts around 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on the reindeer and the weather, and costs £18.50.
10. Enjoy a day hike up Cairngorm Mountain and Ben Macdui.
Why hike one mountain when you can hike two?! Ascend up Cairngorm Mountain and then take the plateau across to Ben Macdui on this 18km day hike. It’s challenging, but one of the best things to do in Aviemore is to take in the views from Ben Macdui, this second highest mountain in Britain. The loop trail is a little scrambly in places and should take about 6 hours, including time to stop for lunch.
11. Experience the healing waters of Lochan Uaine.
An Lochan Uaine, the ‘green loch’, is one of the most beautiful lochs in Aviemore. Lochan Uaine is a great spot for relaxing, wild swimming (the waters are said to be healing) and has some of Scotland’s best scenery, including the mountain ‘Angel’s Peak’. The green water in the loch is most probably caused by reflected light from the pine trees that line the lake side, although local legend has it that it is that colour because pixies wash their clothes in it.
12. Get an adrenaline rush from outdoor activities in Aviemore.
One of the top things to do in Aviemore is to make the most of the outdoors and enjoy one of the many outdoors activities in Aviemore. There are many companies that offer active adventures in Cairngorms National Park, and one of the ones based near Aviemore is Craggan Outdoors, who offer low-impact activities as well as more energetic, adrenaline-inducing options! From climbing to gorge walking, kayaking to pony trekking, there are so many fun things to do in Aviemore, you’re spoilt for choice!
Another option for active adventures is taking part in watersports on Loch Morlich! Loch Morlich watersports hosts a stunning beach, renting of equipment of a variety of activities, lessons, and all in the beautiful settings of the Cairngorms and Glenmore Forest. Choose from kayaking, canoeing, sailing or paddle boarding to enjoy the beautiful water.
What are your favourite things to do in Aviemore?
Where are your favourite places to visit in Aviemore? Anything you’d add?
Love as always and happy adventuring…
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