As much as I love Edinburgh it is always good to travel further north. Scotland is wild and whimsical. That’s why thousands of people travel, from all over the world, to visit this small welcoming country. Whether it’s a home from home, as so many people are lucky enough have a little Scottish blood somewhere in their roots……whether it’s to seek the Loch Ness Monster or brave a piece of haggis with breakfast (without googling the ingredients)…. Scotland is a thriving destination.
I have visited Aviemore and the Cairngorms many times on family holidays but have only discovered it’s true charm after living in a city for a few years. The rustic villages and surrounding woodland makes it feel like you have travelled so much further than a few hours out of the capital city! As well as being able to relax and take things at a slower pace than 9-5 allows Aviemore is also a hot spot for outdoor activities. It has many horse riding, quadbiking and water-based activities that really let you explore the Highlands in a unique way.
We rented a car from Europcar and picked it up from Edinburgh airport which was easy then we were on our way. On the way to Aviemore we decided to stop off in Pitlochry along the way. This turned out to be one of the trips highlights as we found this quirky cafe called Cafe Biba which served an extensive range of pancakes (always a foodie)!
After rolling our way out the cafe we walked around the village and journeyed up to visit the 4* hotel and popular wedding venue, Atholl Palace. The location of this hotel is perfect, hidden away within the trees really enhances the fairytale-like atmosphere of the place!
After travelling another hour up North we checked into our well situated Airbnb . I honestly can’t rave about this website enough! It is so easy to use, accurate, well-priced and bursting with insider tips on the local area. This time we stayed with Yvonne in her cosy ensuite room in the Spey Valley. I know there are some sceptical people over the whole Airbnb situation, I was one too! However, I did not know that many rooms were just as private as a hotel room, with your own bathroom and entrance facilities (some even have their own mini kitchens). On the 2 occasions that we did meet the hosts they were very warm and welcoming.
On our first night in Aviemore we had dinner and drinks at The Winking Owl . This restaurant is owned by the Cairngorm Brewery Company and is full of unusual craft beers such as the Nessie Monster Mash and the Sheepshaggers Gold Beer… Aside from the beer the place has a lovely atmosphere and serves hearty dishes!
On the second day we drove 20 minutes to Loch an Eilein. This has always been my favourite spot in the area as you can walk around the whole loch (1.5 hrs)! This is one of those places in the world that really makes you feel lucky to be surrounded by so much nature – time stops.
After our walk we headed back to the car (£2 for parking) then journeyed up to the Cairngorm Mountains. We were incredibly lucky with the weather this time! It was a complete winter wonderland, everywhere was covered with snow and the sky was clear blue. It took around 30 minutes to get from the loch to the Glenmore Forest Centre where we had lunch watching the loch below.
When we got to the Cairngorms we headed to the car park to ride all the way to the top of the mountain on a funicular train. This is definitely a must whether you are there to ski or not! The view from the top is breathtaking….. but make sure you layer up….my hands felt like they were frozen solid…. If you don’t want to spend too long in the snow there is a cafe and bar at the top of the mountain with panoramic views that are hard to beat!
That evening we decided to indulge at the most popular restaurant in the whole of Aviemore – La Taverna . In my opinion no trip to the area is complete without at least one trip to this place! They are known for serving their pizza and pasta buffet all night everyday of the week – make sure you eat lightly throughout the day 😉 La Taverna is always busy so make sure to book in advance!!!
On our way back to Edinburgh we stopped off in Dunkeld to break the journey up a little. Dunkeld is a town that is sometimes also known as the “Gateway to the Highlands” and is situated between Perth and Birnam. We didn’t have much time here but we did manage a beautiful walk along the riverside and admire the 13th century Cathedral.