It is the UK's largest national park and the largest area of arctic mountain landscape in the UK, providing a home to 25% of the country's endangered species, four of Scotland's highest mountains and Britain's favourite picnic spot so there really is something for everyone here.
Whether you are hoping to escape and relax, thrill seeking or simply want a fun family holiday, the Cairngorms and Aviemore are the place to be.
Here are just a few of our favourite places to eat and things to do, to give you a taster of what there is on offer.
This relaxed and informal bistro style restaurant (recommended by Nick Nairn) is committed to using local Scottish produce when it is in season, which means their menu changes each month, as do their daily specials. In peak season booking is essential and be aware that they are sometimes closed on Tuesdays.
A fun bar/restaurant day and night. Serving real local ales and a range of meals and snacks. Great value for money and very large portions! They welcome dogs.
“The Cairn” serves food from 7.30am-9.30pm every day either in the coffee shop, bar or restaurant. Live music on some Thursday evenings in the traditional bar. Hot Highland Buffet every Thursday, traditional Sunday lunches.
A lovely traditional hotel with a great home-cooked Scottish menu.
The friendly Lochain bar and grill at Glenmore Lodge, (Scotland’s national outdoor training centre) welcomes non-residents. The bar is open daily from 5pm until late and food is served until 7pm (Monday, Tuesday) and until 9pm from Wednesday to Sunday. You can also enjoy drinks outside on the terrace with great views of the mountains.
This ever popular family-run Italian in Aviemore puts on a great value value buffet every night, as well as pizza and pasta dishes a la carte.
A small family run restaurant serving locally sourced fresh scottish produce. Evening meals (including vegetarian/vegan menu) available Monday to Sunday, 4.30pm to 10.30pm.
A stunning example of a Victorian shooting lodge that underwent a total renovation and now offers a stylish brasserie-style restaurant which serves simple, stylish and delicious dishes made using local ingredients sourced from the Scottish Highlands. Muckrach prides itself in giving every guest a memorable experience. They also have a lovely bar for pre or post-dinner drinks. Booking is recommended.
Indian food to sit in or take away, as well as a separate function room for large groups and a children’s menu.
Fun and friendly restaurant with huge portions - steaks, burgers and the like - open noon until 9pm. The Doo Below is situated underneath the restaurant too, great for apres ski and open till 11pm.
Offering a casual and hearty seasonal pub-style menu with their own take on classic dishes and speciality nights throughout the week. The cosy bar offers an extensive selection of over 50 whiskies and variety of gin. Dogs are welcome too!
You can enjoy a country pub atmosphere with a real log fire on a chilly day or outdoor seating on a sunny day. They serve great pub lunches and suppers, always with some friendly banter and maybe some real ale or a wee dram.
A 40-minute drive north on the A95 from Nethy Bridge, this stylish small hotel is the perfect spot for a relaxed lunch or dinner. The Copper Dog pub downstairs serves quality local fare, with live music on summer evenings, and the Quaich bar is home to more than 900 whiskies!
This exclusive restaurant offers a three-course menu with several choices for each course or you can select their six-course signature tasting menu. Both menus change regularly and are designed around the best of the seasonal produce which they source as much as possible from Scotland’s wonderful larder. The Cross is the perfect setting to celebrate a special occasion or simply an opportunity to sample some delicious local cuisine. It’s essential to book so that you don’t miss out!
This cosy, candle-lit restaurant sits on the banks of the River Spey. Working closely with local farmers and suppliers, they keep the menu as full of local produce as possible. They also have a cosy bar area where you can eat and drink in front of the open fire with regular live music, and dogs are welcome too! This is a popular venue for both locals and tourists so we recommend that you book.
This is a relaxed and very good restaurant serving the freshest, principally Scottish ingredients. Meals are served daily between 5.30 and 8.30pm.
A relaxed restaurant in Grantown where you won’t leave hungry!
This lovely gastro pub is owned by the Cairngorm Brewery and has an impressive selection of real ales to go along with its hearty menu. A kids menu is available too.
The Carrbridge Kitchen is a fantastic Scottish fusion café/restaurant serving delicious breakfasts, lunches, and of course, coffee and cake. Over the summer months, it is also open some evenings for dinner but do check before you go. Great, friendly service and beautifully presented, with a wood-burning stove to warm you up on chillier days.
Open daily from 9.30/10am until 3/3.30pm (4pm Saturday and Sunday). Where you can buy hot and cold food and drinks, snacks, ice-cream as well as some small gifts.
This gem of a café and gallery is a firm favourite with local and visitors alike. Pop in for a delicious scone, tasty lunch or pint of Two Thirsty Men beer (brewed right next door!). Also open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings.
This friendly family-run café and deli serves a great selection of freshly-made soups, sandwiches, panini, jacket potatoes, salad bowls and home-baking in comfortable surroundings. Takeaway also available.
A delightful little café with home-cooked food and fantastic coffee as well as friendly service, in the heart of Nethy Bridge. You can also buy local craft and photography, and dogs are welcome. Open 10am-5pm every day except Wednesday.
Lovely homemade bakes and squirrel watching from the window.
Route 7 is a great place for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack, open 9am-4.30pm every day. They serve pizza from their wood-fired oven at weekends from 12-3pm. Look out for their pop up street food nights in the summer season. Being bike friendly, they have a free bike wash-down area and compressed air for your tyres!
This cosy and friendly café predominantly uses produce from the Rothiemurchus Estate. They have a lovely outdoor seating area which is perfect for sunny days (and dog friendly). They can also provide great packed lunches that you can order in advance.
Owned by a passionate and incredibly talented kiwi chef, for many frequent visitors it’s almost impossible to visit the area without a breakfast or coffee and cake in the multi-award winning Mountain Café. You often need to wait for a table as they don’t take bookings but (unless you are starving) it is worth the wait.
A lovely little coffee shop which also sells some great gifts. Breakfast, lunch, drinks and coffee are served every day other than Monday.
A lovely wee café that serves homemade treats in a relaxed atmosphere.
There are countless biking routes and trails all around the area, with new ones being created all the time, from family friendly routes to trails for the more adventurous. There’s also the Sustrans National Route 7 that passes through Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge.For more information visit www.sustrans.org.uk
There’s also some fantastic trail centres in the area, described below.
For bike hire and further information on the wealth of biking routes and trails in the area, get in touch with the following places:
www.basecampmtb.com or 01479 870050
www.bothybikes.co.uk or 01479 810111
www.aviemorebikes.co.uk or 01479 810478
Also offer bike hire drop off and pick ups
www.ridecairngorm.com or 01479 831729
Enjoy the purpose-built mountain bike trails at the heart of Glenlivet Estate, with not only fantastic fun-packed, flowing single track trail, but spectacular scenery and stunning views.
The blue trail is a great introduction to cross country riding, while the red trail provides challenges for the experienced.
Over 20 miles (35 km) of purpose-built trails wind through Laggan Forest, with superb views of the Monadhliath hills on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park.
There are routes from an easy-going green trail to a black run that’s probably the most technical bit of single-track in Scotland. In the bike park you can ride big berms and tabletop jumps.
Balmenach Distillery, Cromdale
Cairngorm Brewery, Aviemore
Dalwhinnie Distillery (near A9 south of Newtonmore)
Two Thirsty Men brewery, Grantown-on-Spey
Malt Whisky Trail (www.maltwhiskytrail.com for details on visiting the Trail’s nine distilleries including Glenfiddich (Dufftown), The Glenlivet (near Tomintoul), and Cardhu (near Rothes))
Ballindalloch Castle, between Grantown and Aberlour
Balmoral Castle, between Ballater and Braemar
Blair Castle, Blair Atholl
Brodie Castle, near Forres
Cawdor Castle, near Inverness
Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit
Eden Court, Inverness
Spey Valley Cinema at Macdonald Highland Resort, Aviemore
Vue Cinema, Inverness
Spey salmon and sea trout fishing available. Find out more and pick up permits at Boat of Garten Post Office.
Salmon, trout and pike fishing available on the river and in lochs. Permits can be bought online or at the newsagents in Kingussie.
Fishing at Rothiemurchus for all abilities with pike, rainbow and brown trout, on the river and in lochs. Permits available from the Rothiemurchus Fish Farm.
Abernethy is a traditional Highland golf course, built on natural moorland, and surrounded by majestic pine trees. The course is suitable for golfers of all standards.
Designed by one of the grand-masters of golf course architecture, James Braid (1870-1950), “The Boat” is set alongside the River Spey in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, only 10 minutes drive from the bustling village of Aviemore.
Carrbridge Golf Club is a friendly club with a good mix of players of all ages and standards. Carrbridge welcomes everyone from seasoned competitors through to those just taking up the sport, the solitary golfer or groups of friends.
Recently voted one of the best golf courses in Scotland, Spey Valley features some of the most breathtaking views in the world, offering golfers a glimpse right into the very heart of the Scottish Highlands.
Highland Horse fun in Kingussie can organise pony treks of any duration from an hour up to a full day - an inspirational way to see the landscape at a leisurely pace on their lovely Highland ponies. If you are a more experienced rider, hacks are also possible.
Clay pigeon shooting
Arrive and drive sessions
Packrafting adventures and hire
Clay pigeon shooting
Climbing and abseiling
River stand up paddleboarding
White water rafting/tubing
Kayaking and canoeing courses
Mountain biking courses
Ski touring and off-piste courses
White water rafting
Zip trek park
Private tuition available
Stand up paddleboarding
Stand up paddleboarding
Lessons also available
Archery and clay pigeon shooting
Feed the deer
Segways and Quad biking
Wildlife watching and photography
4x4 off road safari
Shinty (or Camanachd in Gaelic) is played regularly at Newtonmore and Kingussie. Games are held regularly on weekday evenings or at weekends and all spectators warmly welcome! It’s a fast-paced and thrilling traditional Highland sport and is a huge part of the Highland culture particularly in these two villages, who are fierce shinty rivals! See their websites/facebook pages for match details.
XC ski tracks are cut at Glenmore when snow conditions allow. Equipment is available to hire there by the hour or by the day.
Cairngorm Mountain has a reputation as one of the most beautiful places to ski and snowboard in the UK and is located just a short drive from the lodge. With a wide range of routes on offer, 11 lifts including the funicular train and a fun park/terrain for freestylers when conditions allow. Lessons and hire gear are available.
Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports (01479 810175)
Nevis Sport (01479 810239)
Aviemore School of Snowsports (www.theskischool.co.uk or 01479 810145)
Freeski (www.free-ski.co.uk or 07495 028578)
G2 Outdoor (www.g2outdoor.co.uk or 01540 651784)
The Cairngorm Sleddog Centre is the only daily working sleddog centre in the UK and offers a wide range of activities for the whole family, from kennel and museum tours to sleddog trips and safaris.
Probably the most popular place to sledge is at the Hayfield, Glenmore (close to the snow gates on the Cairngorm Mountain road) or on the lawn at the front of the MacDonald Hotel building in Aviemore.
There are endless options for walks across the Cairngorms National Park from low and easy loch walks to extremely strenuous hikes up Munros. A great place to look for and plan the right walk for you is Walk Highlands.
Ampla Vella, Kingussie
The Retreat, Aviemore
More than just a beauty salon, Aviemore Beauty is an alternative therapy centre too. An extensive range of therapies are on offer, and you can expect the highest standard of treatments from carefully selected local therapists.
A luxurious spa which promises to soothe away the stresses of life, rejuvenate and re-energise the body and allow you to indulge your senses, boasting a fantastic 5 person hot tub and infra red, hot rock sauna.
Specialising in Thai massage, choose from a range of relaxing massages, facials, manicures and pedicures.
Treat yourself to a luxurious hot lava shell massage, pure aroma facial or stimulating body scrub.
This award-winning family-run butcher and deli stocks a range of local produce, including fruit and vegetables, locally-made honey, pies and a range of gluten-free and organic products.
A local deli with deli counter, fresh bread, take-away coffee and a great selection of other local produce.
A modern deli where you can choose from a great selection of food and drink including locally-sourced products, fine wines, artisan spirits and homebaking. Soup, delicious cakes, teas and coffees can also be enjoyed at the front of the deli.
The shop at ‘the centre’ sells luxurious and stylish Scottish products mixed with a large selection of high end merchandise and clothing.
Rothiemurchus is passionate about its home-grown produce and offers a great selection of meat, fish, cheeses, coffee and teas, cakes, preserves and chutneys, drinks, chocolate and shortbread, to name just a few.
If you enjoy cooking, you may like to pick up your own local ingredients and create some delicious meals yourself, the Cairngorms Farmers Market is the closest one to home with regular dates throughout the summer. You will be able to find out where and when these are on by looking in the Visit Cairngorms What’s On guide.
If it’s convenience you are after, there is a Tesco, Co-op and Aldi in Aviemore. There is also a Co-op in Kingussie and Grantown on Spey. Sainsburys, Asda and Tesco also provide home delivery to most properties in the area.