The Macdonald Aviemore Hotel and surrounding resort are a Scottish institution. I have stayed here two times already, for a pal's birthday ski trip and then with kids. Reviewing it from a family perspective for Scots2Travel was a no-brainer.
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Macdonald Aviemore is an outdoor playground all year round, but at the foot of the Cairngorm mountain it comes into its own over winter. Here’s why…
The Macdonald brand, with the founder originally from the Isle of Lewis, is good at communication. Guests receive emails and ‘Joining Instructions’ before they stay, so you feel welcome and clued up. Upon arrival there’s ample free parking, but the toughest thing is finding your hotel as it’s a vast resort. There are two other hotels in the resort (the Morlich Hotel and the Highlands Hotel) as well as Woodland Lodges. Check-in was swift and friendly.
Facilties at Macdonald Aviemore Hotel
This is where the four star hotel comes into its own, the facilities. The swimming pool is always a hit, with a wave machine and flumes that engage and tire out wee ones and big kids too. Once home, my eldest regaled his teacher with tales of the ‘yellow slide’ and ‘HUGE waves’. This is memory-making stuff folks 🙂
A jacuzzi for adults is a brief and welcome escape from your over-enthusiastic tots. I like the family changing rooms that bring a sense of team spirit to the swim (I hate changing wet children on my own, they’re so slippery).
Next we visited the Activity Centre where I safely lost my children in a contained three-storey soft play area. Adults can eat cake and sip coffee as the kids bounce around. There’s also a play area with a stage, crafts, instruments and an X-Box and i-Pads. This isn’t a kids club, you have to supervise your own children, but these play areas are a huge hit on rainy days, and free for guests.
The Spey Valley shopping complex at Macdonald Aviemore is genuinely tempting. It stocks an excellent range of local produce and foodie treats. I’m always a sucker for gorgeous crockery and glassware at reasonable prices – Wrendale and LSA are personal faves. Clothing includes the likes of Barbour and Dubarry. Ideal for gifts, mementoes or treats for moi.
The hotels also boasts a 650 seat Sony 4K cinema, gym and a conference centre on site. Free wifi is a welcome bonus.
Food and Drink
Again, Macdonald Aviemore plays the family friendly card, think relaxed dining rather than fine dining, but, for many families, that’s exactly what they need.
A ‘Kids Eat Free’ offer is available at any of the restaurants on the resort. One child (age 16 or under) can eat free when one adult purchases a main course (drinks not included).
The newest addition is the modern Giovanni’s – read a full review here – where friendly Italian dining is on the cards. The smarter Aspects restaurant is still exceptionally family friendly (especially if you’re dining around 5.30pm or 6.00pm). It has a help yourself children’s buffet, and the adults order from set menus or a la carte (think Prawn Cocktail and Chicken Terrine for starters, Haddock Goujons, steak or Scottish Salmon as mains). My tots decimated the pizza: the kid’s buffet does include healthier options such as veg sticks and salad but naturally the youngsters veered towards the chips, sausages and pizza.
Other dining options include the very informal Spey Burger Bar and Scottish Steakhouse. Due to how busy the restaurants can get, one tip is to book in advance to guarantee the restaurant and timing that suits your family.
Breakfast is a help yourself buffet affair. It can get busy but the staff keep the food coming and the tables clean.
The rooms, decorated in brown plaids and taupe, are practical and comfortable. This hotel is a hub for outdoor activity so think ski cupboards in every room, rather than robes or complimentary sparkling water.
It really is a case of location, location, location here. Aveimore has so much to offer. We went nuts at Landmark Forest Adventure Centre, a truly wonderful outdoor play area with rope trails for mini Tarzans and even small Monkey Trails. Other highlights included the Red Squirrel Trail through the tree canopy, a Runaway Timber Train, a Wild Water Coaster and a Butterfly House. I thought Landmark might not live up to the hype, but it exceeded expectations.
I’m going to write up a comprehensive list of things to do in Aviemore, with more info on Landmark, but I can also highlight the Strathspey Steam Railway, meeting the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, visiting the Highland Wildlife Park (and encountering the baby polar bear, Hamish) and of course skiing on the Cairngorm mountain.
The town of Aviemore has its own railway station (with sleeper trains direct from London), and a plethora of bars, cafés and restaurants.
I just love the place – it’s synonymous with fun in my book.