I've written about Aviemore over the years, but I've pulled together all the cool things we've experienced to write up a comprehensive post of family activities and attractions for kids (and big kids).
I’ve humiliated myself on the Cairngorm Mountain numerous times in my futile attempts to ski in Aviemore. I love this part of Scotland, and regularly refer to it as the Playground of the North. It works all year round, but Aviemore in the snow is pretty magical. Here’s a list of family-friendly activities- it’s Aviemore with Kids…
Landmark Forest Adventure Park with Kids
We only just visited Landmark this October, and this forest adventure park lives up to all hype. It was actually way more fun than I could have hoped for.
Highlights include rope trails for all ages – a Monkey Trail for wee ones, a Tarzan Trail for kids over 1100cm and RopeWorkz for those over 1.5m high. I went on the Tarzan Trail with my four year old, and whilst it looks straightforward it’s pretty stomach-churning – it feels higher than it looks, trust me! In a gentler vein, it’s great to see toddlers attempting the Wee Monkey Trail.
Other highlights were the Runaway Timber Train and the Wild Water Ride. Several indoor activities, such as an exotic Butterfly House, offered rainy day options. And lots of confusing, bamboozling curiosities appealed, from the Lost Labyrinth and the Illusion Chair to Bamboozeleum itself, which is full of mind-bending optical illusions.
We had a ball, and the description above only scratches the surface.
Tip – Landmark is open all year round but several rides are seasonal. Entry prices reflect this but check what’s available before you visit. Secondly, Landmark doesn’t operate on a token system, which is a huge bonus. Once you’ve paid to enter it’s job done. No more fees. Yes, you have to queue for the more popular attractions, so avoid peak days/times where possible. There is so much to do, expect to spend most of the day here. For info on prices click here.
The Highland Wildlife Park
The big attraction at the Highland Wildlife Park is Hamish, the cutest polar bear cub, and the only polar bear cub born in the UK in 25 years. With feeding talks, a self-drive safari and many animals to spot on foot, from tigers and red pandas, to camels and monkeys, it’s educational and fun. If we could tackle it in swirling snow then I’m guessing it works in most weathers. If you fancy it click here for the lowdown. For prices take a look here.
The Aviemore Reindeer Herd with Kids Kids
Meeting a reindeer herd in the run up to Christmas is festive and magical for tots. We first visited the Aviemore Reindeer Herd just after Christmas Day, and the kids believed that these were the actual reindeer who had helped Santa on Christmas Eve.
Guests can take a hike up the hills to meet the UK’s only free-range reindeer herd, or visit the paddock to see the beasts up close and learn more about them. The paddock is a far more manageable option with wee ones, but older kids may prefer the hike.
The Highland Folk Museum with Kids
This mile long site is is a really immersive experience, bringing historic rural Scotland back to life. Walk through historical buildings from the 1700s to the 1950s, including a reconstructed Highland Township ‘Baile Gean’. Costumed staff in period dress add character and a human face to the experience.
There’s so much to explore, including a 1930’s working farm ‘Aultlarie Croft’, a Hebridean Black House, a Shepherd’s Bothy, Sheep Fank and Dipping Trough, sweetie shop, schoolhouse, church, clockmaker’s workshop, post office, railway halt and joiner’s shop, as well as a mix of outhouses. A history lesson where kids don’t even realising they’re learning. FREE
Tips – This museum closes for the winter, reopening for the season on 3 April 2019.
The Strathspey Railway
A vintage steam ride through the countryside works for all ages. But with Mince Pie specials and Santa Express services, this railway outing can feel very child-friendly and Christmassy indeed. We took our 5 month old on this 10 mile journey several years ago, and it was so chilled, proving kids are happy to look out the window at any age. Fares and timetables are here.
The Cairngorm Mountain, Funicular Railway and the Highest Café in Scotland
The Cairngorm Mountain offers skiing, snowboarding, train rides and dining in the Ptarmigan Restaurant, all in one place. When it snows, the Cairngorm Mountain gives kids the chance to learn new skills and try new sports. Ski hire is available in several shops around Aviemore, classes can be booked, or just style it out on the baby slopes. Find further info here.
Tip – Firstly, wear helmets! Secondly, hire kit rather than buy it, as kids grow fast. Buying kids’ ski gear second-hand is not only cheap, but usually good quality, as children grow up so fast and need new skis and boots relatively quickly, so wear and tear can be minimal.
Play at Your Hotel
Some Hotels in Aviemore offer more, way more! We’re talking cinemas, activity centres, swimming pools with flumes and wave machines, not to mention three storeys of soft play. To find a family-friendly hotel where you can, not only rest and recuperate, but play and entertain yourself, is a huge temptation. One example is the Macdonald Aviemore resort. We were invited to review it as a strong family-friendly option in Aviemore. Read the full review here for photos and more info. For an Autumn/Winter offer click here.
Tip – Book dinner in advance, it’s a very popular resort!
Eating out with wee ones is relatively easy in Aviemore, as the family market is valued here. Highlights to look into include the Mountain Café, Macdui’s, Giovanni’s and the Winking Owl.
If you do over-indulge the area is blessed with a mix of hikes, walking trails and outdoor activity centres such as the Rothiemurchus Estate and the Craggan Outdoor Activities Centre. And skiing burns off so much energy, (perhaps because I’m rubbish at it and use up a lot of calories panicking) I can eat like a horse.
We usually drive direct to Aviemore from Aberdeen, especially as many attractions are easier to visit with private transport. Alternatively, Aviemore has its own railway station, served by Scotrail and the Sleeper train direct from London.