Newtonmore with Kids – Scottish Wildcat Experience / Wildcat Trail / Highland Folk Museum / Hug a Hairy Highland Cattle Experience / Ruthven Barracks / Macpherson Museum / Where to Eat / Where to Stay *Contains affiliate links…
Newtonmore in the Scottish Highlands makes for a great day trip or weekend break. It boasts a fantastic Scottish Wildcat treasure hunt, a vast outdoor museum, family friendly hiking trails, Highland Cattle experiences and v funky accommodation.
The Wildcat Experience is fantastic fun and educational too. A treasure hunt for over 130 life size Scottish wildcat models dotted around Newtonmore. The pack contains lots of info about these rare, beautiful animals as well as a clear map and tick list with all the cats, their names and extra activities such as colouring in. Kids indirectly learn about wildlife and conservation as they march around town. The hiding places of these cats is very creative. Once you’ve found as many cats as possible, return to the Wildcat Centre on the High Street to collect your certificate and prize. [The pack is £10 – charitable and available from a mix of locations in Newtonmore such as the Wildcat Centre, Post Office, Glen Hotel, Newtonmore Hostel, Wild Flour Cafe and the Highlander Hotel)
FREE Don’t confuse the Wildcat Experience with the Wildcat Trail, like we initially did. The trail is a scenic 10km circular walk around Newtonmore, but it’s broken down into easy to follow sections. We took the one hour Calder/Milton/Glen Banchor route and the scenery was stunning. Buy a £4 guide (charitable) from the Wildcat Centre if you’d like detailed maps, route guides and history about the places you’ll see – it also contains longer walks from 30 minutes to 8 hours duration. ‘Wildcat’ signs make the tracks easy to follow.
FREE – This mile long outdoor museum is epic, and has featured in Outlander (remember the Rent episode?). Inspired by the Scandinavian open air museum movement, the founder Dr Grant, set up her first museum in 1935 in Iona, and today it’s an 80 acre site in Newtonmore. Kids go back in time to a 1700s township, Baile Gean, where character tour guides in costume explain how locals lived, survived and worked. Visitors can step inside each house and get a feel for how simple and crowded life would have been.
The middle village, Balameanach is from the 19th century, and includes a school, shinty pavilion, church, Highland cottage and clockmaker’s workshop. A highlight is the Kirk’s Store that, Covid allowing, sells old fashioned quarters of sweets, just like in the olden days.
A final stop is the Aultlarie Croft with its steading, tin cottage, smokehouse, post office as well as livestock including Highland Cattle. A café and playground are modern additions.
If you want to get up close and personal with a Highland Coo or two, then visit Uvie Farm with its free range herd of Highland Cattle. Farmer Roy talks you through this iconic breed, their character and their strength and endurance. Roy knows what he’s talking about: his cattle scooped the top award at both the Royal Highland Show, and the Scottish Farmer’s Champions of the Decade competition. This is also a chance to ask questions, stroke the cattle and perhaps take a few photographs – more info here. [Visitors can also stay at the farm, scroll down to Where to Stay.]
FREE Ruthven Barracks is a really brooding imposing building that housed soldiers to police the Highlands. Built between 1719 and 1721 following the Jacobite rising of 1715, it enabled garrison infantry to enforce the Disarming Act of 1716. Then, after the Jacobite’s unmitigated defeat at Culloden on 16 April 1746, the ragged Jacobite survivors gathered at Ruthven to await instruction from their leader, Bonnie Prince Charlie. His disheartening message arrived on April 20, ‘Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can’.
A real slice of history, my kids loved exploring these vast ruins, but it must have been a hugely intimidating place in the 18th century. Very easy to park nearby for a brief (or long) visit, so don’t miss it.
For anyone interested in clan history, the Macpherson Museum holds information, not only about that particular clan, but the wider area too. It was closed when we visited but plans to reopen in July 2021.
We ate in the Wild Flour Café on the High Street, which does a mix of flatbreads and soup and a sandwich style lunches. Good vegetarian options, kids menu and homebakes. The outdoor garden seating area is intimate and cute. And when my youngest wasn’t keen on anything on the menu (fussy!) they rustled him up cheese on toast!
We stayed at the unique self-catering Crofthouse at Uvie Farm, situated on a working farm just outside Newtonmore. The building has been lovingly handcrafted and built by farmer Roy, the woodwork is full of undulating curves, the views from the decking are jaw dropping, and because it’s so unique there’s an element of fun and character to it that you don’t usually find. And don’t forget the herd of Highland Cattle wandering around just outside the property.
The Crofthouse features a family room (with double bed and bunk beds – sleeps 4), then two further twin mezzanine bedrooms that sleep an additional four people. The kitchen is well furnished, there’s a spacious living\dining room with DVDs, CDs and board games, plus the spacious outdoor decking area. Downstairs is an additional Studio apartment, that sleeps a couple or solo traveller. All accommodation is dog friendly. Tip – don’t follow the Sat Nav (it’s wrong) but get clear directions before setting off.
For resort style accommodation drive north to Aviemore for a hotel with a pool, cinema, games room and several restaurants on site. A totally different vibe, depending on what you’re looking for. Click here for more.
Nearby – Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. This park is renowned for its polar bears, but features a host of creatures great and small. Discover more detail here.
Aviemore is a fantastic outdoor playground in its own right. I’ve written up a host of ideas here, including meeting free-range reindeer, riding a steam engine and going nuts in Landmark Forest Adventure Park.