Aviemore and the whole of Speyside have a huge amount to offer, but if you want to explore a little further and experience more of the Scottish Highlands during your holiday this guide contains some ideas for easy day trips with suggestions for lunch or coffee along the way.
- Culloden Battlefield – the site of the last battle fought on Scottish soil
Just outside Inverness is the site of the Battle of Culloden. On 16th April 1746 the Jacobite Rising came to a bloody conclusion on this site where now stands a visitors attraction to commemorate the battle. There is a modern visitor centre with cafe and shop, that is fully accessible, as well as the battlefield itself which, due to the elevated location also allows for stunning views down onto Inverness, the Moray Firth, Ben Wyvis and beyond.
It is possible to walk dogs on the battlefield and the paths are well maintained. Access to the battlefield is free but there is a charge for the visitor centre. If you are a fan of Outlander, combine your trip to the Battlefield and check out Clava Cairns. It is said that Outlander’s stone circle, Craigh na Dun was inspired by the site. For a light bite to eat – the Anta Cafe at Croy isn’t far away – for hearty pub food the Culloden Moor Inn (or The Keppoch as its known to locals) is right beside the battlefield.
- Tomatin Distillery – A chance to experience how Scotland’s favourite drink is made
Half way between Aviemore and Inverness right off the A9 is Tomatin Distillery. The distillery has been in this location since 1897 although the history of whisky making in the area predates this. Taking advantage of the soft water from the area, Tomatin is a distinctive and popular Highland whisky. Tours are available at the distillery, taking you through the process of how water and grain are transformed into the perfect dram. There is also a shop on site to take a little taste of the Highlands home with you.
- Nairn Beach – a lovely day at the seaside and more than just sand
If you want to visit the coast, getting to the seaside town of Nairn from Aviemore is just under an hours drive. East beach showcases beautiful sands and sand dunes perfect for a walk along the shoreline, a day building sandcastles or, if you are feeling brave, a dip in the sea. Right by the beach there is also a large green with a children’s playpark, splash pad and minigolf. Nairn High Street has some great independent businesses and for a spot of lunch check out The Classroom.
- Lecht Ski Centre – not just for when the snow is on the ground
With Cairngorm Mountain right on your doorstep you might not want to venture too far to get your time on the slopes. But whether it is winter or the middle of summer a trip to the Lecht Ski Centre is worth it, taking around an hour, the drive will take you through some incredible scenery and giving you a whole new perspective of the Cairngorms as you wind your way up to the Lecht, passing through the village of Tomintoul.
With an onsite cafe and mountain bike trails open here it is a year round place to visit, but the drive alone will make this trip worthwhile.
- Royal Deeside – home to lovely villages with royal connections
On the other side of the Lecht is Royal Deeside – so called due to the connections with The Royal Family – who have enjoyed their holidays here since Queen Victoria. The villages of Braemar, Ballater and Banchory can all be easily reached in a day from Aviemore and all offer lots to see and do for visitors. Craigendarroch Hill Viewpoint in Ballater makes a nice walk with stunning views – including Lochnagar on a clear day. If history interests you – Balmoral Castle is open for tours at certain times of year – when The Royal Family aren’t in residence.
Ballater offers the best choice of spots for lunch including some lovely cafes like The Bothy, The Bridge House Cafe and Orka Artisan Cafe. If looking for a more substantial meal, The Clachan Grill is a great choice.
- Ecoventures – see dolphins in the Moray Firth
Ecoventures is situated in the village of Cromarty right in the middle of the Moray Firth, situating them in the perfect place to launch adventures out into the firth to catch a glimpse of all the wildlife the area is famous for. The resident bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth are by far the most common and popular wildlife spot on the tours but porpoises, seabirds and even pilot whales have been spotted in the area. The company prides itself on showcasing the best of the Firth’s wildlife whilst being respectful of the wildlife and the environment.
A stop off at Slaughterhouse Cafe for coffee and cake after an adventure on the waves is also highly recommended.
- Take a trip to Loch Ness – see the famous Loch
It is easy to reach Loch Ness from Aviemore – just about an hours drive. Whether you are wanting to experience the scenery from the shores while having a drink at Dores Inn, immerse yourself in the history of Urquhart Castle or stretch your legs walking some of the paths that run the length of the Loch. Loch Ness really does have something to keep everyone interested.
Jacobite Cruises run trips out onto Loch Ness and allow the area to be experienced from a completely different viewpoint. Trips run from the banks of Loch Ness or from Dochgarroch which is part of the Caledonian Canal linking Inverness to Loch Ness to allow you to experience both the canal and the open waters of a Loch that in parts is deeper than the North Sea. Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and Dores all offer choices for food.