Aviemore and the Cairngorms are magical place to visit. Here’s some summer staycation inspiration for our favourite spot in the Highlands.
Our base was the Rothiemurchus campsite, near Aviemore in the heart of the Rothiemurchus estate, surrounded by Caledonian pine trees. Watch out for those midges though, the little blighters are hungry all summer long.
- Become a reindeer herder with The Cairngorm Reindeer
Reindeer are not just for Christmas and there have been reindeer on the Cairngorms since 1952 when a Sami herder, Mikel Utsi, introduced them from Sweden. Today there are about 150 individual reindeer and are Britain’s only free-ranging herd. Visitors can join herders from February half-term until early January on a daily walk on the hills (30 minutes or so) to search for the reindeer, with extra trips added in warmer months. There is no guarantee that you will find the herd as they are free-ranging, but scouts search for the animals each morning, before bringing visitors along. Once the reindeer are found participants can hand feed and pet the animals. Appropriate clothing and footwear is advised and you need to have a good level fitness. Kitty was too young for mountain excursion, so we settled for a visit to the paddocks at The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre near Aviemore. We were not disappointed as we got to meet Fergus, a very cute baby reindeer who was being cared for alongside some other animals who were having a respite from the harsh conditions on the mountains. Kitty also loved exploring Santa’s bothy and searching for elves hiding around the grounds. But we are looking forward to our next visit and plan to join the herders on the mountain.
2. Go mountain biking.
A family of cyclists enjoying the trails in The Cairngorms National Park. Credit VisitScotland
Matthew is a keen biker, me a reluctant one and on our Cairngorm staycation, four-year-old Kitty had recently mastered two wheels, and took to mountain biking with great enthusiasm.
We followed trails from the campsite into the wilderness. You can hire bikes at the Rothiemurchus centre and head off on one of the three family-friendly circular trails. Matthew plotted our trail through woodland and it was tricky for a novice like me, bumping over branches and rocks, but Kitty had relished the challenge and as usual had lots of fun.
3. Go riding – Saddle up for a horseback adventure
Riding at Rothiemruchus. Credit: Rothiemurchus
Kitty got an early taste of horse riding at the Rothiemurchus stables which specialises in the local Highland Pony breed. Kitty got to saddle up and was led around a nearby field on the ‘Wee Womble ride’, it was nicely handled and a great introduction to horse riding. Older and more experienced riders can find different trips to suit their level. I look forward to a family trek one day.
4. Go walking / hiking
The great thing about all these the outdoor adventures is that you can adjust them to suit all levels, so whether you want to hike Cairngorm Mountain (Matthew) or have a pleasant afternoon stroll around a pretty lake (me), the Cairngorms has something for everyone. Rothiemurchus has an extensive network of 50 km of walks on maintained paths, the longest being 10 miles. We had downloaded the ordnance survey map and followed Matt, who is the boy-scout-in-chief of our troupe, off into the hills. My favourite walk took us around the beautiful Loch an Eilean, which means ‘loch of the island’ in Gaelic, and boasts a ruined castle on its tiny island. The path around the lake is suitable for push-chairs and wheel chairs, meaning that not matter what your age, ability or fitness level you can enjoy one of Scotland’s most beautiful spots. If you are lucky you may get to see some of the region’s wildlife including, eagles, red squirrels and Scottish Crossbills on a walk. Always bring suitable clothing and footwear, as the weather can be unpredictable.
5. Visit a Highland Castle – Blair Castle
Of course, this is Scotland and there is not such thing as unseasonable weather, just weather. But Scotland is also a land of magical castles and Blair Atholl is well worth a visit, come rain or shine. The entrance hall is a sight to behold, completely covered with weapons, some of which saw action in the Battle of Culloden. Much of the interior of the building dates from Georgian times, with decorative plasterwork. There is lots to see and do on in the gardens and elsewhere on the estate, and you can stay on the estate too.
This is just a selection of some of my favourite things to do in The Cairngorms in summer. I have focused on the activities we did around the Rothiemurchus estate near Aviemore, but there’s plenty of walking, biking and horse riding elsewhere in the Cairngorms too.
Do you have any suggestions for a summer staycation in the Cairngorms ? I would love to hear from you. #staycationinspiration.