*AD|Gifted Stay – Our stay with Macdonald Resort was gifted and I wanted to share this at the start of the post. All views are my own and information is correct at time of posting*
The very first time I visited Aviemore I was 11. I was camping with school (in dorms) and I hated it. It was so outdoorsy and growing up in the city… it just wasn’t for me. We canoed, we abseiled and I fell face first off a bike, over the handlebars down a muddy hill and haven’t been on one since. The great outdoors and I were not friends in the slightest. But then I had kids. Kids that LOVE being outside, in the woods collecting pine cones, at the beach eating ice cream or throwing stones in rivers, they are at their happiest when they are running around the great outdoors.
Aviemore is approx a 2.5 hour drive from Edinburgh. We planned the trip around nap/lunch so we could break up the journey a little for the kids. The views on route are stunning and there is lots of little villages you can stop to explore if you wanted to make the journey last a little longer and take in more of the sights, its a stunning drive!
We arrived on the resort and checked in, our lodge, a spacious 2 bed (that sleeps 6), overlooked the 18 hole golf course, the kids could sit in the conservatory and watch the golfers, or the little flight of swallows dart in and out of the trees onto the roof. The Macdonald Spey Valley Resort is only a few minutes from its sister resort The Macdonald Aviemore Resort and a 20 minute walk to the main town centre which has everything you need, especially if you forgot your toothbrush. The lodge had everything we needed including a fully equipped kitchen making family meal time a whole lot easier, it was super cosy and had enough room for us to be a family and have our own space to relax.
The kids could take part in arts and craft mornings, theres a full timetable of things to do from painting, jewellery making & masks, you can go for a dip in the pool or relax with a cuppa while they run around the resorts soft play. There are so many activities you can book during your stay, from golf, bike riding or even beauty treatments.
Cinema – The resort has their very own cinema. There is no need to book, because it has 650 seats and its own popcorn stand, it’s located across the road at their sister lodge and is a good way of entertaining the kids after an energetic morning.
The Scottish Steakhouse – We were treated to a family meal in the The Scottish Steakhouse. What a menu! Classic choices for the kids, that weren’t fussy or too ‘adult’, they were spoilt for choice and all ended up sharing from each others plates so they could taste a bit of everything. The portions are super generous. I cannot recommend the haggis scotch egg enough. Kids under 12 eat free with a full paying adult. It’s got a fire pit and a park right outside for the kids thats welcomed during the summer. The twinkling lights make it feel a little big magical.
Aviemore is a pretty small town in the Cairngorms National Park, but it’s not short of things to do. We had a plan of what we wanted to see when we arrived and still didn’t manage everything and already want to plan a trip back. It’s a pretty popular tourist town all year round, with plenty to do in the summer and skiing in the winter. I’ve listed a few favourites here:
Landmark Adventure Park – Such good fun! Water slides, treetop zip wires, a ROLLERCOASTER! That Lucy was desperate to be on (for over 10’s). While the majority is aimed at the bigger kids, there is lots for the little ones to do too. We got to hold the wee beasties at butterfly house and see the tiny quail babies, got lost in a maze. We actually got lost, more than once.
The tree top walk was our favourite and is completely stunning, the boardwalk, which is buggy & wheelchair friendly, takes you into the 10,000 year old pinewood, you can spot red squirrel and learn lots of really interesting facts on the way around.
They are the proud owners of the worlds first ‘Bamboozeleum’. Full of distorting mirrors and weirdly wonderful illusions, the kids LOVED it. They loved it so much we went around it twice.
Highland wildlife park – The Highland Park is home to Hamish the polar bear, the first polar bear to be born in the UK for 25 years. There are 2 parts to the park, the first (or last if you prefer) is the Safari, a 20-30 min car ride around. You can spot Hamish and his buddies, see the beautiful bison wander around before making your way into the main area.
The park itself is beautiful. The enclosures blend into the landscape and look seamless. The animals are nosy and walk up incredibly close to the fences. Theres a park and a lovely little walk up the the ‘best view in Scotland’.
It was so relaxed and felt like you were in the animals habitat with them. I much prefer this Wildlife Park to Edinburgh Zoo, we seen every single animal in every enclosure and the kids were thrilled that none seemed to be hiding away. There are a list of daily activities that you can go along to, which include educational talks on the Amur Tigers or you can watch the Polar Bears being fed.
The entire park is buggy friendly, theres a little that is up hill but plenty of stops on the way to see some arctic foxes and goats. The view from the top is beautiful and worth the walk.
There’s a gorgeous little spot at the cafe, you can sit with some cake and hot chocolate and watch the snow monkeys on their little island. You can even see their feed being scattered if you are early enough.
Strathspey Steam Railway – Not something I would have looked into booking at all. But it was such good fun. The staff knew everything you could possibly ask and were brilliant with the kids. We stopped at a couple of stations that had tiny little shops and 50’s ladies waiting rooms for you to use, you got to wander round and speak to the staff, who are mostly volunteers. The kids got to watch as they shovelled coal into the fire and watch the steam billow out.
We made ourselves at home. Emily did anyway! Harry and Lucy made a new secret handclap. Ruby bought a few books at one of the little shops and found her favourite dork diaries for 30p.
Treats & Treats – Mieles, italian gelato. Defreekinglicious. A nutella tap, canollies, waffle cones and eleventy billion (24) flavours of delicious gelato ice creams in a variety of waffle cones. We went twice it was so good.
Mr Simms. Time travel is a thing. I went straight back to my youth when I walked into this adorable little sweet shop. They had walls and rows of vintage sweets you could buy by the quarter, like ‘back in the day’. Their jars line the walls and the kids were like, well, kids in a sweetie shop. Spoilt for choice.
River Walks – Loch Morlich – this was our most favourite part of the trip I think. The moment we set foot on the sand we knew we would have to come back. There was a clearing in the trees that overlooked the entire loch. It was almost like walking into some sort of alternate universe and certainly didn’t feel like we were still in Scotland. It was a pretty wet day so the Loch was fairly empty. I’m not sure how busy it would be during the summer but it was the perfect day for our first visit. Theres a cafe, The Boathouse on site and you can hire or learn some watersports if you fancy it too.
It rained the entire weekend we visited, which if you know us, we love because it usually means everything is a little quieter and we get to enjoy it a bit more without the crowds. The kids have already asked if we can go back in the summer and I can’t think of any reason we would say no. We’ll be taking a tent and spending as much time at the Loch as we can!
We had the absolute best time and would like to thank The Macdonald Aviemore Resort for having us!