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Aviemore and its Surrounds

Aviemore in the Highlands of Scotland is arguably Britain’s premier ski resort with access to some of the most magnificent and dramatic scenery in the whole of Scotland. The mountain massif of the Cairngorms, which rises to a stunning 4000 feet and on its high plateau maintains subarctic tundra terrain, is just on your doorstep along with some of Scotland’s most beautiful glens, lochs, rivers and forests.

Aviemore is synonymous with skiing but you can also go snowboarding, mountain biking, kayaking, hill walking and fishing in the beautiful outdoor environment while wildlife enthusiasts might catch sight of otters, pine martens, Scottish wildcats, red squirrels, the world famous grouse or the rare osprey bird. There are also opportunities to go ice skating, play golf, sample fiery whisky or simply marvel at the breathtaking vistas around you. And the accommodation ranges from campsites, lodges and cosy bed and breakfasts to country house hotels and grand privately owned estates.

The Cairngorm Mountain Railway operates a funicular service which takes skiers and tourists to the top of the ski area while the Cairngorm Ski Area hires out skis, boards and equipment. In winter you can take an enchanting trip on a sled pulled by dogs at the Cairngorm Sleddog Adventure Centre or see the reindeer at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre. The Abernethy Forest R.S.P.B. Reserve, just out of Aviemore, offers the chance to see the beautiful osprey bird in the wild. The osprey is one of Britain’s rarest birds who had completely disappeared from the UK until the 1950’s when a pair miraculously re-emerged and built a nest on the shores of Loch Garten in the Abernethy Forest. There are now believed to be many more pairs nesting in this site and the R.S.P.B. operates an observation centre for visitors to glimpse the birds flying over the water of the loch or with their chicks in a nest.

At the Highland Wildlife Park, also just out of Aviemore, you can even see wolves and bison as well as Scottish wildcat, pine martens, capercaillie and eagles while a walk through the picturesque Caledonian pine forest on Rothiemurchus Estate is another memorable experience. Also accessible from Aviemore is the world famous Loch Ness reputedly haunted by the legendary Loch Ness monster. Loch Ness is a deep, often murky looking expanse of water which attracts hordes of visitors eagerly looking for the monster which was first allegedly photographed in the 1930’s lurking in its waters. At Drumnadrochit beside the loch there are “Monster Exhibitions” of the greatest photographs while the nearby ruined Castle Urquhart is another favourite viewing spot for monster seekers and iconic image of Loch Ness. You can also cruise across the loch or go fishing on its waters with a gillie.

Fort William is one of the Highland’s major towns located beneath Scotland and Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis which soars to a height of 4406 feet. From Fort William you can take a magical trip on the famous West Highland Railway travelling in the Jacobite Steam Train through some of the most stunningly beautiful scenery. Scenes of the steam train travelling along this route have featured in the Harry Potter films as “Hogwarts Express” and have captivated people world wide.

Some of Scotland’s most famous glens are located in this region; the beautiful Glen Nevis and the brooding Glen Coe. Glen Nevis is renowned for its picturesque glacial valley while Glen Coe, equally as scenically impressive, is forever associated with the massacre of 1692 in which the MacDonald clan were slain by the soldiers of Campbell of Glenlyon. Clan chief Alastair MacDonald had failed to sign an oath of allegiance to William III and so the government planned a plot against them. Campbell of Glenlyon was ordered to lodge his soldiers in the MacDonald households and for ten days the soldiers accepted the hospitality of the MacDonalds before turning on them all in the early hours of 13 February 1692. Scores of the MacDonalds were slain and more than 300 fled outside into a raging blizzard where many more of them died. Some visitors come to Glen Coe to reflect on this violent episode, others for the hiking and walking opportunities it provides and others just to admire the stunning vista of the glen.

In what is called the Speyside region there are more whisky distilleries and famous brands than anywhere else in Scotland and an official Malt Whisky Trail which includes tours of some of the distilleries, occasional connoisseur “tasting” and the opportunity to buy your favourite bottle of malt. The town of Dufftown calls itself “Malt Whisky Capital of the World” and makes a good base for anyone wanting to follow the whisky trail. From Dufftown you can visit the world famous Glenfiddich distillery which is owned by the same family that founded it in 1887 and the Glenlivet distillery which was the first licensed distillery in the Highlands. Strathisla distillery claims to be the oldest distillery in Scotland while at Cragganmore tours include a tasting. Cardhu distillery is over a hundred years old and another highlight of the whisky trail and Macallan near Craigellachie offers a “tutored nosing” of its different Macallan whiskies. At Aberlour you can buy and fill your own bottle while the Glen Grant distillery is set in an exceptionally beautiful environment with gardens and trees and a waterfall.

The Speyside Way is a picturesque walking route about 65 miles long that follows the Spey River and branch routes to the edge of the Cairn gorm mountains and provides an opportunity to visit the distilleries along the way as well as enjoy the stunning scenery and wildlife around. From Dufftown or Aviemore you can also enjoy train trips on the restored old railway or visit the Speyside Cooperage at Craigellachie to see how oak casks for whisky are made.

Aviemore and the surrounding Highland areas is one of the most magnificent regions in Scotland and offers great opportunities for skiing and outdoor pursuits as well as stunning mountain and river scenery.

Ricki Crookes has worked as an actress in the film and television business throughout most of her life. She has appeared in numerous commercials which have been shown on television and cinemas world-wide. She has also worked as a model and been in many prestigious photo- shoots which have featured in magazines and bill-boards. In addition she has written articles for both newspapers and magazines and is an award winning poet.