The economic regeneration of the Highlands has always been something of a challenge for Scotland’s policy planners. In the 1970’s they embarked on a hugely ambitious strategy. The decision was taken for Scotland to enter and compete in the lucrative international winter sports resort market. With its ease of access along the A9, combined with the Cairngorm Mountain range, Aviemore quickly established itself as the location of choice from which to launch. For a brief spell Aviemore’s light burned brightly as the investment poured in along with the celebrities. Aviemore was a place to be seen. Things didn’t last however. As we ran into the 1980’s a problem started to manifest itself. The mountains of the Cairngorms weren’t really high enough. What this meant is the snowfall was simply too erratic and not of sufficient quality to support a ski resort. A ski resort without snow has a problem. Attempts were made to rebrand and disguise the fact, but no amount of marketing could solve the problem. Husky sleds on wheels didn’t really work
Slowly the investment began to dry up, locking a lot of the development of the buildings in something of a period time-warp of concrete architecture and vivid kitsch interiors of psychedelia and plastics. Initially this weathered badly and the place began to feel a bit abandoned, but slowly it began to take on a nostalgia. Some of the original hotels from the boom retained their ‘made in the 1970s’ feel long past the decade that taste forgot!
Eventually though the Scots decided to wave the white flag on Aviemore and scale back. Today it still supports a ski industry, but one which has nothing like the lofty the aspirations of the halcyon days of the decades previous. Instead Aviemore has reinvented itself as an outdoor adventure activities centre, and rather than having a series of large hotels, has instead assembled a collection of discreet cabins, lodges, and purpose built leisure villages
Perhaps if Scotland thought the kilt was ski wear (left) the world ought to be grateful that Aviemore founds its limit? The Strathspey hotel after a snowfall (right)
With pine forests, fast flowing rivers for white water rafting, small lochs for sailing and kayaking, mountain trails for cycling, hiking, and walking, as well as tree-top adventure experiences Aviemore might actually have found the answer (by accident) given that it now has a twelve month calendar.
Provided we plan accurately we should have no difficulty putting together an exciting programme of different activities which will allow you to spend two or three days around the Aviemore area keeping children engaged without feeling like you’re forcing square pegs into round holes. To a large extent this is the pivot of the family golf trip. The secret is to use two separate vehicles
Nearby attractions include the Cairngorm Funicular Railway, which allows you to summit high mountains and take in the views across Scotland without having to put in the effort of climbing! Other family attractions include Landmark Forest Adventure Park at Carrbridge, beautiful Loch Morlich with its famous sandy beaches and water sports, the Strathspey Steam Railway, Rothiemurchus Forest, Highland Wildlife Park and the Highland Folk Museum. Loch an Eilein is another local beauty spot
Rothiemurchus Forest (left) and Loch an Eilein (right)
‘The beach’ at Loch Morlich is actually one of the strangest oddities in the Highlands. On a beautiful summers day it is genuinely idyllic. The sand looks out of place admittedly, but surrounded by pine forests its remarkably well sheltered and with the snow capped mountains on the horizon you might be forgiven for wanting to hit life’s ‘pause button’ and say “this’ll do for me thank you”
The beach at Loch Morlich. The loch supports sailing and kayaking
One of the benefits of the Aviemore boom is that the town has enough facilities to supply for your needs. It’s perfectly possible to create a wilderness feeling, especially for a young family, without actually being so remote that you risk getting isolated