Paddleboarding, Loch Insh

Families

Are you after the ultimate family holiday in Scotland's great outdoors, surrounded by mountains, forests and rivers? It's time to discover why the Highlands is the perfect natural playground and a brilliant family holiday destination. Make memories as you explore the western Cairngorms, and enjoy days out to Inverness and Moray Speyside.

Packed with attractions and activities to suit a range of ages, this seven day itinerary is ideal for those basing themselves in the Cairngorms National Park. There are plenty of things to do should there be wet weather days, and awesome places to visit which are as educational as they are fun.

When it comes to where to stay, consider the mountain town of Aviemore or the surrounding area. There's a wide range of accommodation, including resort hotels, holiday parks, self-catering lodges and cottages.

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Base yourself in or around Aviemore and enjoy great days out, experiencing the best family attractions and activities in the western part of the Cairngorms National Park. This itinerary also gives you the option to take day trips further afield to Inverness and Loch Ness, and along the coastline of the Moray Firth.

Destacado

Brilliant wildlife and heritage attractions, adventure activities, woodland trails, historic ruins, a mountain railway, a city day trip, Nessie hunting, beaches and coastal communities, a vintage steam train ride and working sheepdogs.

Áreas recorridas

Cairngorms National Park, Inverness & Loch Ness, Moray

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Día 1

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The Cairngorms National Park's unmissable attractions

Explore the area south of Aviemore today and discover two brilliant attractions, the Highland Wildlife Park and the Highland Folk Museum. In addition, you can make time for a stop at the ruins of Ruthven Barracks and uncover fascinating Jacobite history. You'll pass through Kingussie and Newtonmore, two villages whose shinty teams are the fiercest of rivals - see if you can catch a match whilst you visit!
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Scottish wildcat, Highland Wildlife Park

Highland Wildlife Park

From Scottish wildcats to snow leopards, and from red squirrels to red pandas, you'll find an incredible mix of endangered species from all over the globe, as well as native species at the Highland Wildlife Park. It's home to wolves, lynx, beavers and wild horses; animals which at one time roamed Scotland's lands. Enjoy a safari experience as you drive round the main reserve. As you explore the rest of the park on foot, you might come face-to-face with an Amur tiger, see mighty polar bears, and watch Japanese macaques - also known as snow monkeys - during feeding times.

Ruthven Barracks

Let your imagination take you back to the time of the Jacobites as you enter Ruthven Barracks, located on a hilltop overlooking Kingussie. Now a ruin, Fort Ruthven was built by George II's forces in the early 1700s in response to the failed uprisings of 1715. In 1745, the barracks were defended by government soldiers when it was attacked by the Jacobites, but a year later, the soldiers were forced to surrender when a larger force of Jacobites carried out an assault. After the Battle of Culloden, 3,000 Jacobites rallied at the barracks only to find that Bonnie Prince Charlie had declared that the Jacobite cause was over. A visit to this historic attraction won't cost you a penny - entry is free!

Highland Folk Museum

History comes to life at this open air museum which has over 30 historical buildings. At this free attraction, see how people lived and worked in the Highlands in centuries gone by. Wander through the 1700s township with its thatched roof cottages at one end of the site, and see a working croft from the 1930s at the other. You might fancy a go at trying some traditional crafts or activities, and on some days, there are special events, such as re-enactments and vintage-themed days. You can easily spend hours here, and with picnic and play areas, it's also a great spot to enjoy a packed lunch.

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Nature and adventure for all the family

In the morning, visit the family-friendly RSPB Loch Garten, located only a few miles north of Aviemore. Then make your way to the pretty village of Carrbridge where you'll find countless hours of family fun. With so much to do, it's easy to spend a good part of a day at Landmark Forest Adventure Park, but you could also take some time to see Carrbridge and spot the famous Packhorse Bridge, or follow one of the village's gentle woodland walks.
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Landmark Forest Adventure Park, Carrbridge © Landmark Forest Adventure Park

RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre

Budding naturalists will love RSPB Loch Garten. This reserve is home to breeding ospreys in the warmer months, whilst the capercaillie, Scotland's largest grouse and a rare species, can be seen displaying in spring. There are plenty of trails to follow with fantastic self-guided activities, such as quizzes and bark rubbing, as well as great things to do in the nature centre. The wide paths and short trails make it suitable for both walks and cycles with the kids. Want to save money? Then get the half-price family entry voucher!

Landmark Forest Adventure Park

If you go down to the woods today… you're in for tons of fun! With rides and activities to suit all ages, you'll find countless ways to blow off steam. High wire assault courses and rope jumps, a runaway train roller coaster, thrilling rafting on water slides, rock climbing and an epic adventure play centre, for starters. Take a break from the adrenalin-inducing activities and experience Bamboozeleum, filled with illusions and puzzles, or step inside the Butterfly House to see hundreds of colourful winged beauties. There are plenty of spots for a woodland picnic, as well as on-site dining options.

Carrbridge woodland

If you've got spare time (and energy!) after Landmark, you could take a short walk through the woodlands of Carrbridge. There are three waymarked trails to choose from, the longest of which takes just over an hour. The woodlands are home to wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for the likes of timid red squirrels, as well as charming wooden carvings of forest creatures - Carrbridge is known for its annual chainsaw carving competition! Afterwards, you could stop at the Cairn Hotel for a refreshment in its traditional country pub.

Día 3

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Reindeer, mountain railways and family fun

More wild encounters! Today you'll get up close with the UK's only free-ranging herd of reindeer, and even have a go at feeding them - you'll find that reindeer are not only for Christmas time! Then, scale the mighty CairnGorm Mountain on the funicular railway to experience some fantastic mountain views and more. If you've got time, squeeze in a visit to the Fun House for a round of adventure golf or for some play time in Cyril the Squirrel's treehouse soft play.
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A reindeer on the Cairn Gorm mountain © Neil McIntyre

Cairngorm Reindeer Centre

Get up close and make new friends! This herd of reindeer are pretty much left to their own devices, grazing on the sides of the Cairngorm mountains. Daily hill trips depart to visit the reindeer at 11am and, in the summer months, at 2.30pm, where you'll follow an experienced herder up the mountainside. Alternatively, you can see them at the paddocks and exhibition at Glenmore. The gentle deer can be hand-fed (just wait until you feel their velvety-soft noses!).

If you've ever fancied riding with sled-dogs, check out the nearby Cairngorm Sleddog Centre. Trips need to be booked in advance and are suitable for kids aged 12 years and over.

CairnGorm Mountain

Just 10 minutes' drive from the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is the base of the CairnGorm Mountain Railway, Scotland's only funicular railway. Be sure to keep your ticket from the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre - if you display it at the funicular railway, you'll get discounted admission. The train will take you 3,500 ft above sea level along 2 km of track. At the top station, you'll find the Ptarmigan Restaurant and breathtaking panoramic views. If your kids can be persuaded to go for a walk, consider taking a guided hike to the summit of the Cairn Gorm. It takes about 90 minutes and the knowledgeable guides will provide lots of interesting information about the mountain's flora and fauna. Near the base station is the camera obscura, which is well worth visiting on a clear day.

The Fun House

If you are looking for some fun in the late afternoon, then head to The Fun House, just a 20 minute drive from the base of the CairnGorm Mountain. It's located in the grounds of the Hilton Coylumbridge resort. Children can be let loose in the large soft play and ball pits of Cyril's Treehouse. Get the whole family involved in some friendly competition as you play the 18-hole castle-themed adventure golf, or play mini ten pin bowling. There's also a games arcade with simulators, air hockey and video games. On a rainy day, it's the ideal place for some family fun.

Día 4

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Day tripping to Inverness (& Nessie hunting!)

For a change of scene, why not have a day out in the Highland city of Inverness? It's just a 45 minute car or train journey from Aviemore. In and around the city there's a great range of both indoor and outdoor attractions, with plenty to do whatever the weather, including a fantastic swimming pool and ice rink. Or head along the banks of Loch Ness and do some Nessie hunting!
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Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness © johnbraid - Fotolia

Ness Islands

Experience nature in the city. On the River Ness lies the pretty Ness Islands, connected to the river banks by footbridges. The series of paths and bridges are great for a gentle walk, with pathways suitable for pushchairs. From Whin Park, you could also take the charming Ness Islands miniature railway. Two teeny locomotives, one named Chrissy and the other named Uncle John, ride along a ½ mile of track, with services running most weekends and during school holidays.

Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

If you are looking for an indoor option, take the kids to this centrally located family-friendly museum, where admission is free. With lots of fascinating objects from the past and hands-on activities for kids, you can learn about the people of the Highlands, from the Picts to the Jacobites, and Gaelic cultures. Try on 18th-century-style Highland dress, or play the Roman-era board game, Merels. In the summer holidays, there are also often special, fun-filled activities for children.

Ship Space

Nautical attractions don't get much quirkier than Ship Space, and it offers tons of maritime-themed fun for kids. Its star attraction is the 88 ft scale model of the Titanic. You can get inside it to see a replica of the Parisian café, the bridge and the wireless room. There's also an Inverness-built creel fishing boat, a herring drifter and a RNLI lifeboat to explore. Try on a survival suit, or dress up as a captain! There's no entry charge, so all this can be enjoyed for free! Half the museum is located outside, so be sure to bring suitable clothing.

Urquhart Castle

Should there be some eager monster hunters in your family, then follow the A82 from Inverness to Loch Ness, home to the mythical Nessie. The stunning ruins of Urquhart Castle, located near Drumnadrochit, will capture your kids' imagination. Climb the battlements of the Grant Tower or peer into the castle prison. Nearby are the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition and Nessieland, which both have fantastic exhibits on the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster, or you can find a boat trip operator for an on-the-loch experience!

Día 5

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Amazing activities in the great outdoors

A trip to the Cairngorms would not be complete without trying at least one brilliant adventure activity in the great outdoors, whether it's an adrenaline-inducing experience or a gentle slow adventure! From mountain biking to white-water rafting, there's a huge choice of things to do and places to try activities - here are just some ideas to get you started.
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Canoeing on Loch Insh

Loch Morlich

A great freshwater loch complete with a fantastic sandy beach, Loch Morlich is the perfect watersports destination. Families can learn to sail, windsurf, kayak or canoe with lessons provided by Loch Morlich Watersports - you might even find your kids are future Olympians in the making. The loch and its beach lies within the Glenmore Forest Park, and from the Glenmore Visitor Centre, there are some marvellous woodland trails which weave through beautiful pine trees and alongside the water's edge. The Beach Trail has a wide, surfaced path which means it's great for buggies and wheelchairs.

Rothiemurchus

On this spectacular Highland estate, there's really not much that you can't do; quad bike treks, clay target shooting, an aerial assault course, fishing, pony trekking, Segway trips, archery, bike hire, plus great opportunities to get up close with Highland cows on a 'Hairy Coo Safari'. A number of the activities are suitable for youngsters. There all kinds of fun river activities too, including river tubing, rafting, paddleboarding, kayaking, gorge walking and gorge swimming, and you can also canoe on Loch An Eilein, a place voted the UK's best picnic spot.

Loch Insh

In addition to Loch Morlich, you can try thrilling watersports on Loch Insh. On the water, families can getting to grips with fun paddlesports such as kayaking, open canoeing, paddleboarding and rowing. Plus, there's windsurfing, raft building, sailing lessons and pedalo hire. Should you fancy exploring nearby forest trails, mountain bikes are available for hire, including electric bikes which will help you pack more 'oomph' into your biking experience!

Craggan Outdoors

Located not far from Grantown-on-Spey, this activity provider operates a number of activities from their Speyside location and are able to accommodate family groups of all ages and sizes. Brush up your wilderness survival skills as you try bushcraft or toss a caber as you experience a mini Highland games. Activities on land also include climbing and abseiling, mountain biking, pony trekking, mini quads, zip wire and high ropes. Practice your aim and try the fun golf-inspired activities of disc golf, or foot golf. You can also get on the water and try gorge walking, white-water rafting or canoeing.

Día 6

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Meanders along the Moray Firth coastline

Did you know that from Aviemore you can be at the coast in less than an hour? Have a day of touring the area east of Inverness along the Moray Firth and enjoy playing by the sea, exploring castles and more. You might even be lucky enough to see a dolphin or porpoise on a boat trip, or seals by the shoreline. It's in this part of Scotland you'll find some of the country's best beaches at places such as Nairn, Findhorn, Hopeman and Lossiemouth, so be sure to pack a towel and a beach ball!
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Nairn beach

Nairn

Just an hour's drive from the Cairngorms National Park is the pretty town of Nairn, one of Scotland's favourite seaside destinations. Its main draw is its fantastic beach, perfect for sandcastle building, paddling and beach games. Don't forget the bucket and spade! The Moray Firth has a resident pod of dolphins and other incredible marine life. See if you can spot the gleaming bodies of these friendly creatures on a wildlife cruise with Phoenix Boat trips.

Brodie Castle

Not far from Nairn lies Brodie Castle. With its rose-coloured walls and turrets, it wouldn't look out of place in a fairy tale. Explore the historic home of Clan Brodie. Kids will love the nursery, where they can see toys and games once loved by past generations of Brodie children. In the grounds there's an adventure play park, nature trail and a large pond. It's been known to hold some great family events, including special themed days and theatrical productions adapted from children's stories - a performance of David Walliam's Billionaire Boy will take place on 12 July.

Findhorn

You could add in a visit to the charming fishing village of Findhorn. It has a lovely long beach, and seals can often be seen basking where the River Findhorn meets the sea. The village is best-known for the Findhorn Foundation, an eco-friendly, spiritual community. Should you want to check out its vibe, pop into the Phoenix Café in the eco-village, or visit the nearby Bakehouse Café, and enjoy fresh, local and organic delights. At the Findhorn Heritage Centre and Ice House, explore the chambers of a 150-year-old ice house and discover the area's fishing heritage and more (check opening times before you go). The attraction is free to enter.

Duffus Castle

If you've got time on a long summer's day, you could also make a stop at the ruin of Duffus Castle (entry is free). This medieval stronghold is a great place for kids - it won't be long before they are pretending to be fierce kings and warriors from a bygone era. If you're looking for a different route to return, head to Elgin and then drive through Speyside following the A941 to Craigellachie before joining the A95.

Día 7

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Steam train rides, forest walks… and sheepdogs!

Fancy a relaxed day without too much driving, enjoying the best of country life? Spend some time today taking in the surroundings from the comfort of the carriage of a historic steam engine. You could then head south of Aviemore for some splendid forest walks (and perhaps a picnic) before watching trained sheepdogs working on a real farm.
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Strathspey Railway, near Aviemore

Strathspey Railway

Choo choo! Hop on board the Strathspey Railway for a steam train adventure. Whether your kids are fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, or want to imagine that they are travelling with Harry, Ron and Hermione to Hogwarts, they are bound to be enchanted by a chance to ride the railroad tracks in a vintage locomotive. Trips run from Aviemore to Broomhill via Boat of Garten, with a return trip taking approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can experience dining on board, and on some days there are special themed events.

Feshiebridge

About 8 miles south of Aviemore lies Feshiebridge, an area of forest which makes up part of the Glenmore Forest Park. There are some lovely trails which follow the grassy banks of the River Feshie, perfect for stretching your legs and getting some fresh air. One of the walks you can follow is the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail, a gentle path lined with wooden carvings that explore Scottish culture. There are picnic benches too, should you want to enjoy an al fresco packed lunch watching the rushing waters of the River Feshie.

Leault Working Sheepdogs

From June through to October, you can see real sheepdogs in action at this working farm. Demonstrations are held at 4pm every day (except Saturdays) where you can see Farmer Neil and his dogs work together just as they would in the fields. Watch as the sheepdogs follow commands, diligently steering ducks and sheep through obstacles. Sometimes, there are opportunities to meet collie pups, bottle-feed lambs, or even have a go at shearing a sheep! It's a great way to experience a taste of country life that kids will love.

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