Visiting Cairngorms National Park: Newtonmore & Aviemore

Best time to visit: Summer (the Scottish variety)

Location: The Cairngorms National park is situated in northern Scotland, just south of Inverness. This post focuses on the west & northwest parts of the park, which are well connected by bus & rail, along the river Spey (the river that lends its name to Speyside whisky).

We went on a 3-day camping trip along with the author & protagonists of the awesome personal blog 22 Nelson Street that is set in Edinburgh (check them out!).

Newtonmore

This is a tiny village that’s actually very close to the geographical centre of Scotland. We used Newtonmore as a base for our travels because it had a campsite that caught our fancy (more on that later). A brief section describing our camping facilities will be at the bottom of this post as well.

The village is one of the ends of the amazing Newtonmore – Kingussie walking trail via Loch Gynack which has been described by Walkhighlands. This gentle walk is classic Scotland in a nutshell as it has

If you’re camping in either Kingussie or Newtonmore, we highly recommend taking this trail. The return journey can be completed on a train or even a taxi (we got a ride from Kingussie taxis for £10). We had a great time sitting by the lake on some stones & chatting away in the midst of the idyllic scenery. We also met a number of dog owners walking their dogs on the trail, its great exercise. We ended our walk at the fanciest chippy we’ve been to, Joe’s, to load up on carbs.

Apart from that, Newtonmore is also home to a very unique interactive art project called the Wildcat Trail. This is a walk that is marked by many different looking Wildcat statues (some shown below). It is so much fun trying to spot all the wildcat statues that are in town as some of them are well concealed or are just plain funny looking 🙂

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The different Wildcat statues. [pic courtesy: Shankita]

If you are camping or visiting Newtonmore, take some time to walk along the river Spey. In our case, we spent time sitting under the Spey bridge, relaxing to the sound of gushing water as seen below.

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Our picnic spot were the rocks on the right side

We did not get the time to visit the highly rated (and free) Highland Folk museum.

Aviemore (aka Food & Drink)

This is the major town in this area & hence a great place to base yourself at or stock up on essentials (in our case, we needed more camping essentials from Mountain Warehouse). In our case, Aviemore was the Food & Drink capital of this area.

We made a visit to the highly rated Cairngorm Brewery for the most value-for-money brewery tour in the whole of Scotland. For £5, we saw how beer was made & sampled 10 beers! Not only that, the tour guide had us in splits with his stories & jokes in between beer tastings.Visiting the brewery is a must-do if you are into beer at all. We bought a 5L mini-keg of the award-winning Black Gold beer that we polished off before most of us got back home.

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Enjoying a drink of Black Gold by the loch

Though we were camping, we had a whole day of hot meals at Aviemore & we are sure glad we did. First off, we started the day off perfectly with a delicious Haggis, cheese & onion toastie along with some good coffee at The Coffee Corner. To keep us going to the brewery tour, we had some classic Fish & Chips from Smiffy’s right next to the station.

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Haggis, cheese and onion toastie, the brekkie of champions

Finally, we had a really delicious dinner at The Winking Owl, which I believe is owned or operated by the Cairngorm Brewery. The beef pie made with the aforementioned Black Gold beer is the best we have had in the UK. The portions are massive too. We also had the beer-battered fish, the venison steak and the chorizo & black pudding salad, all delicious. Please make a reservation to avoid disappointment, the place was packed to the rafters & we were fortunate to get a table. 

Grantown-on-Spey

Many tourists to this area tend to take the Strathspey steam train to make their way along the Spey river & return to Aviemore. We took a different approach by taking a bus that goes through the same picturesque route to the village of Grantown-on-Spey. The village itself is really beautiful & home to gift shops & ice cream shops. We got ourself some fancy camping food (read smoked salmon) at Elephants in the Pantry before heading to our next stop, Craggan outdoors.

Craggan Outdoors is an activity centre with a sizeable golf course that seemed to be really popular with locals & tourists alike. However due to time constraints, the only activity we could partake in was disc golf (which was still a lot of fun). The golf course is also next to the river Spey & is so idyllic. We had an absolute blast here. Others, who obviously planned ahead, seemed to be doing a boating trip & a caber (tree trunk) tossing course. So our recommendation to you is to plan ahead & give them a call before visiting.

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Craggan Outdoors golf course where we played disc golf

Campsite Review: Spey Bridge campsite

A quiet, safe campsite with standard amenities and minimal midges. Very friendly staff.

Cost (for tent only, no car): £6 per night, cheapest rate yet.

Distance from public transit: 15 mins walk from Newtonmore station

Bathrooms & Showers: 2 showers each for Gents & Ladies. Separate toilets. Basic & clean. 20p for shower hot water, 20p for using hairdryer (Ladies only).

Laundry Facilities: Has 1 washer & dryer

Phone charging: Free using the laundry room plugs.

And last but not the least,

Sunset from Shankita’s tent

A post shared by shaneGirish (@shanegirish) on

Public Transit Logistics

  • Scotrail runs 6-7 trains a day from Edinburgh / Glasgow to Aviemore (through to Inverness via Perth). Takes about 3.5 hours.
  • Not all the trains that go to Aviemore stop at Newtonmore. Check schedules to make sure your stop is part of that run.
  • There are no buses between Aviemore & Newtonmore so a train is the only public transit option.
  • Stagecoach Highlands operates an hourly service M-F from Aviemore to Grantown-on-Spey (Bus 34)

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