Special feature: Aviemore Highland Resort

Craigellachie SuiteI recently returned from four relaxing nights at the Aviemore Highland Resort in Aviemore. (Only last month it served as the venue for the Scottish Labour Party Conference, attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair.) There are four hotels on the resort, two of which are four-star.   We stayed in the Craigellachie Suite of the most recently refurbished of the two 4-star hotels, the Highlands Hotel. The room was a good size, with a separate lounge, bedroom and bathroom, but lacking much of a view.

Loch EileanAlthough the resort itself is a bit of a concrete jungle, there is ample beautiful scenery in close proximity. I’d recommend a short venture out to Loch Eilean where there’s a picturesque 700-year-old ruined castle on an island in the loch, and plenty of gentle walks to enjoy in the area. Other attractions in the area include a ski school, steam railway and reindeer centre.

Breakfast... including haggis!Returning to the resort, the Highlands Hotel is home to Aspects Restaurant (and the Laggan Bar, which specialises in whiskies and has a comprehensive selection of Speyside malts). Guests of the hotel can enjoy a fabulous buffet-style breakfast, including a tasty (if not a little calorific) full Scottish breakfast, complete with sausage, bacon, black pudding, egg (fried or scrambled), mushrooms, tomato, hash browns and, last but by no means least… haggis!

Aviemore dessertDinner at  Aspects is equally good, beautifully presented and includes such starters as timbale of smoked applewood, chicken & pear (with tarragon, hazelnut and poppy seed dressed leaves), and crab, prawn & avocado spring roll (with a spiced noodle salad, sesame seed, honey, lime and soya dressing). Mains range from the Aspects house speciality of roast rib of prime Scottish beef (served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and pan gravy) to grilled whole sea bass (with a dressed leaf salad, sautéed new potatoes and rustic tomato chutney). The pictured dessert is a crème brulée with summer fruits. A live pianist is sometimes present in the restaurant to add to the atmosphere.

Aviemore Highland Resort window paintingFacilities  at the resort are good. For children, there’s a well-equipped playground, and plenty of children’s rides on site, and our elder son thoroughly enjoyed the window painting activity on offer.  For adults, there’s treatment rooms for that extra bit of pampering and  well-equipped gym.   Children and adults alike will both enjoy the excellent swimming pool, slide and wave machine.

Aviemore itself is quite small but has a variety of shops. Make sure you visit the Mountain Café in the village.   When we last visited Aviemore, we were unaware of it but, thanks to a tip-off from a friend, found it situated above a mountaineering shop, offering stunning views across beautiful Scottish scenery and a real fire. It changed hands just over a year ago and focuses on providing quality with minimal impact upon the environment.  Had we realised the size of the portions (we had chicken, cranberry & brie and ham, tomato, cheese & wholegrain mustard paninis), we wouldn’t have ordered soup to start! The café deserves to do well, and I would recommend it as a good place to stop and break the journey for anyone that travels up and down the A8.

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