Aviemore: A Budget-Friendly Scottish Ski Getaway

by  Becky Lucas | Mar 4, 2014
Aviemore, Scotland
Aviemore, Scotland / undefined undefined/iStock

Think Scotland, and whisky, bagpipes, men in kilts, or perhaps fisherman’s waders come to mind. But now you can add skiing and snowboarding to the mix. Up in the Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms are the U.K.’s highest and snowiest ski-friendly mountains – and thus they're home to the country’s most popular ski spot.

Easter is a great time to visit the excellent Ski and Snowboard School, which is located on the mountain, and receives plenty of snow. Lessons start at $146, which includes four hours of lessons for adults, equipment rental, and a ski pass, plus a trip up and down the slope on Scotland’s only funicular railway. The resort area is ideal for beginners, while still offering enough of a challenge to keep more experienced downhillers busy. Here are some tips for putting together your own Scottish skiing getaway...

Hitting the slopes…
Weather conditions can be more fickle in Scotland than at other European ski resorts, so it’s best to have a back-up plan if high winds strike. One is to gun for the Lecht, another family- and beginner-friendly slope in the Eastern Cairngorms, which offers lessons for $114 for a group one-hour lesson, including equipment and a full-day ski pass. Alternatively, if conditions aren't favorable at the Lecht, beginners can have a go on Glenmore Ski School’s far less intimidating dry slope, where an intensive private session goes for $48 per person, including equipment hire (no ski pass necessary).

Seeing the sights...
If you need to give those thigh muscles a rest, a drive around Loch Ness is a must, as it's easily one of the U.K.’s most scenic routes; meanwhile, the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition is informative, quaint and slightly eerie, and worth the $12 adult entry fee. (Nessie sightings are not guaranteed.)

Decided against a rental car? Head to Aviemore’s volunteer-run Strathspey Railway, where you can hop on an antique steam train (or Diesel, depending on the day) for $23 per adult, and chug through idyllic mountain scenery until you reach serene Broomhill. Here passengers hop off, take photos, and grab a cup of tea (in polystyrene cup) and a shortbread biscuit for $1.67, before heading back to Aviemore.

Staying near the mountain...
At the amenity-flush Macdonald Spey Valley Golf & Country Club, you’ll find cozy, recently-renovated, Scandinavian-style cabins that sleep up to six people. Even better, many are owned by timesharers, who often sublet them at a cheaper price. A quick search on Gumtree, a site listing U.K. classified ads, ought to yield more than a few bargains.

Eating for less...
Aviemore’s Mountain Café is not to be missed. As well as spectacular mountain views, this venue serves the widest and most imaginative selection of home-baked cakes we’ve ever seen, as well as hearty breakfasts and lunches. It's well worth the wait in the ever-present line. In the evening, The Old Bridge Inn carries the torch of Aviemore’s hipper days in the 1960s. There are antique instruments casually strewn around, low-key, edgier-than-expected music on the speakers, and seriously satisfying dinner and wine options. If you can bear to leave the fireside, The Winking Owl is another buzzing spot, especially on weekends, when live bands perform for hard-partying locals.

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