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Loch Ness and Aviemore (with young children)

We are traveling around part of Scotland for ten days in July with our 3 and 7 year old sons. This feels a bit ambitious, so I did my best to reserve hotels that offered some kids activities, etc.

So far, our itinerary is 2 nights at Auchrannie in Arran, 2 nights at Isle of Glencoe, and three nights at Crieff Hydro. Where I am running into dilemmas is with Aviemore/Loch Ness.

I originally booked three nights at the Coylumbridge Hotel in Aviemore, but as I dug deeper into the reviews, that appears to be a poor choice. My oldest is dying to see Loch Ness, so I'm wondering if it's better to spend 1 night in Loch Ness and then 2 nights (somewhere else) in Aviemore. From here I'm stuck. The reviews are all over the board. Honestly, I want to dive right into the kitsch of Loch Ness for him. He will love hearing stories, anything unique regarding the legend. Is there a family-oriented hotel that fits the bill? When it comes to Aviemore, should I steer clear of Macdonald resort and opt for somewhere smaller, like the Craigmore? I keep feeling like I'm missing a great experience in this neck of the woods (again, for kids).

Any help is much appreciated!

Posted by
1238 posts

There are Cruise Tours on Loch Ness which would entertain the kids. One starts in Inverness. Aviemore Castle looks interesting. The area is an outdoor sport destination. I like the towns with nearby Castles, and the kids should enjoy that, too. Look at Visit Scotland, Historic Scotland, National Trust for Scotland and Secret Scotland web sites for some great ideas.

Posted by
2926 posts

At Loch Ness I think kids would enjoy both Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. The castle is a ruin, but a very well-restored one, with plenty of informative signboards and at least one costumed interpreter (a human wearing a kilt and demonstrating the broadsword or claymore -- excuse me for forgetting which). Its view of the loch is pretty spectacular and there's lots of space for kids to run around. The Centre & Exhibition is indoors; it's a fairly scientific / fact-based experience of "Nessie" sightings. These two are about a 10-minute drive apart so it's very easy to do both.

As the previous comment mentioned, you can also take a boat cruise on Loch Ness.

To find a family-oriented place to stay, try TripAdvisor for Drumnadrochit << >>

Posted by
5668 posts

Rothiemurchus has lots of activities for children, but yours might be a little young. If you haven't checked out their website, you'll want to as it can help you determine how much time you might want to spend in Aviemore. I assume that the Strathspey Railway is on your radar. :) If you do go to Loch Ness, think about visiting Urquhart Castle. It's a ruin, but your 7-year old will scramble all over it. You'll want to keep an eye on the 3-year old. :)

Also, near Inverness, you could do one of the boat rides on the Moray Firth and hunt for Dolphins. Alternatively, drive over to Rosemarkie and out to Chanory Point and look from the land. It's a nice short walk which might help you burn off some energy if you have the need.

Fort George is a working fort with modern soldiers and historical soldiers. It's right on the Moray Firth is pretty interesting. BTW if you have not discovered Historic Environment Scotland, you might want to explore the website a bit. They often have events and programs for children.


Posted by
38 posts

My wife and I stayed in Aviemore last fall. While it gets a bad wrap because it does not look like many of Scottish towns (has more of a modern feel to it than much of Scotland), it is a great hub to get most places throughout the Highlands. There are plenty of food options there.

We ended up renting a house just north of town at Avielochan which worked out great, and might be an option for a family. The place we stayed at is right on farm land, including cows and sheep.

The roads in the area are great, so you can get around the region relatively quickly. Definitely make the trip up to Cairngorm Mountain. There is a venicular rail to the top and a wonderful view, and there is plenty to do around. We would also recommend going to see the reindeer population that is very close to Aviemore. You can actually go out to where they range, but there is also an area right off the road that is easy to get to. I would also look at everything going on in the Cairngorm National Park, which is right there. You'll find all sorts of programs going on related to wildlife and outdoors activities.

Of course, there is lots to do in Inverness. Culloden is right around the corner, as well as the standing stones at Clava Cairns. While Culloden is a battlefield site with a museum, I think it's one of the best muesums I've seen around telling the story of the place. You can work through it at a reasonable pace.

We're going back this September, and will defintely be staying back in Aviemore for part of the trip.

Enjoy the adventure!

Posted by
2023 posts

Near Aviemore is a farm that offers sheep herding events. The kids would enjoy it. When we visited it there was an opportunity to attempt clipping a sheep and there was a litter of puppies to admire--black and white border collies. It is a well known place and anyone in that area can advise as to the name and exact location.