What to see and do…

Here are just some of the things you can en­joy near Gran­town-on-spey

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Whisky Ga­lore!

Fol­low the Spey­side Malt Whisky Trail and you will take in some re­ally glo­ri­ous scenery as the River Spey winds its way from the Cairn­gorms to Spey Bay. The trail com­prises nine sites, eight dis­til­leries and one cooper­age, where you can learn how bar­rels that once held sherry from Spain and bour­bon from the US are re­pur­posed for the malt whisky in­dus­try. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to watch the skill of the coop­ers, who work very fast be­cause they are paid by the piece. If you only have time to stop at one of the dis­til­leries, you might like to go for Glen Grant at Rothes, which has a beau­ti­ful gar­den to wan­der through, as well as pro­vid­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing tour of its dis­tillery. Here you can see the fa­mous cop­per stills and learn that the whisky ac­tu­ally be­gins its jour­ney as a mash and beer, and its flavour de­pends on the ‘malt’ and the pure wa­ter used – in this case, from the Spey. Most im­por­tantly, the non-driver can end this in­for­ma­tive tour with a tasting!

Rein­deer coun­try

Did you know that rein­deer were once na­tive to the UK? But that was around eight cen­turies ago. In 1952, they were rein­tro­duced to the UK by a Swedish Sami, Mikel Utsi. He was hon­ey­moon­ing in the High­lands when he re­alised that here was a po­ten­tially great habi­tat for rein­deer. There are plen­ti­ful lichens – the food of choice for rein­deer – grow­ing on the ground, rock and trees in the High­lands. Mikel Utsi brought some of his Swedish rein­deer to the area, to find out if these an­i­mals would be able to live, and per­haps even thrive, in the Cairn­gorms. Sixty-six years on, and the Cairn­gorm Rein­deer Herd, now com­pris­ing more than 150 beasts, roams the Cairn­gorms and the Crom­dale hills near Glen­livet. The shop and pad­docks can be found at Glen­more, which is six miles east of Aviemore, next door to the Glen­more For­est Park Vis­i­tor Cen­tre. In the shop, you can buy tick­ets for the hill walk if you would like to see the rein­deer roam­ing in the wild. If the walk isn’t for you, then you can still see the rein­deer in the pad­docks. We saw young ones there dur­ing our visit. And did you know that both male and fe­male rein­deer grow antlers?

A for­est ad­ven­ture

If you have lit­tle ones with you, keep them en­ter­tained by tak­ing them to Land­mark For­est Ad­ven­ture Park, which of­fers all sorts of ac­tiv­i­ties year round. The park ad­vises that as a rough guide, you should al­low your­selves at least two hours to make the most of a win­ter ticket. It cov­ers en­try to the Trop­i­cal Hot House, Tree Top Trail, For­est Tower, Lost Labyrinth, Topsy Turvy Room, For­est Sa­fari, Grow­ing-shrink­ing Room, Ant City, Vor­tex and the Bam­boozeleum. Tick­ets cost £7.20 for adults (15+), £6.10 for chil­dren (4+) and se­niors (65-79), while un­der-fours and over-80s have free en­try. Bear in mind, though, that the weather can also af­fect the open­ing of the for­est at­trac­tions, so if it has been snow­ing, it might be a good idea to ring ahead first, on 01479 841 613. And if the for­est area is closed, the Bam­boozeleum will still be open, where the whole fam­ily can ex­plore a vast ar­ray of mys­ti­fy­ing ex­hibits, il­lu­sions and puz­zles. En­try to the Bam­boozeleum costs £3.25 for adults and £2.75 for chil­dren. Between the Easter and the Oc­to­ber hol­i­days, when there are more at­trac­tions avail­able, ticket prices go up, but a weekly pass should work out cheaper. Ac­cess to the restau­rant and shop is free. Land­mark For­est Ad­ven­ture Park can be found off the B9153 at Car­rbridge (PH23 3AJ).

LEFT Lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­joy the glo­ri­ous scenery of the River Spey and the Cairn­gorms RIGHT Rein­deer were suc­cess­fully rein­tro­duced in the High­lands by a Swedish Sami in 1952

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