What to see and do…
Here are just some of the things you can enjoy near Grantown-on-spey
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!
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