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Tackling the winter blues with a blissful weekend at Macdonald Aviemore Resort

Macdonald Aviemore Resort offers fun, adventure and relaxation right in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.
Macdonald Aviemore Resort offers fun, adventure and relaxation right in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.

A stay at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort brings all the joys of the Cairngorms National Park right to your doorstep.

And even in the winter, it made for a luxurious and refreshing break.

Think of the Cairngorms and you probably imagine water sports, snowboarding and hill walking. I’ve been many times and done the high adrenaline bit, choosing from the huge range of activities in the area.

On this visit, with January trundling on almost endlessly, I was ready for a bit of R&R.

Macdonald Aviemore Resort came up trumps, with a weekend of pampering, fine dining and sampling local whisky.

Perfect pampering

This resort is in the perfect location, tucked away in the heart of Aviemore, with loads to do in the area. But I was also struck by just how much was on offer right there at the hotel – from swimming and ice-skating to cinema and shopping.

I was visiting with my mum on this occasion, but I’m already planning a return visit with my two young kids. It’s a perfect, low-stress family trip, since you don’t have to pack the little ones in the car every time they need entertained. Everything they could want is right there.

The swimming pool at the resort is great for adults and children alike.

It turned out everything we wanted was right there too. On check-in at the Highlands hotel we had a cheerful welcome at the reception desk, and were immediately whisked away to the spa.

I had booked for a full body massage, while my mum opted for a facial. My mum’s a practical soul, and not really one for pampering. She’d never had any kind of treatment before, and on the way in she asked me if she’d “have to sit down for this thing”. Well, sit down she did, and came out relaxed, glowing and requesting a cocktail!

On our first night at the Macdonald, we had dinner in the Italian restaurant Giovannis. It has a fun, relaxed vibe, and the service was quick and friendly. We both opted for a spicy sausage pasta called rigatoni calabrasi, and it was absolutely delicious.

Comfortable, traditional rooms at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort.

We were staying in the Highlands hotel, which combines all the luxury of a four-star resort with the convenience of having leisure facilities right there in the building. The rooms are very well-equipped, with TVs, private bathrooms, tea and coffee facilities and more. The decor is quite traditional, very much a classic Highland welcome.

Activities for everyone

Next morning, it was a joy to start the day with a swim. The pool would be fantastic fun for kids, with a choice of water slides and a great toddler pool. It was still nice and quiet for adults to do a few lengths though, and the whirlpool, steam room and sauna are an extra treat.

We enjoyed a lovely cooked breakfast before a short potter around the local shops. The resort shopping centre is unfortunately closed on a Sunday, but Aviemore had some lovely gift shops to visit.

The hotel lounge was quiet and cosy when we got back, and we warmed up with two bowls of delicious vegetable soup.

Blair Athol Distillery’s signature tour was fascinating, and finished with a nip of three whiskies. Image: Diageo.

We then headed south to Pitlochry, for a tour of the Blair Athol Distillery. The pretty stone distillery building sits in open moorland to the south of the town, and takes its water from the Allt Dour, off the slopes of Ben Vrackie.

Blair Athol whisky lends a smooth, fruity flavour to the popular Bells Blended, but also produces its own popular 12-year-old single malt. Our tour was very interesting and informative, and finished with a tutored tasting of three whiskies.

Fine Highland cuisine

By then we had worked up an appetite for dinner, this time at the resort’s signature restaurant, Aspects. Aspects serves up fine Highland cuisine in a comfortable setting overlooking the Cairngorms.

Aspects restaurant did not disappoint, with beautiful food and friendly service.

I chose the slow-cooked beef shin, served with horseradish mash and balsamic shallots, in a rich bourguignon sauce. The meat was tender and cooked to perfection.

Mum chose confit duck leg with potato fondant, roast figs and heritage carrots. The vegetables were a perfect sweet accompaniment to the rich duck.

For dessert it was sticky toffee pudding and the most decadent chocolate ganache, served with white chocolate and raspberry ice cream.

We couldn’t fault the meal, or the friendly service and cosy surroundings.

Macdonald Aviemore Resort is a perfect base for exploring the Cairngorms National Park.

By the time we were packing for home, I was already thinking about my return visit with the kids.

It struck me that while Aviemore has plenty of Airbnbs, Macdonald Aviemore Resort offers the ultimate relaxation for families.

Swimming, ice-skating, hiking, golf, wildlife and skiing are all a stone’s throw away, and there’s plenty of entertainment right there at the resort.

I spotted lots of families enjoying a meal in the restaurant, but with its Highland charm and scenic location, it’s a very tranquil break for any age. I’ll definitely be back.

Travel facts

Macdonald Aviemore Resort, Highland Resort, Aviemore PH22 1PN

Tel: 0344 879 9152


Macdonald Aviemore Resort has much to offer.